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The mall and the march

Sydney Saxon set her alarm for 4:30 last Friday morning but overslept by a good 30 minutes. Grabbing a puffer coat and gloves, the nursing major took off for a parking lot across campus where she joined some 200 fellow students. They were making their way from Virginia to the 47th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve always believed abortion is wrong,” Saxon said, referring to her Christian upbringing in Pennsylvania and her plans to one day work in a hospital neonatal intensive care unit. Still, she was affected when she saw images of an abortion during a developmental psychology class at her Baptist college. “The photos were disturbing but educational. It was the first time I’d ever been exposed to anything like that. It made me pay attention to what the professor was preparing us to do — take a pro-life stance in a conversation.”

Friday morning, buses reserved by Students for Life filled quickly, so Saxon and four friends piled into a Chevy Tahoe for the 184-mile trip. They were armed with excused absences, a trunk load of signs and a parking garage pass that didn’t work out.

“Small vehicles only,” the attendant informed their driver, waving them away.

The group eventually made it through a thick perimeter of Secret Service agents and walked onto the National Mall in time to hear President Trump’s speech — the first one from a sitting president ever given at the annual event.

“Unborn children have never had a stronger defender in the White House,” Trump stated, pointing to two Supreme Court justices and dozens of federal judges he has nominated in his three years in office.

“Make America Great Again” caps may have punctuated the crowd, but the president shared the stage with two pro-life Democrats from Louisiana. Saxon, however, said the speech from abortion survivor Claire Culwell is the one she’ll never forget.

Culwell told the crowd about meeting her birth mother in 2009 and learning that she had a twin who did not survive the abortion. Describing the pain she saw in her birth mother’s eyes, Culwell proclaimed to the audience, “I dream of a day when no other human being has to walk the face of the Earth as an abortion survivor or as a twin-less twin in the name of choice.”

News helicopters buzzed overhead as the crowd streamed onto Constitution Avenue for the march. Saxon said the number of people impressed her “right out of the gates.” Participants were elbow to elbow, a scene that reminded her of Times Square on New Year’s Eve. “I’ve been to New York City for that, and this march was even more crowded,” she estimated.

As the skies started to drizzle, chants (“Ho, ho, Roe must go”) and hymns (“Amazing Grace”) rang out.

One marcher was dressed up like a Nazi. He carried a “Heil, Sanger” sign in reference to Margaret Sanger, the Planned Parenthood founder who had a thing against “genetic undesirables.” Other signs read, “Would you care more if the baby was killed by a gun?” and “One-third of my generation is missing.”

Saxon carried a sign, too, but after seeing the number of families at the march, she concluded “a stroller is the biggest pro-life sign you can bring to an event like this.”    

Being at the march was important to the group’s driver, too. The college junior said he’d always wanted to see the movement firsthand. “I wanted to be one of the tens of thousands of people that show our capital that we care for the life of the unborn,” he explained. “Sometimes it’s good to be part of the masses and not just talk about them.”

Annie Ashley, 18, called the march one of the best experiences of her life. “Even if I must make up some schoolwork, I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance. There will never be another first time for a U.S. president to address this event.”

The Indianapolis native said the “pro-abundant life” signs resonated with her: “So many people are just living for today and make their choices based on that. They don’t understand that God wants them and their babies to live abundantly.”

Ashley has seen the fight for life up close. When her friend got pregnant at 16, her mother gave her two choices — get an abortion or get out.

“She chose life,” Ashley said. “It’s been tough, but she loves her little boy. Christians stepped in and helped. She’s never been without support.”

Ashley said the administration at her Christian university encouraged students to attend the march. Her psychology teacher even offered extra credit for an accompanying report.

“I took a picture in front of the Washington Monument to prove I was there,” she said. “We’ve talked about womb-to-tomb development in class, so I think I can relate my experience at the march to that in my report.”

Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com. Follow her on twitter at @kimhenderson319.