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Over 700 students attend March for Life in Washington, D.C.

| Monday, January 30, 2017

On Friday, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was alive with the chants and marching of thousands from around the country. More than 700 of them came from Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross College students according to Notre Dame Right to Life, which organized the trip. 

The annual March for Life began in 1974 to protest the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. For over a decade, hundreds of students from the three campuses have attended. 

Notre Dame Right to Life president Aly Cox said the trip is heavily subsidized by the Center for Ethics and Culture and Campus Ministry, but students pay $35 to attend. 

Cox, a senior at Notre Dame, said the club didn’t send a group last year, but the student attendance this year was similar to that that two years ago. 

“It was majority freshmen and sophomores, which for us is really encouraging, because hopefully if they had a good experience they’ll keep going and will invite their friends to come,” she said. “We were really happy with the turnout this year.”

The students marched for approximately two hours, starting at noon at the National Mall and going to the steps of the Supreme Court. 

“I think this year probably had a higher turnout,” Cox said. “People are really fired up about it. I think the fact that our current state is so political, not even about how the election went, just that people are so emotionally invested in the issues that they care about right now, that it kind of pushes people to actually get on a bus or a plane and go to D.C.”

Cox also said that the planning process for the trip is extensive, often spanning six months. The club chartered 13 buses to take the group to D.C. 

The event didn’t run into any major complications or setbacks, Cox said.

“We were really lucky — the weather is usually our biggest enemy on the March for Life. This year the weather was really clear, we didn’t get any snow,” she said.

Freshman Collette Gillespie said she had always wanted to go to the March for Life.

“My high school had a few trips to the March for Life, but they were kind of expensive, and not that many people went,” she said. “When I saw that this one was only $35 and a chance to go to D.C. with a group of 700 [Notre Dame] people, I was like, ‘of course I’m going to go to this. It’s a great deal and it’s for a great cause.’

Gillespie said the marchers were diverse.

“There were so many different people there—everyone from infants to people probably 80 years old were at the march, of all different races, all for the same cause.”

After the march, the students were free to split up and explore the city with their friends.

“I’m so glad I went,” Gillespie said. “I think what was really powerful was when I saw a timelapse of the march and how many people were there. When you’re in the middle of the march, you don’t realize how many people are around you, and you don’t realize how long the line is, but when we went up a hill and could look back, oh my gosh that was awesome. You couldn’t even see the end of the line.”

Gillespie said that she feels that attending these sort of events is an important way to bring about change.

“The best way to make change happen if you’re passionate about something is to get involved with it,” she said. “There’s a difference between saying you support something and actually going and doing something about it. If you believe in something, you should try to fight for it.”

Freshman Jack Ferguson, a resident of the D.C. area, said he’s been attending the march for many years.

“I’ve always watched them[Notre Dame Right to Life] with admiration, and this year it was incredible to be a part of the group I’ve watched for so long,” he said. 

Ferguson said the march expresses a “core belief.”

“Life is sacred and precious, and in our opinion, the Roe v. Wade decision is one of the most horrible [Supreme Court] decisions, and it violates human life,” Ferguson said. “The March for Life is really the signature event of the pro-life movement.”

Cox said attending the march is an important way to make meaningful change and endorse pro-life policies.

I think the reason we feel it’s so important to go is that we feel that we can help create a world in which no life, no matter its condition, would ever be considered negligible or disposable,” she said. “The world that we want for refugees, for immigrants, for people that are homeless, for persons who are disabled, for those in prison, the world we want for all of them requires that no group of people is considered negligible or disposable, and I think right now we’re seeing the group of the unborn persons being systematically decided that their lives don’t deserve constitutional protection, and we believe that’s a very dangerous precedent to set regarding all the different social issues.” 

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