Health safeguards impact March for Life planning

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) – In the midst of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers say the annual March for Life rally on the National Mall and march to the Supreme Court are still scheduled for Jan. 29.

"We will continue to discern throughout this year what steps should be taken for the 2021 March for Life, and will share subsequent updates on our website and social media," said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, in a July 30 statement provided to Catholic News Service.

The day before, Mancini had announced the march would move forward, "unafraid and ever encouraged in our mission to defend the unborn."

The 2020 March for Life, which featured a speech by President Donald Trump, the first president to address the gathering in person, had one of the largest turnouts since the event began in 1974, with more than 100,000 participants at the Mall rally and march up Constitution Avenue past the Supreme Court. It's always held on a date near the anniversary of the court's 1973 rulings, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, which legalized abortion on demand.

The rally and march and lobbying of members of Congress are part of March for Life weekend events that also include the Rose Dinner at a downtown hotel ballroom, for which registration is scheduled to begin Sept. 14, and the Pro-Life Summit, a daylong training event for college and high school students, scheduled for Jan. 30.

March for Life is, at its core, a bus event for college and high school groups, and restrictions on that kind of travel are still an unknown factor.

Ed Konieczka, assistant director of university ministry at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, explained the hurdles to CNS.

"We book our hotel a year in advance. This past year, we booked for two years in a row to lock in a good rate for the university. The buses are usually with the company that does the majority of our (bus travel) ... so we have some wiggle room. We usually discuss the March for Life in the spring, and have to finalize our bus count by September/October."

He added, "One of our major obstacles will be travel. We usually have 200 students in four buses for 30 hours each way. Getting to D.C. and back with that many students while maintaining social distancing will be a major challenge."

They're still planning on attending, Konieczka added.