2021 March For Life Cancelled; March Organizers Are Promoting a “Virtual March”

CNA has the story today on the March for Life going Virtual for 2021. It was sadly predictable, but still a significant first:

The 2021 March for Life will take place virtually, organizers announced Friday.

The March for Life Education and Defense Fund, the organization behind the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., said the decision was made due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the risk of unrest in the nation’s capital. This year’s march, now virtual, will take place Jan. 29.

In a Jan. 15 statement announcing the decision, Jeanne Mancini, the president of the March for Life, said, “The protection of all of those who participate in the annual March, as well as the many law enforcement personnel and others who work tirelessly each year to ensure a safe and peaceful event, is a top priority of the March for Life.”

“In light of the fact that we are in the midst of a pandemic which may be peaking, and in view of the heightened pressures that law enforcement officers and others are currently facing in and around the Capitol, this year’s March for Life will look different,” Mancini said. “The annual rally will take place virtually and we are asking all participants to stay home and to join the March virtually.”

The organizers are promoting a virtual march via the March for Life website, which is a bit difficult to envision. Does one need a stationary bike, treadmill, or under-the-desk elliptical to participate? CNA continues:

The march will still happen, Mancini said, but in-person attendance will be confined to a small number of pro-life leaders who will represent the movement.

“We will invite a small group of pro-life leaders from across the country to march in Washington, DC this year,” she said. “These leaders will represent pro-life Americans everywhere who, each in their own unique ways, work to make abortion unthinkable and build a culture where every human life is valued and protected.”

A representative for the March for Life told Catholic News Agency that this small group of pro-life leaders will carry roses with them, which they will leave at the Supreme Court, in honor of the lives lost to abortion.

The March for Life is, in my view, a far more important event for the participants than it is as a political tool to effect change. Despite media blackouts on the event and a scrupulous avoidance of accurate estimates of attendance numbers, it has a cultural role to play that can’t be overstated. I explained my position on this several years ago:

[I]t doesn’t matter if anybody else knows that the March is going on. Those present know, and for most, it may be the only tangible experience that there are hundreds of thousands of others just like them who believe just as strongly that abortion is not an option in a civilized world. Considering what they face in their schools and future workplaces, this recognition — which I take for granted — is new and invigorating for them. It energizes the passion with which they will face down the seemingly hopeless bloodbath of this court-sanctioned massacre and give them the courage to fight on, until this scourge becomes a painful memory; a black mark on history that none should ever be allowed to forget.

This role of the March as a rite of passage for young pro-lifers by which they become energized and reassured that they are not alone is a critical one — and that will be, by far, the biggest casualty of the cancellation in what is already promising to be another demoralizing year, especially for social conservatives.

But the danger of exploitation of the March by advocates of violent protest (or those who might want to infiltrate the March to make it look like participants support the same) is real. More than COVID, which hadn’t derailed the March on its own, I suspect this is the real fear the organizers have.

Some commentators are already predicting that this move could be the death knell for the March. Eric Sammons, Editor in Chief for Crisis Magazine tweeted:

One hopes, to the contrary, that pent up demand will bolster numbers the next time the March is held.

But hope is, admittedly, a thing in short supply these days.

Whatever happens, this is a significant milestone for the American pro-life movement, which has, to our knowledge, never cancelled a national March for Life since it first began in 1974.

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