Reflections on the March for Life

I’ve been attending the March for Life here in Ottawa, Canada since its inception in the late nineties – they mentioned that this last one on May 9th was the 27th, which would mean 1998 (counting the Jubilee Year 2000). I’ve missed two or three, due to travel, but have seen its evolution, its ebb and flow, and here are some quasi-random thoughts from experiencing this last one.

Numbers were down, but enthusiasm still high. As I said to someone, it’s quality, not quantity. I estimated – guesstimated – perhaps five to seven thousand. Another mentioned that ten years ago was the high point in terms of numbers. Covid – or, more properly, the over-reaction – killed this, as it did so many other things. I recall there being legions of school buses parked along Wellington. A teacher friend back then – fifteen years ago? – said they had to entice students to come, promising time at the mall afterwards, but at least they were there. No more, for reasons I know not. If students go, they go on their own, which means they don’t go. At least, for a few die-hards. A few private schools were represented, including our own college, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, with our always joyful alumni, banner held high, rejoicing in the reunion. We were the only officially represented college or university, and by far had the greatest numbers. One alumnus traveled all night on a bus, with little children in tow. All I can say, if any students or alumni are reading this, thank you. It was good – very good – to see you all; your love for life gives hope to the rest of us.

A few be-cassocked priests were present; some have been consistently faithful in the past number of years. There were no bishops, as far as I could tell.

Protestors were also down in numbers, way down. The PPS – Parliamentary Police Service, which may as well stand for paramilitary, the way they were armoured and weaponized – cordoned off half the hill for them with metal fencing. The pro-aborts were in a sea of empty green grass, yelling monotonously their tired chants, ‘my body, my choice!!’, as is their dismal wont since days of yore, when Justin’s dad was in office.

A friend mentioned that the poor showing of protestors was a good thing, but I’m not so sure. After all, why protest when you’ve won, and have no other victories to seek? What more could those hot for abortion want? It’s not only legal for all nine months, for any reason whatsoever – it need not even be declared – right up to exiting the birth canal, but also fully funded by the taxpayer. You can’t get a more abortion-friendly country than Canada, except maybe China, or North Korea.

All the while, the PPS – see above – treated the few thousand pro-lifers – children, old people, mothers with prams – like we were a bunch of potential terrorists. I recall the days of the March when you just showed up on the hill, and everything was open and free, almost no police. You could stroll around, visit people, meander around the hill. All quite pleasant.

This time, we were cordoned in like cattle, with the aforementioned metal fencing surrounding the whole perimeter. On our half of the grassy part of the hill, there was one entrance, which was also the only exit, from Wellington Street, guarded by police, who were everywhere. If you needed the washroom, they allowed you out from the southwest corner – two cops moving the fence a little, as though out of concession – with the facilities way up to the northwest of the Parliament building, so you had to walk around the whole perimeter, and then go the rest of the way. One mum I know had to rush her five-year old, ready to burst, the near-kilometer hike.

Why not allow people out at the northwest corner, you ask? Well, that would be too easy, I suppose. Perhaps there was a reason, but the impression was one of deliberate peevish inconvenience.

All in all, however, we should have some gratitude that the March went on, full of prayer, silent and spoken, joy, song, witnessing to the inherent right to life of every human being, a right that must be enshrined in law, someday, somehow.

Is the March worth it? From an earthly perspective, it likely doesn’t do all that much. Politicians yawn, the CBC, and all the other main stream media, stopped covering the March years ago. People are blasé, including, it seems, most Catholics. Canadians have either given up, or don’t care all that much what people do with their bodies, or the bodies of others. At least, until the culture of death hits them, as it will.

But who knows? Hearts can change from the smallest of things. And from a spiritual vantage, the March is definitely to the good. As I say to my students – especially those inconsistent in attendance – most of life is about showing up. Only so can we make a difference, one step at a time. After all, if a person’s a person, no matter how small, we may say the same of the March. Even if it’s just two or three gathered in His name, there God is. And He sees.