Father Ted Colleton’s impressions of his first U.S. March for Life

I thought I had reached the age and stage where I could no longer be excited by the happenings of the day. But I was wrong. Having returned from the 29th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., I cannot remember a more exhilarating and encouraging experience. Perhaps the statements of people younger than I expressed it most accurately. Jean Arcand said, “It was triumphant after the Clinton years. There were youngsters galore.”

Alex Vernon said it was “fantastic. I was totally overwhelmed by the numbers of people. I have never seen anything like it in my life.” Tanya Granic, leader of Campaign Life Coalition Youth, said the march was “awesome,” with a phenomenal youth presence that made up the majority of the participants.

President George W. Bush gave the occasion a special significance by declaring Sunday, Jan. 20 as “National Sanctity of Life Day.” The text of the proclamation said: “This nation was founded on the belief that every human being is endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights. Chief of them is the right to life itself.”

The pro-life mass in the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception was celebrated by seven cardinals, 50 bishops, 260 priests and 8,000 faithful. Since the inauguration of the present Pope in Rome in 1978, at which I was present, I have never seen anything to compare with it. The basilica seats 6,400. All the aisles were crowded and many people could not enter.

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, the chair of the pro-life committee for the U.S. bishops’ conference, gave an excellent homily. I think his most forceful statement was the following: “The assault on human life in our age has become a crisis of culture, a crisis of civilization. In the defence of human life, neutrality is not an option, is not a choice. To be a Christian should mean we are pro-life. In more direct language, it must be said that no one can consider himself or herself a true Christian if he or she consciously supports abortion or euthanasia.”

The march itself began at the Washington Monument, where thousands gathered. I was delighted to see many pro-life friends whom I had not seen for years. The huge number of teenagers was most encouraging. There were wonderful displays of love and friendship. No introductions were necessary. We were all just great friends joined in a great cause.

The Knights of Columbus were very prominent and I saw two large placards bearing the words, “Lutherans for Life.” The march was led by students from the Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. More than 100,000 pro-lifers marched to the Supreme Court. Police cars were in abundance, with officers directing traffic and guiding the marchers. I don’t know what the length of the march was, but it took about three hours and was witnessed by multitudes of people.

Outside the Supreme Court, the Rosary was recited and prayers were said for the cause of life. And so the march ended … but not its effects.

I can imagine some people – even pro-lifers – asking, “But what good has the march done? This is the 29th such march and in America, more than a million babies are still murdered every year!” This is indeed sadly true. But who knows how many babies have been saved by the effects of the march and those who have watched it? Even if one baby’s life has been saved, the marches have been worth it.

In the evening, the Rose Dinner was held at a Washington hotel. It was attended by some 500 people, mostly visitors. I again met some friends whom I had not seen for several years, including: Dr. Jack Willkie, author of the book Handbook on Abortion; Anne Scheidler, wife of the famous Joe Scheidler, who could not attend because of illness; Donald DeMarco, the well-known speaker and author in the cause of life; Kathie Roth, foundress of Youth for Life Washington.

Following a tasty meal, a number of teenage students were also given prizes for writing essays on pro-life subjects. The dinner, like the march, was a great success. The “physical” part of the march was over, but not the moral.

President George Bush’s remarks from the March for Life

Nellie (organizer Nellie Gray), thank you very much. I want to thank you very much, and I want to wish everybody a good afternoon. I’m calling from the state of West Virginia.

I want to begin, Nellie, by praising you and your dedication to the cause of human life. For almost 30 years, Americans from every state in the Union have gathered in the Washington Mall in order to march for life. This march is an example of an inspiring commitment and of deep human compassion.

Everyone there believes, as I do, that every life is valuable; that our society has a responsibility to defend the vulnerable and weak, the imperfect and even the unwanted; and that our nation should set a great goal that unborn children should be welcomed in life and protected in law.

Abortion is an issue that deeply divides our country. And we need to treat those with whom we disagree with respect and civility. We must overcome bitterness and rancour where we find it and seek common ground where we can. But we will continue to speak out on behalf of the most vulnerable members of our society.

We do so because we believe the promises of the Declaration of Independence are the common code of American life. They should apply to everyone, not just the healthy or the strong or the powerful. A generous society values all human life. A merciful society seeks to expand legal protection to every life, including early life. And a compassionate society will defend a simple, moral proposition: life should never be used as a tool, or a means to an end.

These are bedrock principles. And that is why my administration opposes partial-birth abortion and public funding for abortion; why we support teen abstinence and crisis pregnancy programs; adoption and parental notification laws; and why we are against all forms of human cloning.

And that is why I urge the United States Senate to support a comprehensive and effective ban on human cloning, a ban that was passed by an overwhelming and bipartisan vote of the House of Representatives last July.

We are a society with enough compassion and wealth and love to care for both mothers and their children, and to seek the promise and potential of every single life. You’re working and marching on behalf of a noble cause, and affirming a culture of life. Thank you for your persistence, for defending human dignity, and for caring for every member of the human family.

May God continue to bless America. Thank you very much.