RICHMOND, Virginia — In opening remarks April 27 at the fourth annual Virginia March for Life, Richmond Bishop Barry C. Knestout told participants that their advocacy on behalf of the unborn “was more necessary than ever.”
Quoting from a statement of the U.S. bishops, he said: “As our nation awaits the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, we join together in prayer and expectant hope that states will again be able to protect women and children from the injustice of abortion.”
Hundreds of participants gathered for the event and many held aloft signs with messages saying: “The future is anti-abortion” and “Equality begins in the womb.”
Due to construction on the Capitol grounds, the March for Life rally, which preceded the march, was held at the bell tower on the lawn of Capitol Square.
The crowd’s enthusiasm was palpable as pro-lifers of all ages waited for the first of several speakers to take the podium.
Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, said her biggest goal for the day was that “someone’s heart is changed more in the direction of life.”
Just as important, she said, was for the state to “move in the direction of life, especially as it regards babies who receive a poor prenatal diagnosis.”
She explained that Virginia allows more exceptions to abortion than many other states. Since April 27 was also Veto Day in Virginia, which relates to the state budget, marchers would be texting their legislators and asking them to stop those exceptions.
Mancini said that the beautiful weather was reminiscent of the first Virginia March for Life in 2019, but she noted that Virginia’s current pro-life administration had made this year’s event “extra exciting.”
For the first time, the state’s governor, Republican Glenn Youngkin, was present at the event and joined the march as the crowd left Capitol Square.
Joan Andres, a parishioner of St. Andrew the Apostle in Clifton, said she believes “there’s still a lot of work to do, especially in the state,” but felt that the governor’s presence was a “source of a lot of excitement and hope.”
“We have more hope now than we’ve had in a long time, so I think that the Holy Spirit is at work,” she said.
Connor Mancuso, who attended the Virginia March for Life for the first time and has attended the national march twice, said: “I believe that our actions here will imprint upon others who see us that we are trying to make a difference … and show that all life is sacred, all life is unique, all life is valuable.”
Attending his first March for Life, Joe Deffner, a member of St. Thomas More in Lynchburg, was joined by his brother, Bill Deffner, from Portersville, Pennsylvania.
“I traveled to Richmond because I get the opportunity to spend some time with my brother and drag him to the March for Life,” Bill said while his brother laughed.
“It’s energizing to see the excitement in the youth,” he added.
“It really is all about pro-life and really protecting the most innocent and the most vulnerable, which are the unborn. It’s life at all levels from conception to the grave,” said Robert McBride, pro-life director of the St. Michael, Glen Allen, Knights of Columbus council.
McBride said the number of abortions each year in the U.S. is a tragedy and believes one solution is to educate people more fully to fully understand what happens when a baby is conceived.
“It really is a matter of human dignity at all levels,” he said.
Magdalena Brier, parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Lake Ridge, who brought her 9- and 7-year-old daughters to the rally and march, said it brings together what they have talked and prayed about.
“It’s not just something that’s happening far away; it’s something that we talk about all the time with our faith, so it’s great to be able to come out and live that faith.”
William Clough, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University who attends the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Richmond, said that he was “marching to help end abortion and save the lives of many infants in our country and especially the state.”
Clough, whose home parish is St. Agnes in the Diocese of Arlington, said it saddens him to know that “many children won’t be able to live life” due to abortion, but he hopes that rallies like the one held in Richmond will continue to have a positive impact upon society.
“I’m hoping that if we pray hard enough and we have a big rally, that hopefully we can overturn Roe v. Wade soon,” he said.
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Reynolds writes for The Catholic Virginian, newspaper of the Diocese of Richmond.