The 26th annual (U.S.) March for Life took place on Jan. 22 in Washington, D.C. as a witness to the sanctity of human life and a call for a reversal of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision.

Under a cloudy, grey sky, more than 100,000 people from all walks of life gathered to celebrate life and to pray for all victims of abortion. Placards in the crowd read: “A nation that disowns its unborn disowns all moral order,” “Pro-life: Here until no more children die, No more women cry,” and “The Natural Choice is Life!” among other messages.

Mothers and fathers, clergy and grandparents, university students and young children, all marched to the Supreme Court to deliver one message: Life is sacred and must be protected from conception to natural death, especially by lawmakers.

The march began at noon with a rally at the Ellipse, the big park south of the White House, where speakers such as Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) and former representative Robert K. Dornan (R-Calif.) called marchers on to further activism.

Smith spoke of the gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure, which Congress has tried to outlaw, in spite of President Bill Clinton’s intransigence.

“It’s ugly beyond words,” he said.

Marchers walked along Constitution Avenue past the Capitol and ended in front of the Supreme Court.

The theme for this year’s march was taken from the Gospel of John: “For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

This pointed to the fact that the pro-life movement is, in fact, suffering during what organizers call “a long-term, classical tug of war between temporal gain and eternal reward.” The tug of war to which they refer is a battle for souls – not only the soul of each individual but also that of the entire culture.

In 1973, Nellie Gray founded the March for Life, along with several other pro-lifers from Long Island, N.Y. The group was looking for ways to become more active in preventing abortion.

When the first march took place in the early 70s, organizers expected that with the amount of people present, the government could not ignore them. But 26 years later, they’re still not being heeded.

Many Canadians attended the march to show their support, and to demonstrate their commitment to the Christian call to “protect those being lead to slaughter.” Several Canadian students attending Franciscan University of Steubenville, Oh. said the march brought about a new sense of hope in them.

Natasha Woodall, a first-year student from Woodstock, Ont. said the March for Life helped her to see how much more could be done in the fight for life.

“I was really amazed by how many people were there,” she said. “It seems like in Canada, we don’t even know where to find an abortion clinic to go protest at, let alone the laws about it.”

Louis Rouleau, a second-year student from Edmonton, Alta. said he was greatly impressed by the diversity of people within the pro-life movement.

“The march crossed all social barriers – we had priests, bishops, families, rich, poor, black, white – everyone,” he said. “It seems to me that on one hand there was a celebration of life, but on the other hand there was a sense of mourning for the victims of abortion.”

Students from the Franciscan University marched silently behind the large green and white school banner. In front of them marched a funeral procession of 26 baby-sized coffins representing each year that abortion has been legalized. The caskets sent out a very powerful image: that death is real and that the legalization of abortion has taken a staggering human toll.