In 2016, after hundreds of students represented Franciscan University at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., they spent more than 32 hours stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on their return home, due to unforeseen inclement weather.
Unperturbed, Students for Life has begun preparations for this year’s Jan. 27 March. “Students for Life club has established a team of Students for Life members who are in charge of the different aspects of the March,” said Ann Babcock, coordinator of the March for Life.
She noted that last year’s fluke conditions were “not a result of anything we did,” and expressed excitement that this year’s impending March would allow students a platform to voice their concerns regarding the protection of basic human life.
“The March is an exercise of our First Amendment rights,” said Babcock. “In this country, we have the legal right to express our grievances to our government at our nation’s capital. Not everyone in the world has the ability to do that.”
The severity of the issue at stake, continued Babcock, necessitates concern on the part of those involved. “This law (allowing) abortion is the greatest tragedy of our time. To protest (it) is a no-brainer.”
Unlike previous years, Students for Life has elected to distribute hats, not shirts, to students attending the March. The apparel change will enable students to locate each other more easily amidst the sea of marchers come January.
The “student-run, student-led, student-organized” event seeks to call students’ attention to the threat against the most vulnerable, according to Babcock, in an event which is planned separately from Franciscan administration.
Babcock, who has been involved with Students for Life since her freshman year at Franciscan, continued, “Most people are under the impression that the University itself organizes the event, like a pilgrimage or the Gaming program.” Babcock stressed that the club, not Franciscan faculty, is behind the coordination efforts for the March.
“We began the preparations for this year’s March after last year’s March,” said Babcock. She said the year-round preparations include a post-March assessment of the event’s effects, both positive and negative, before leaders are chosen for the following year’s March.
This January, March for Life buses will leave campus at 11:30 p.m. on Jan. 26 following a Holy Hour, and will arrive early the following morning in Washington, D.C. After attending a morning Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, students will participate in a pro-life rally before marching from the Washington Monument to the Supreme Court.
“Every different group that comes brings (its) banner,” said Babcock. “People bring balloons, people bring flags, people bring marching bands.” Franciscan University students often march under the shadow of a large, green university sign.
Babcock said her hopes for the March include motivated students, striving “to be active in the pro-life moment on a regular basis.” She said the March itself “ is really encouraging for us,” but added that those on campus “need to be living our pro-life beliefs” year-round.
“This year, there is scheduled to be a feminist protest the same day,” noted Babcock. “Hopefully, there won’t be any contention.”
The experience is one which junior marketing major Rosemary Wendt ranks among her fondest memories from the university thus far. “The fact that you’re there with thousands and thousands of people who believe and are fighting for the same thing is really a life-changing experience,” she said. “It makes you realize just how important human life is.”
“We get to stand for something we all believe in,” said Babcock. This year, she hopes for better weather, as she leads an effort on the part of Students for Life to march on Washington in 2017. The results, she said, are nothing short of life-changing.