Alternative marches, prayer vigils highlight 2021 March for Life, while others still plan on traveling to D.C. to speak up for the unborn 

Editor’s note: After the publication of this story, organizers for the March for Life in Washington, D.C., announced this year’s march will take place virtually.

LANSING It’s been 48 years since the Supreme Court effectively legalized abortion in all 50 U.S. states in Roe v. Wade. Since then, more than 60 million babies have lost their lives. 

And for that reason, the 2021 March for Life will go on. 

Admittedly, this year’s march will look quite different, thanks to coronavirus concerns and a hesitancy among many to gather in large groups. While fewer Michiganians will travel to Washington, D.C. — still reeling from Jan. 6’s Capitol tumult — separate pro-life demonstrations are being planned locally and throughout the country.

Christen Pollo, executive director of Protect Life Michigan, said the organization is partnering with Right to Life Michigan to host a rally and prayer vigil at the Michigan State Capitol Building at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27, as an alternative to the national March for Life in Washington, which is still taking place Jan. 29.  

“It’s not a backup plan; a lot of good can come from doing a memorial and march here in Lansing,” Pollo told Detroit Catholic. “Oftentimes, it’s easier to make local change than national. So we’re looking forward to working with Right to Life Michigan and Right to Life Ingham County to hold a Roe v. Wade memorial on Jan. 27.” 

Demonstrators make their way up Constitution Avenue in Washington during the 2020 March for Life. Because of COVID-19 and the subsequent restrictions on accommodations and travel, this year’s march is expected to be smaller. 

Pollo, Right to Life Michigan president Barb Listing and Ed Rivet, executive director of the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum, will deliver remarks at the Capitol building before a short march through Lansing. 

Abortion statistics for 2020 won’t be made available for some time, but Pollo said he expects rates will have jumped during the coronavirus and subsequent economic shutdowns as pregnant women face increasing hardships. 

I think it’s really important for the pro-life movement to be visible at this time,” Pollo said. “The reality is, abortion hasn’t stopped because of the pandemic. I would guess abortion rates are higher; it’s scarier to face an unplanned pregnancy in these trying times than in a typical year. I think the pro-life movement needs to have a visible presence to show our state, our nation, that if abortion doesn’t stop, then neither do we.” 

Closer to Detroit, pro-lifers are organizing the first-ever Motor City Caravan for Life, a motor vehicle procession from St. Hugo of the Hills Parish in Bloomfield Hills down Woodward Avenue — Dream Cruise style — to Detroit and back, before heading to White Chapel Cemetery in Troy, where a wreath will be laid at the grave of five aborted babies who were buried there in 1980.  

A man holds up an “Abortion is bad” sign at the 2020 March for Life. Pro-life organizers say even amidst a pandemic and the recent tumult in Washington, D.C., the desire to defend innocent life remains a critical priority. 

Participants are asked to decorate their cars with pro-life messages as motorists leave the St. Hugo parking lot, 2215 Opdyke Road, Bloomfield Hills, at 12:30 p.m. to begin the trek. 

“We don’t want the public to forget this day, Jan. 22 (Roe’s anniversary), and how it was a horrendous day for our country,” said Diane Fagelman, president of the Right to Life-LIFESPAN Educational Fund. “We’ve had 63 million-plus abortions since then because of those decisions. Just because everyone is locked in with COVID and emotions are high, we can’t let our society and community forget this horrendous day.” 

Fagelman, who attended the first March for Life in 1974, said the Motor City Caravan for Life naturally lends itself to social distancing, perfect for those who can’t travel to D.C. 

“At that first March for Life, it was like a shot in the arm that we were not alone,” Fagelman said. “When you work all year doing pro-life work, you sometimes get caught up in your little group, and you lose sight of how many people stand with you. That is what people will miss this year, but the first Motor City Caravan maybe will start a new tradition.” 

Archdiocese of Detroit pro-life coordinator Kathleen Wilson said many groups from the archdiocese who normally would travel to Washington are attending an alternative vigil planned at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Jan. 27.  

Even with demonstrations and vigils closer to home, some Michiganians still plan on braving the trip to Washington on Jan. 29. 

Grand Rapids Right to Life is organizing two buses — down from 13 buses last year — that will make stops in Traverse City, Ludington, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti before heading to the nation’s capital.

This year’s national march won’t feature the Youth Rally and Mass for Life at the Capital One Arena or the Rose Dinner the night before the march, but pro-lifers still want their voices heard in the capital, said Laura Alexandria, president of Grand Rapids Right to Life. 

“It’s a little different this year; the buses won’t be as full and families and groups will mostly stick together,” said Alexandria, who will be going to Washington for the march. “The most popular bus this year is the red eye that leaves Thursday evening, drives straight through the night to D.C., attends the March for Life, the opening rally, march, then back on the bus and be back in Michigan by Saturday.”

People march in the Downriver March for Life in Wyandotte in January 2020. Because of restrictions on hotels, more pro-life advocates are staying local and participating in smaller demonstrations. (Courtesy photo)

Alexandria explained hotels and Airbnb accommodations are harder to come by in Washington this year because of COVID-19 restrictions, coupled with the fact many restaurants and sites aren’t open to the public, making travel to D.C. more challenging. 

“Even though the March for Life is ignored by the media by and large every year, I can’t stress how passionate people are,” Alexandria said. “We’re killing 3,000 innocent babies (each day), legally. That just must stop. It’s a stripped-down March for Life this year, but phones have been ringing nonstop with people saying this is important and how they must be in D.C. to make their voices heard.”

The Michigan State Council of the Knights of Columbus is another longtime pro-life supporter, usually bringing two or three busloads of people to Washington.  

While individual councils may elect to attend this year, the state council isn’t sponsoring a bus this year, instead encouraging pro-lifers to go to the Lansing event on Jan. 27. 

Beyond attending demonstrations, Knights of Columbus officials are suggesting other ways pro-lifers can support the cause, such as supporting local pro-life pregnancy centers. 

Those who don’t feel comfortable traveling to Washington, D.C., are invited to attend local demonstrations in Lansing and Metro Detroit, said Christen Pollo, executive director of Protect Life Michigan. 

“We’re focusing on pregnancy centers and equipping them with ultrasound machines and daily supplies,” said Ed Strach, life director for the Michigan Knights of Columbus. “There are other ways we are helping pro-life efforts, from assisting pregnancy centers throughout the state, supporting people in prayer, taking action when we can in standing up for life, and counseling women in need.” 

Other pro-life demonstrations around the area include the Southern Downriver Right to Life vigil at Community Bible Church in Trenton, 3700 Benson St., at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 24, and the Upper Downriver Right to Life March for Life from Our Lady of the Scapular Church, 976 Pope John Paul II Ave., to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Cemetery, 900 Ford Ave., in Wyandotte at 12:15 p.m. Jan 24. 

Regardless of where and how pro-lifers are choosing to mark the somber anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, it remains crucial to stand up for life even in times of turmoil and division with a missionary zeal, said Kathleen Wilson, pro-life coordinator for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

Even if demonstrations are smaller or some pro-lifers elect not to attend in-person rallies, advocates can still pray and financially support pro-life causes, said Ed Strach, life director for the Michigan Knights of Columbus.

“As we unleash the Gospel throughout the Archdiocese of Detroit, the foundation of our missionary call is to proclaim the Gospel of life, where human life is sacred, each made in the image and likeness of our God who redeems us,” Wilson said. “With the recent turmoil and division we have experienced in our communities and nation, the urgency to uphold the dignity of each life and protect the vulnerable is evidently apparent.  

“As a people of life, we have a moral responsibility to commit anew to work and pray for the legal protection of all human life — born and unborn, young and old, vulnerable and defenseless.” 

Pray for an end to abortion

The Archdiocese of Detroit will host a Mass for the Protection of the Unborn at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 23, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament with Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron presiding. The Mass will be livestreamed and people are encouraged to register

rosary for an end to abortion will be livestreamed on Facebook at 9 a.m. Friday, Jan. 22.