by Kathryn White
Special to The Leaven
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Surprisingly, in all my years serving in ministry, I had never attended the national march in Washington, D.C. So when the opportunity came to travel with the archdiocese as The Leaven’s photographer this year, I couldn’t say no.
Traveling across the country in a bus stuffed shoulder-to-shoulder with teenagers is not for the faint of heart. It was crowded, uncomfortable and, if I am being honest, a little smelly.
But every ache, pain, smell, frozen finger and toe, every icky bathroom at random gas stations on the way, all the sleeplessness, was offered as a sacrifice for children who never got the luxury of it all.
This was a pilgrimage. We prayed and we persevered.
During the days of our pilgrimage and march, I jumped in with as many groups from our archdiocese as I could. It was amazing chatting up the teens and finding out their reasons for coming to this event in a world where they could be Snapchatting, chilling and staying in the comfort of their own homes during these cold January days.
The theme for this year’s march was: “Equality Begins in the Womb” and in my interaction with the teens on this trip I could see that they truly believed that.
Margaret Ledom, a sophomore from Hayden High School in Topeka, shared views that were similar to most.
“I came to the March for Life to take a stand on my beliefs toward abortion,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of something impactful that had the ability to change policies for the lives of the unborn.”
When we set out to march, it was a bitter 20-something degrees, but our hearts were warm with intent.
Witnessing the young people around me cheer for Katie Shaw, a 37-year-old pro-life advocate from Indianapolis who has Down syndrome, I was overtaken with emotion. By lobbying for state legislation and speaking with her legislators, Shaw advanced a state bill that prohibited abortions based solely on gender or disability.
“Knowing that 80% of people diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted, and then seeing how full of life Katie is, just shows how much we must fight to save every life,” said Emily Eckerberg, a senior from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park.
“Everyone is deserving of getting a chance to live outside the womb,” she continued. “[Katie] has experienced so many amazing things, and it is all because her parents chose life for her.
“Every child deserves this chance.”
And when Toni McFadden shared her story about having an abortion with her boyfriend when she was young, only to reunite with him nine years later to get married and light a candle at their wedding for their child, the crowd went wild with support and love for her.
Everyone was cold, there was no doubt. But I couldn’t tell it, because collective warmth, joy and fortitude fueled our mission: peacefully stand for those who can’t.
I saw babies in carriers, toddlers on parents’ shoulders, grandmas and grandpas shuffling along with looks of determination on their faces and marchers gently passing them by.
I saw all races and ethnicities, walking in solidarity.
I saw people cheer and give thumbs- up to a group of moms who raised signs that read: “I regret my abortion.”
The conviction was palpable.
Solidarity and support flourished at every turn.
So often as Catholics we hear: “Catholics don’t care about women; they only care for the babies.” I will forever be brought back to this March for Life and share differently.
We traveled over a thousand miles by bus, each person averaged 15,000 steps by foot, and we spent over six hours on our knees in prayer for both mothers and their children.
We do value them both and believe in equality for all, starting in the womb.
To view all of Kathryn White’s photos from the March for Life trip, click here.