Since 2012, Jeanne Mancini has been president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, the organization behind the March for Life. During an interview with Catholic News Agency’s CNA Newsroom podcast (Episode 5), Mancini shared her thoughts on the state of the pro-life movement and hinted at plans to continue expanding the reach and impact of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., which is the annual capstone event of the pro-life movement. With echoes of the great Civil Rights marches of the 1960s, tens of thousands of citizens from across the United States brave the freezing weather in our nation’s capital each year to demand an end to legalized abortion.
How massive was the crowd for the #MarchForLife2018? Check out this time-lapse video by @Students4LifeHQ . Now if only the mainstream media would cover this awesome #ProLife event! https://t.co/HMoJJ5zyUk
— Julie Roys (@reachjulieroys) January 20, 2018
— Fr Joseph Matlak (@IosephBenedict) January 22, 2018
Jeanne Mancini took the mantle of the March for Life from famous pro-life activist Nellie Gray. Gray organized the first March for Life in 1974, the year following Roe v. Wade, and continued to do so each year until her death in 2012. Mancini has brought fresh energy and dynamism to the March for Life. “The founder of the March for Life was 88 when she passed away, and so she wasn’t that engaged in social media,” Mancini explained.
During her tenure thus far, Mancini has been able to capitalize on the vigor and enthusiasm of a young pro-life movement including spreading the message using all forms of mass communication. “We’ve also worked to grow our social media presence quite a bit,” Mancini said. “And so it’s been fun to work with young people and to grow that presence.” In spite of the media continuously downplaying the event’s significance, the March for Life is thriving and growing through the organization’s dynamic outreach. In fact, some sources estimated the March for Life in 2018 drew a crowd of 100,000.
Over the decades, attendance at the March for Life has become the way for pro-life leaders to take a public and powerful stand in defense of the preborn. In 2017, Vice President Mike Pence became the first sitting VP to address the March for Life. In 2018, President Trump became the first sitting president to address the march via live video. Previous pro-life presidents, including George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, also regularly delivered remarks via telephone.
Despite the preponderance of Republican politicians at the event, Mancini reiterated her commitment to keeping the March for Life a nonpartisan event. “We always try to have both sides of the political aisle represented at the March for Life, and sadly that’s become harder and harder,” she acknowledged. The case of pro-life Democrat Dan Lipinski, who cancelled his appearance in 2018 after President Trump’s address to the march, made this increasing polarization all too palpable. “But we also seek to get legislators from around the country and state houses, for example, because there are many pro-life Democrats at the state level, so that is something that we’re hoping to see at this year’s March for Life.”
Mancini revealed that the March for Life Education and Defense Fund has been working for over a year to develop an action plan to expand the March for Life throughout the country. “We’re starting to embark upon state marches, and that’s something that I’m hoping to explain a little bit more to people in January,” she said.
Mancini hinted at broader initiatives to inspire year-round activism. “We also just want to make sure that marchers that get so excited the day of the march, and it’s almost a life-changing experience in terms of motivation and enthusiasm and all of that, that they take that energy home and make a difference in their local communities. And so we’re trying to do what we can to really tool up the grassroots,” Mancini explained.
With the 45th annual March for Life coming up in January, Mancini is shaping the march into a prominent expression of the pro-life movement in a rapidly changing social and political landscape. Around the world, inspired by the example of the annual U.S. March for Life, international Marches for Life have sprung up in a variety of countries. From Lisbon, to Ottawa, to Rome, to Lima and beyond, pro-life activists worldwide have taken to the streets to demand a recognition of the rights of the preborn.
The upcoming March for Life in Washington, D.C., will take place on January 18, 2019. This year’s theme will be “Unique from Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science.” Ben Shapiro, Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Wire and host of The Ben Shapiro Show, a prominent and passionate voice for the rights of the preborn, will be a headline speaker.