With attendance estimated to range between 200,000 to 500,000, the March for Life is the largest annual civil rights event in the world.
For 40 years, founder Nellie Gray, pictured right, dedicated herself to the March for Life. “The last call she made before she died was about the March,” new M4L president Jeanne Monahan told me in an interview. Jeanne was appointed to her position after Nellie passed away in August 2012.
Jeanne and her team are now exploring ways to expand on Nellie’s vision and to capitalize on the innate power M4L holds. With advances online, in texting, and social media, I’ve hoped for the day when M4L would tap into the strength of its vast yearly crowd of mostly young people to promote the sanctity of life in a greater capacity. Jeanne agrees: “We want to make March for Life a year-round thing.”
M4L was founded as a 501(c)3 nonprofit educational organization. Many don’t know Nellie also created a 501(c)4, which can involve itself in politics through lobbying legislation that advances the sanctity of life and also support pro-life candidates.
“The March for Life has always been ‘no exceptions, no compromise,'” said Jeanne. “But very few bills and candidates are that pure. M4L seeks to move both in that direction.”
Seeking to reactivate its political arm, M4L wooed Family Research Council Vice President Tom McClusky, pictured left, earlier this month to head its (c)4 division. His vision?
“I’m basically heading a 40-year-old brand new organization,” Tom told me, since the (c)4 has not been active for a number of years. “But I’m not looking to replace any other organization.”
Tom said he tried to look at what was unique about the M4L, which, of course, is its populace. “But they come to D.C., march, go back home, and then what?” Tom noted.
So Tom wants to create citizen lobbyists – get young people to call their legislators. “Currently neither Senate nor House leadership whips on pro-life issues, but that is going to change,” Tom promised. Tom wants to keep marchers engaged, much as Barack Obama did during his campaigns as well as the Tea Party.
Tom also sees M4L as a relationship builder between pro-life groups. “My role would be to help them on the Hill,” Tom explained.
But M4L is primarily concerned with education. That is its heart. “We want not just to make abortion illegal but also undesirable to any woman or man. We want people to know abortion is never good for anyone – the baby, mom, or dad,” Jeanne explained.
As for the M4L itself, leaders are focusing on outreach to Evangelicals, “because we know the event is mostly Catholic, but most of America isn’t,” said Jeanne. To that end M4L has hired Bethany Goodman, a member of McLean Bible Church, and has also formed an Evangelical task force.
Jeanne, pictured right, would additionally like to use M4L’s platform to encourage adoption as a heroic choice and to spotlight that abortion hurts women. And Jeanne is working to expand M4L’s presence in the media and as an educational organization.
In 2014, M4L organizers will also encourage marchers to post on Facebook and Twitter and work harder to capture email addresses and phone numbers. They will also foster unity by having all the major groups represented on stage during the rally.
“Politics is downstream from culture,” Jeanne summarized. “We want to stand on the shoulders of a giant, Nellie, and work both upstream and downstream to create a culture of life – with no exceptions.”
[Top photo via LifeSiteNews.com]