Diocese delegation, including bishop, walks in first post-Roe March For Life (part 1)
“Let me once again welcome you all in person to the 50th March for Life, the first post-Roe March for Life!”
Those words by Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, touched off loud cheers from a vast sea of supporters during the annual pro-life rally and march Friday, Jan. 20 in Washington, D.C.
There was plenty of praise at the rally for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a decision last June which overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case resulting in legalized abortion nationwide.
Among those in the crowd at the 2023 March For Life was Bishop Michael W. Fisher, who joined what was the first official diocesan pilgrimage to the march since the Covid pandemic.
“Certainly, we have a lot to rejoice in, in the overturning of Roe v. Wade. At the same time, we still have a lot of work ahead of us,” the bishop said, while traveling to Washington Thursday morning. “This march, I think, is encouragement that we continue to speak out for the vulnerable, for life, for babies, and it’s also the dignity of the human person. We’re a church that believes in the sacredness of every human being. I think this march is our testament to that. Covid showed us how fragile we can be, and I think it also showed us how we need each other. We need each other to be together, so it’s good that we’re coming back together.”
While those in attendance were pleased to see Roe v. Wade gone, there was also immediate recognition that the Dobbs decision doesn’t outlaw abortion, but instead shifts the power of abortion legislation to the states.
New York is among the states whose governments have acted to keep abortion legal. It’s been legal here since 1970, three years before the Roe v. Wade decision.
At the federal level, President Joe Biden has encouraged Congress to codify Roe v. Wade.
For the Diocese of Buffalo’s participants, the pilgrimage began early Thursday morning. Bishop Fisher, members of diocesan pro-life ministries, and independent individuals boarded a bus before embarking for Washington, still before sunrise. Among those in attendance were students from Canisius College’s Students for Life, a local chapter of the National Organization of Students for Life.
Olivia Rutowski was one of those students. She spoke to WNY Catholic about the changing dynamics of the abortion issue post-Roe, and how pro-life students at Canisius are working to make the campus more accommodating for young pregnant women.
“Between different organizations, and pharmacies now prescribing the abortion pill, that’s also a huge challenge. And then being on a college campus, you’re constantly surrounded by that battle,” Rutowski said. “Our big goal for the coming year is to basically get students more access to support, and we’re hoping to get parking spots on campus for pregnant students. Really, we’re trying to support women at the college age.”
The bishop expressed his pleasure at the significant presence of young people attending the March For Life, praising them for their willingness to openly take such a position, and expressing their Catholic faith.
“I think our young people, those that are here on this march, are courageous,” Bishop Fisher said. “I always, when I celebrate confirmations with young people, say, ‘You are courageous, because of you wanting to stand up and acknowledge your faith.’ It’s not easy to be a Catholic. It’s not easy to be a Christian these days. It’s not easy to stand up for life in our world, and what we believe. They’re trying to make us like we’re extremists. And we’re the ones trying to protect life.
“And so, we need their voice. We need the young voices, because they’ve got the strong voices.”
A separate bus traveled to Washington from Buffalo, carrying students and faculty from St. Francis High School and St. Joseph Collegiate Institute. That delegation arrived a day earlier, and spent time visiting the Holocaust Museum as part of their own pro-life pilgrimage.
Cheryl Calire, director of Pro-Life Activities for the Diocese of Buffalo Pastoral Ministries, was also happy to see a large presence of young people among the crowd in Washington, including young men.
“One thing I think that we need to reflect upon is how we’ve allowed a voice at this point for men to be able to stand up, not only for themselves and for children, but for the women that they love, for the babies that they create as well,” she said.
For generations, many arguing on the side of abortion rights have contended that men aren’t qualified to have a say over what concerns women’s bodies. WNY Catholic asked Calire how she would respond to that point of view.
She replied, “I probably was, over 20 years ago, one of those people that said, ‘You know, I wouldn’t do it, but I shouldn’t tell anybody else.’ But made in the image and likeness of Christ, I have really found that the more we stick to what God has asked us to, which is protecting life made in His image and likeness, He won’t let us down. He won’t abandon us. He wants men and women alike, because men and women are the ones who create the gift that He gives us.”
Post Roe March part 2 is available here.
Listen to Michael Mroziak reporting from Washington, D.C.