On Friday, there will be a new face leading the March for Life in Washington, D.C. (March founder Nellie Gray died last summer at the age of 88.) Jeanne Monahan, the president of the March for Life, talks with National Review Online’s Kathryn Jean Lopez about the road ahead 40 years after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What are your thoughts during this week marking the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade?
JEANNE MONAHAN: It is my strong hope that this week all pro-life Americans will reflect on the somber reality that 55 million Americans have died as a result of Roe and Doe over the past four decades. Abortion truly is the human-rights abuse of today, and we need to continue to work ardently to bring it to an end. At the same time, we see a new era on the horizon. There is much hope that we are winning in the court of public opinion, in particular with young people. We are also winning in the states where close to 200 pro-life laws have been enacted in the last three years.
LOPEZ: Does the pro-life movement need to be more compelling?
MONAHAN: The pro-life message has truth, science, research, technology, and experience on its side. We should rest confidently in this reality and not be apologetic for our views. It is important to be aware of the latest studies and technology, but at the end of the day the fact that abortion is not good for women (or babies) is not only supported by science and research, it is just plain common sense. We shouldn’t back away from this basic truth.
LOPEZ: Who is the pro-life movement today?
MONAHAN: The majority of Americans make up the pro-life movement. According to Gallup polling, for the last three years more Americans self-identified as being pro-life than pro-choice. Of this group, young people are particularly pro-life. We see evidence of this outside of polling numbers as well. Groups such as NARAL Pro-Choice America are conceding that they don’t have the support of young people on this issue. Participants at the March for Life will see that the large majority of Marchers are young people with a lot of energy and enthusiasm to turn the tide on this human-rights abuse.
LOPEZ: How can we better help women and men and save lives?
MONAHAN: Everyone has a role to carry out in bringing the human-rights abuse of abortion to an end. The task isn’t for one person or one organization. I strongly encourage every reader to think about what they are doing now and contemplate if they could or should be doing more to prevent abortion, which takes the life of a baby and wounds the life of the mother. Groups like 40 Days for Life bear so much tangible fruit in saving lives. Prayers, donations, writing letters to the editors, volunteering for Project Rachel – all of these things contribute to building a culture of life. I suspect that if we all took this charge seriously, things would quickly change in a positive direction.
LOPEZ: Could our politicians be better on these issues?
MONAHAN: Our pro-life legislators are wonderful and many are downright heroic on these issues. But some could be more confident when addressing the realities of abortion and women’s health. To that end, it is our job as a movement to better equip our legislators for the tough questions.
It is also our job to continue to show our legislators that we want them to introduce and enact legislation that protects the dignity of the human person. We will include a postcard campaign in this year’s March as a means for constituents to communicate that very critical message to their representatives in office.
LOPEZ: What’s the point of the March for Life? Why is it important to bother?
MONAHAN: In 1974 the March for Life began so that the anniversary of the legalization of abortion would not go unnoticed. At the time, the other side believed that the outcry over the issue would soon die down as people were desensitized to it. But nothing could be further from the truth. Each year, the March for Life has grown in size and impact to the degree that it is now the world’s largest pro-life event. It is a tragedy that we have lost 55 million Americans to abortion since Roe; the March for Life pauses to remember the loss and to look forward to a time when this human-rights abuse is no more.
LOPEZ: How should history remember Nellie Gray? Why should we be thankful for her?
MONAHAN: Nelliewas the founder of the March for Life, and I believe that without her it wouldn’t exist. Nellie spent the second half of her life giving all of her time, energy, and talent to save the babies. She continued leading the March for Life until her death at 88. Her last recorded phone calls and conversations were March-related. Nellie never thought abortion would be legal in the United States for all of these years. Neither did she imagine that the March for Life would grow to be the largest pro-life event in the world. We are profoundly grateful to Nellie and will now build upon the wonderful foundation she put into place.
LOPEZ: What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve learned since taking the helm of the March?
MONAHAN: Nellie frequently prayed for those who were involved with abortion. For example, I recall her praying for President Obama during a meeting a few months before her death. In looking through past annual reports and pictures, I am quite inspired by one photo of Nellie standing alongside Bernard Nathanson, former architect of abortion (and convert to the pro-life cause); Norma McCorvey, the “Roe” of Roe v. Wade; and Sandra Cano, the “Doe” of Doe v. Bolton. Her witness in this regard deeply motivates me to pray for the change of heart of those who disagree with me on this issue.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.