The annual March for Life has been canceled for the first time in its 47-year history, due to coronavirus concerns as well as as a result of the pressure law enforcement in and around the Capitol is currently facing.

The annual rally instead will take place virtually, with just a small group of pro-life leaders from across the country marching in Washington this year. 

What can you do to promote the pro-life cause even though the March for Life, which annually draws hundreds of thousands of people from across the country to Washington, D.C., won’t be held in person this year?

Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life, joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss that.

We also cover these stories:

  • Nine Republican lawyers have issued a letter to GOP senators asking them to carefully consider the article of impeachment against former President Donald Trump. 
  • Dominion Voting Systems has filed a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. 
  • President Joe Biden signed an executive order Monday that reverses the Trump-era policy that ban individuals suffering from gender dysphoria from serving in the military. 

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Rachel del Guidice: I’m joined today on “The Daily Signal Podcast” by Jeanne Mancini. She’s the president of the March for Life. Jeanne, it’s great to have you on “The Daily Signal Podcast.”

Jeanne Mancini: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

Del Guidice: Well, it’s great to have you with us. So, to dive right in, something that has been on my mind and I’m sure the minds of so many pro-life warriors is the fact that the March for Life will be virtual this year. Can you start off by talking about why you chose to cancel the in-person March?

Mancini: Yeah. And we didn’t actually cancel it, it just looks a little bit different this year. So there will be a march. This is the 48th annual march. We have to march.

Again, we’ve done this for 47 years. This is the single most significant human rights abuse of our day. It’s just that there will be less people. There will be a number of pro-life leaders, including some from [The Heritage Foundation], who will represent other marchers.

Why did we do it? To tell you the truth, it wasn’t something that we ever anticipated doing, but those of us who live outside of D.C. right now know that D.C. is a little bit in an unusual situation. I would describe it as similar to a war zone.

I was downtown twice two weeks ago, not at all last week, but just seeing the fencing up, the number of National Guard—we know that some have left over the weekend, but … last week at this time there were over 25,000 national armed guards. Across from the March for Life, there were something like 30 guards.

And so anyways, I’ll just say that in addition to the COVID pandemic to some of what we’ve seen in recent weeks with some very sad violence and the political tinderbox that D.C. is right now, it just became very obvious to our board—and I’m part of the board—that we needed to consider marchers’ safety and place that at the forefront and make a decision so that this year’s march would look a little bit different.

Del Guidice: I’m sure it probably was a hard decision to make, as you mentioned, that this is the first time it will be canceled in the 47-year history. Can you tell people about how the virtual March for Life is working and how they can participate?

Mancini: Right. And it was, I would say, as far as a board, it was the single most difficult decision we’ve made certainly in the eight and a half years that I’ve been working with the March for Life.

It was the most difficult and painful and painstaking decision that we’ve made. But we really just tried to do the right thing, knowing that whatever we did, we’d get a lot of pushback on it.

But what will the virtual rally and this smaller march look like this year? Again, it’s not canceled, it just looks different. The virtual rally is going to be fantastic. So, our lineup won’t change at all. And we have a really stellar, stellar lineup, in my humble opinion, this year.

So, that will be at noon. And check us out at marchforlife.org to get the livestream of that. So that will be this Friday, January 29th, as scheduled, at noon, and that will be about an hour long. And then starting at 1 o’clock, you can also watch it at marchforlife.org or at EWTN, you can watch the march happen with the smaller leaders, and that will also be about an hour long.

And I believe that will be a very powerful march to participate in, whether that’s virtually or for those of us who will be marching, I believe it will be a very somber and somewhat symbolic march.

Del Guidice: Well, the March for Life is such a unifying event. And I can say that with authority since I’ve been going since I was 12.

But given the inauguration of President Joe Biden last week, who really has been outspokenly pro-abortion throughout his political career, how would you encourage pro-lifers to remain united in their efforts, despite the agenda of the new administration with the latest administration talking about codifying Roe v. Wade in a statement that they released on Friday?

Mancini: Yeah. And thank you for using that language, “unity,” because I think it’s so important. And long before the election happened this year, we had decided the March for Life theme for the year, which is, “Together Strong: Life Unites.”

Each year when we choose a March for Life theme, we try to consider what is the most pressing need in building a culture of life. And so themes in the past have included … “Unique From Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science.” So talking about how life begins at the moment of fertilization and how we can know that scientifically.

One of my favorite themes, it was back in 2014, was “Adoption: A Noble Decision,” really trying to show how a mother who chooses to be a birth mother instead of choosing abortion is doing a heroic and sacrificial and noble thing.

So we’ve had all sorts of, I believe, really beautiful and strong and educational themes. And so this year it’s no less.

And you mentioned, of course, the Biden administration in their first announcement on Friday about codifying Roe. And I would just say that it’s more important than ever that we unite. We might do things differently in terms of pro-life organizations or personalities or what have you, but we’re so much stronger when we have that diversity together.

There’s a great quote from Mother Teresa, “You can do what I cannot do. I can do what you cannot do. But together we can do great things.”

And so it seems to me like the way that we will win this culture battle, that we will make abortion unthinkable, is that we can put differences aside and maybe even celebrate differences and lock arms and be very strong on just the bottom line issue that abortion should be unthinkable.

Del Guidice: Well, in that Friday statement that we talked about, the Biden administration said they are deeply committed to making sure everyone has access to care, including reproductive health care, regardless of income, race, ZIP code, health insurance status, or immigration status.

Jeanne, what’s your response to this in the climate that we find ourselves in?

Mancini: Well, my first and sort of foundational response is abortion is not health care. And so when we look at what abortion is, people don’t like to talk about it, but it’s taking something that’s healthy, a miracle, really, growing deeply inside of a woman in her womb. And it’s taking the life of a little baby.

So it’s really the antithesis of health care. That baby is also a patient. And so, just first and foremost, words matter and words are powerful and yet reality is not arbitrary.

So the idea that abortion is care, it might sound interesting and certainly strategic, but the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth. Abortion is not health care. It is the antithesis of health care. So I’d start there.

And what we’re seeing in the Biden administration this early on is that they’re sophisticated in their messaging, but that doesn’t change just this basic fact that reality is not arbitrary.

You can call something a certain thing, but it doesn’t make it so. So calling a beautiful developing baby in its earliest stages a lifeless blob of tissue doesn’t make it so. It is a baby. And so we’ll have to be very careful in our messaging and in calling the Biden administration out on their false messaging.

Del Guidice: Jeanne, overall, what are your thoughts on what the next year will bring for the pro-life cause in politics?

Mancini: I think we are going to need to have our running shoes on and that we are going to need to be very persistent and very careful and just aggressive, frankly, because we have a very pro-abortion administration here and with the sad loss of the Senate and the House, even though we had many gains in the House, we’ve got our work cut out for us.

So we anticipate a year ahead where we’ll be working very hard, but we have to be really persistent.

I was able to speak with Rep. Chris Smith on Friday. And I think the fear and we have to overcome discouragement and realize that we can’t ever sort of throw the towel in. And he gave a few examples in different years when he’s been working in the House when we didn’t have either of the chambers or the White House and gains that were able to be made.

So there are ways to be creative and to build a culture of life policy-wise even in these moments. So we’re going to have to watch every little angle and see what’s happening and be creative and just stay very alert.

Del Guidice: We’ve seen abortion discussed so much in the culture and entertainment. How do you think the pro-life issue is doing there and are hearts and minds being changed on abortion?

Mancini: Definitely. Oh, thank you for asking that question.

One of the most positive things that we’ve seen—boy, there’s a lot, actually, I’m going to say there’s three or four very positive things. So one is when you look back to the question of even just public opinion on abortion, we are beginning to win more and more in the court of public opinion on abortion.

So by that, what do I mean? Well, the height of when most people self-identified as being pro-choice in our country was in the late 1980s and the very early 1990s. And since then, that has continued to move more in the direction of life.

So, where it’s pretty evenly split now, when you ask just that question, if you identify as pro-life or pro-choice, when you drill down on it, for example, do you think that abortion should be limited or do you think that abortion should be limited to the first three months of pregnancy, etc., etc., the large majority of Americans are with us on that issue. So, that’s one thing.

Just when you’re looking at public opinion, I see it moving more and more in the direction of life. When you’re looking at the actual number of abortions, they are down ticking. We had a small uptick in 2018, we’ve just learned, but that’s the first uptick in 12 years. And so I think that that continues to move in the direction of life.

And we’ve certainly got our work cut out for us, but we’ve seen very, very good strides there. Now, I say that with some fear and trepidation, because we still have over 800,000 abortions every single year in this country. And we’re talking about people here and moms and dads being wounded. And so that’s something that’s important to take into account.

But then you look at the number of pregnancy care centers out there. And these are people who are on the front lines of serving women and what to pregnancy care centers do? They give free resources to women and men facing unexpected pregnancies.

Whether it’s actual housing, whether it’s free diapers, or formula, or cribs, or carriages, or what have you, they provide collectively over a hundred million dollars in free resources every year to women and men facing unexpected pregnancies.

And when you look back on the growth of the pregnancy care center movement, and specifically compare it to abortion clinics, it’s astounding how beautiful this work is and how much it’s grown.

For example, when we had the height of abortion clinics, which would have been about 1,200 in the late 1980s, at that time we had about 500, they call themselves crisis pregnancy centers, now we call them pregnancy care centers. These days that data has reversed itself.

So there are about 700 abortion clinics nationwide, and there are well over 3,000 pregnancy care centers helping women and men facing unexpected pregnancy. So, that’s another huge gain.

And then I think the last thing I’d say is just the young people being on this side of life. So we see that anecdotally every year at the March for Life, because they’re the largest sort of cohort of people that come to the march, I’d say about 80% are people aged 30 or under at the March for Life.

They’re so positive and St. John Paul II called them the best ambassadors for life. And I love that because their joy and their enthusiasm is contagious.

And we can even look to the General Social Survey—so that’s the longitudinal study done by our government. And young people are the largest demographic or the single demographic that has changed most in the direction of life when you look at, from the early 1970s, when abortion was made legal, until now, they’ve single-handedly become the most pro-life demographic. And that’s people from the age of the 18 to 29. So young people are on the side of life.

So, we’re winning in so many different ways. I know that’s sort of a convoluted way of explaining it, but life is winning and truth is winning and we just need to continue to make strides in that direction.

Del Guidice: Well, President [Donald] Trump included Nellie Gray, who’s the founder of the March for Life, as one of the Americans he wants to honor in the new Garden of American Heroes. He had announced this last week before, he’s now former President Trump.

Can you talk about, for those who don’t know, who Nellie Gray is and what we should know about her?

Mancini: Yeah. Nellie was a true pro-life hero. She dedicated her entire life to the March for Life.

So, Nellie was an attorney. She worked for the federal government. She resigned from her position with the government when the Roe v. Wade happened, so that she could continue to build a culture of life and just dedicate herself singly to that.

She helped to run the March for Life for almost 40 years. So she was in her late 40s when Roe came down. And until she was 88, she was single-handedly running the March for Life with a little bit of help from the board.

But she basically ate, breathed, slept the March for Life. It’s amazing what she did. And I can tell you now, as we have a staff of nine, that it’s not an easy endeavor and it blows me away what she did. It’s really only by standing on her shoulders that we can do the pro-life work that we’re able to do now.

Some things that I loved about Nellie, that she was so passionate about praying for people’s conversion. So she would get on watching TV and she’d watch Rachel Maddow and say, “We have got to pray that she comes to our side. She’s so articulate. We’d love have her on our side.”

And she saw a lot of fruit of her beautiful prayer. She prayed for Bernard Nathanson’s conversion. Of course, Bernard Nathanson was considered one of the legal architects of abortion in America and sadly boasted of having done over 60,000 abortions in his lifetime and he had a massive conversion of heart.

He was a doctor, of course, and then became pro-life and dedicated the last few decades of his life to doing everything he could to show the truth about abortion. And he even spoke at the March for Life.

So, Nellie would pray for his conversion. She prayed for the conversion of heart of Norma McCorvey. Norma also, of course, Norma is the Roe of Roe v. Wade. Norma also spoke at the march at least twice. [Sandra] Cano, which, she’s the Doe of Doe v. Bolton, also massive conversion, spoke at the March for Life.

I loved Nellie’s hope and how she’d never give up on anyone. And in that vein, I’ve been trying to pray for the conversion of heart of our president and vice president.

Del Guidice: So now that the March for Life is virtual, what are ways that you would encourage people to concretely stand up for life this year and even this week?

Mancini: So many ways. And first I’d say most importantly, the March for Life is a day that we can all come together. And we’ve got lots of opportunities for people to do that virtually. I’m going to walk you through a few of those.

But if the March is just a day every year, then we’re not doing our job. We need to be building a culture of life every day of the year. And each of us are called to do that differently, but each of us are called to do that.

So I can’t really answer that question for you, Rachel, or for anyone who’s listening to this podcast. But what I can promise you is that if you look deep in your heart and consider what’s there and consider your call to build a culture of life, that there is an answer there. And I really encourage you to listen to that and to say yes.

As for this week, what you can do, we encourage you on Thursday, January 28th, to listen in and participate in one of our Capitol Hill 101 seminars. So these are virtual, they’re free. And there are three different time slots that are offered on the day before the March for Life.

And these will teach people how to engage with our legislators, whether they’re local officials or their state or national legislators, on how to build a culture of life.

So we’ve got congressmen, we’ve got staffers, our own Tom McClusky who’s a lobbyist will be speaking. And that’ll be a really powerful hour, I think. So check us out at marchforlife.org to learn more about that.

On Friday, of course, please watch us online to participate in the virtual rally and then get on social media and tell your story because the stories are really what changed people’s hearts. So tell your story about why you’re pro-life on any of the different mediums socially.

So we’ll have the rally from noon to 1. Then the march itself will be from about 1 to 2:30, so please participate virtually. And then that night we’ve got our virtual Rose Dinner.

Tim Tebow is our keynote speaker and we are presenting Carl Anderson, this pre-knight of the Knights of Columbus, with a lifetime achievement award. He’ll also be giving remarks and he’s just a real gifted strategist and thinker, a visionary. So I think you’ll really enjoy his remarks. So please check us out for any of those activities Thursday or Friday of this week at marchforlife.org.

Del Guidice: Wonderful. Thank you. And are there any parting words in terms of respect for life, what people should take away from what we’ve seen in the past few weeks when it comes to life and anything you would encourage people to do as we just embark on this new year?

Mancini: Yeah, I would. So, I come back to this idea of our personal calls, our personal vocations, and what is going to change our culture right now, where it’s such a dire moment and political conversations are like tinderboxes. I’m sure we’re all experiencing it with our friends and family and just our local communities.

I think there’s a beautiful quote, “Be who you are and you’ll set the world ablaze.” And maybe right now that’s through peace and through unity. And so to look deep inside to what your personal call is, and to realize that that is a gift that we need more than ever.

In these days right now in our culture, we’re desperately in need of heroes and in need of light and truth and goodness and love. And so to embrace that and to live that with a whole heart.

Del Guidice: Wonderful, Jeanne. Thank you so much for joining us today on “The Daily Signal Podcast.” It’s been great having you with us.

Mancini: Oh, thanks for having me, Rachel.