By Daniel Burke, Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - For decades, the March for Life has followed a familiar formula: Bus in thousands of abortion opponents. Protest in front of the Supreme Court. Go home.
But this year, in addition to braving snow and bone-chilling wind, the March will move in a different direction, says Jeanne Monahan, president of the anti-abortion group.
Long-winded political speeches? See ya.
An exclusive focus on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court case that lifted restrictions on abortion? Gone.
A hipster Catholic musician, evangelical leaders and March for Life app? Welcome to the protest.
And those changes just skim the surface.
The March for Life, billed as the world’s largest anti-abortion event, is remaking itself in deeper ways as well, says Monahan.
For its first 40 years, the march was marshaled by Nellie Gray, an occasionally irascible Catholic who had little use for modern technology, political compromise or the mainstream media.
Gray died in her home office in 2012 at age 88. A short time later, Monahan was named her successor at the March for Life.
While abortion opponents praise Gray’s legacy, there’s a popular saying around the March for Life’s Washington headquarters: “We’re a brand-new, 41-year-old organization.”
The goal: to turn their annual, one-day demonstration into a potent political machine.
Abortion rights advocates say they’re skeptical that March for Life leaders can convince more Americans to join their cause. Since 1989, the percentage who want to overturn Roe has barely budged above 30%.
“It’s an impressive show,” Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice, says of the March for Life. “But at the end of the day, they have failed dramatically at their goal.”
Still, even O’Brien expressed respect for his foes’ new plans. “It’s pretty clever, actually.”
With that in mind, here are six big ways the March for Life is changing this year:
1) 9 to 5
Since 1974, the March for Life has made a really loud noise every January 22, the anniversary of Roe. V. Wade.
Estimates of the crowd’s size vary, but it seems safe to say tens of thousands have attended the protest each year.
Organizers estimate that at least 50% of the marchers are under 18, as busloads of Catholic school kids descend on the capital from across the country.
But some abortion opponents complain the March for Life had morphed in recent years from a political demonstration to a photo op.
Ryan Bomberger, an anti-abortion activist who is speaking at march events, says the protest needs to find ways to harness its youthful energy throughout the year.
“You’ve got all these young people with energy and passion and the desire to do something about the injustice of abortion. But what do they do when they leave the march and go home?”
March for Life leaders want to turn its young protesters into citizen lobbyists, much like Tea Party partisans and the Obama campaign did with their troops.
The key to that, says March for Life's Chairman of the Board Patrick Kelly, is to keep them engaged throughout the year, including through social media. (More on that later.)
In addition to Monahan, an experienced Washington politico, the March for Life has beefed up its Washington office by hiring a full-time lobbyist and social media manager who will also lead outreach to evangelicals, a big and politically active constituency.
The focus this year will be combating the Obama administration’s contraception mandate, which requires most companies to provide free contraceptive coverage to employees. Abortion opponents say that some covered services are tantamount to abortion.
2) If You’ve Got the Money, We've Got the Time
For decades, the March for Life subsisted on a meager budget: Just $150,000 a year, according to tax filings from 2009-2011.
But new Washington offices, lobbyists and social media managers don’t come cheap. Fortunately for the March for Life, a donor who was a friend of Gray’s bequeathed $550,000 to the organization last year.
That, along with a more robust fund-raising campaign, has allowed the March to increase its budget from $252,000 when Monahan took over in 2012, to $780,000 this year.
“We are professionalizing the March for Life,” said Kelly.
3) With Arms Wide Open
Though various religious groups oppose abortion (many support abortion rights as well) the March for Life has come to be considered mainly a Catholic event.
Catholic clergy offer prayers, Catholic politicians make speeches and Catholic school kids fill out the rank-and-file.
Monahan says this year will different.
The March for Life has hired a full-time staffer devoted to bringing more Protestant evangelicals to the protest, and they hope to see that effort bear fruit this Wednesday.
They’ve tapped James Dobson, founder of the evangelical powerhouse ministry Focus on the Family, as a keynote speaker. Dobson and his adopted son, Ryan, will talk about adoption, an issue close to the heart of many evangelicals.
4) The Hardest Part
For the first time in its 41 years, the March for Life will focus on an issue besides abortion on Wednesday.
Through Dobson and other speakers, the march is also promoting the idea of “noble adoption” as an alternative to abortion.
“Adoption is a heroic decision for pregnant mothers who find themselves in a difficult situation,” says Monahan. “We want to eliminate the stigma of adoption and encourage women to pursue this noble option.”
The spotlight on adoption dovetails with new focus within the anti-abortion movement on crisis pregnancy centers, which urge women to carry their pregnancy to term.
Critics charge that the centers divulge false medical information about abortion and deceive unwitting patients into thinking they provide abortions, only to advise them otherwise. Supporters say they help women through financial assistance, counseling and adoption referrals.
5) Wish You Were Here
Despite the youth of many March for Life participants, the group’s website had been decidedly Web 1.0.
Under Monahan, that has changed dramatically.
The group posts Instagram pics of chilly protesters trudging through snow at past marches on Throwback Thursdays. They upload posts about prenatal development to Pinterest and tweet throughout the year, including this one about the difficult choices pregnant women sometimes face.
For the more technically advanced, the March has developed an app that connects to a 360-degree camera so folks can follow the protest from home. The app also has anti-abortion information, links to articles about adoption and tips for lobbying Congress.
“We have to find a way to take those boots on the ground and talk to them throughout the year,” says Kelly. “And with Facebook and Twitter and other social media we have the tools to do so.”
The March is also hoping for a high-profile social media endorsement on Wednesday: Monahan says she’s asked the Vatican to send a tweet from the Pope in support of the March for Life.
UPDATE: On Wednesday morning, Monahan got her papal tweet.
I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers. May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) January 22, 2014
I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers. May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable
— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) January 22, 2014
6) Yakety Yak
Imagine listening to politicians drone on for hours about their voting records in the chilly January air.
Monahan didn’t think so either, so she’s trying to accomplish a minor miracle: limiting the speaking time of politicians at the pre-march rally.
Only a handful of politicians, including House Majority Leader Eric Canton, R-Virginia, and Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Illinois, have been invited to speak. They’ve all been asked to keep their speeches to a just a few minutes.
“In past years our rally has gone on for two or three hours and people lost interest,” Monahan says.
So, instead of boring speeches, the rally this year will feature a live concert by Matt Maher, a Catholic singer-songwriter with a huge following among young Christians.
So, will all this make any difference?
Clearly, changes are afoot this year at the March for Life. But what effect, if any, will they have on the larger anti-abortion movement?
Not much, says Ziad Munson, a sociologist at Lehigh University and author of the book “The Making of Pro-life Activists.”
The March for Life hasn’t really been politically influential since the early 1990s, says Munson. Meanwhile, other abortion opponents, like Catholic bishops and National Right to Life Committee, have led the charge.
“In effect, what we’re seeing is a new organization within a movement, not a new approach,” he says. “I don’t think the March for Life is likely to make inroads that haven’t already been made.”
Monahan is more optimistic.
If the March can recruit even a slice of its youthful protesters into citizen activists, she says, it might be enough to tip the balance in a country deeply divided on the morality of abortion.
Yup... always choose the lesser of two evils... sort of why many voted for Obama... not really much choice there...
lol, i went to catholic school and they tried to bus us in for this every year (this must've been 15 years ago). they called it an "extra credit assignment" and told us that we wouldn't be responsible for any work that we missed that day. i still opted against it, though, because spending hours in the snow trying to deny women their rights is much worse than a latin test.
So not only did you get to take a Latin test, you got to do it in smug satisfaction that you're denying certain humans their right to LIVE. How kind!
Abortion is the law. I'm over it, living in today's world. If you want to march, go for it.
Now, back to football ...
"Slavery is the law. I'm over it, living in today's world. Who cares if thousands are being oppressed daily? As long as I can be entertained, because that's all that matters."
Do you also have videos of unwanted children who are beaten to death?
Do you also have videos of people who were murdered by UNLOVED and UNWANTED kids?
Well, only art. Enjoy.
Enjoy visions of all the unwanted, unloved children that have been tortured and beaten to death by their parents.
Mrs. X: There's a baby. It's at the hospital.
Mary X: Mom!
Mrs. X: And you're the father.
Henry Spencer: Well, well that's impossible! It's only been...
Mary X: Mother, they're still not sure it is a baby!
David Lynch (Eraserhead)
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Like Barack Obama said, "I don't know anyone who LIKES abortion".
Sometimes we have to make CHOICES that are the lesser of two bad situations. The life of the MOTHER must take precedence over the life of the embryo.
If they are both going to die anyway I'd agree with you, but what about the recreational abortions?
How many women do you know that have woken up one day and said, "I think I'll get pregnant today so I can take a recreational abortion?"
Why? Why is one life more valuable than another?
Bill the Cat,
So you can't see any difference between a woman who knows what horrible things the future could hold for her if she doesn't get a needed abortion and a nearly mindless embryo? WOW!
Well, that's it for me this week, we cleared our quota of killing at least 70% of conceptions so we are right on target. Silly humans think they can out-abort Dr. God but I'll show them. Between the fertilized eggs I don't let implant to the millions of miscarriages I cause I am just barely able to keep these creatures from spawning like rabbits!
God is the creator and owner of life and all creation. What God decides to do is up to Him, no problem.
If God has created a natural Birth Control, that's fine and up to Him. God is Sovereign and Has Sovereign Divine Will & Wisdom.
You DON"T equate the creature to the Creator, conceptually and practically.
Since the mother and the father are the only known creators of a fertilized egg I guess that means they get to decide whether or not to abort during the process in accordance with the law. Until anything supernatural can be empirically proven there is no reason to assume something supernatural is involved and should be given the authority over life and death.
Who's having abortions (religion)?
Women identifying themselves as Protestants obtain 37.4% of all abortions in the U.S.; Catholic women account for 31.3%, Jewish women account for 1.3%, and women with no religious affiliation obtain 23.7% of all abortions. 18% of all abortions are performed on women who identify themselves as "Born-again/Evangelical". Citation: Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
That's what happens when it is legal, an individual problem that goes against one's beliefs, a spoil. Those same Christians would not elect for abortion to be legal if they were called for voting on the issue. We believe the fate of the unborn should be left to God.
the fate of the unborn should be left to god?
better stop women from going to the doctor during pregnancy, then. wouldn't want the doctors to spot a problem and then try to fix it. leave it to god!
The two largest groups are Protestants and Catholics.
Just one more example of HYPOCRISY.
Ending the life of the unborn by choice is one of the worst conscious acts, regardless of by whom.
"Ending the life of the unborn by choice is one of the worst conscious acts, regardless of by whom."
So when your god does it (which he does so often)...same definition?
The statistics show that more than 75% of all abortions are performed on believers who are HYPOCRITES if they claim the Bible opposes abortion.
God is the creator and owner of life and all creation. What God decides to do is up to Him, no problem.
If God has created a natural Birth Control, that's fine and up to Him.
That's a silly observation totally disconnected with the data just presented. Because it is legal, all of your religious buddies disregard their god and their book to go have abortions? If your god/book had any real sway over people.. they wouldn't disregard the word of their 'lord'. LOL.
As an example... pot is legal in CO, but that doesn't mean that I have to go there and buy some and smoke it. I don't do that because I gave my word to the U.S. government that I wouldn't when I swore to defend the Constitution and when they gave me a security clearance.
The is of abortion is different from all others. Everything else pales in comparison to unjustly ending an innocent life.
The issue of abortion is different from all others. Everything else pales in comparison to unjustly ending an innocent life.
Vic. An abortion is worse than 9/11? Worse than Katrina or Sandy? Really?
Those same Christians are the ones who visit the abortion clinics at over 80% of abortions performed BEING on Christian women.
Your words belie the reality.
Presuming your god exists, I'd have to conclude that a omnipotent, omniscient god could solve this problem very easily – either prevent the need or prevent the response. It does neither so either god doesn't exist or its OK with loss of life however that happens.
Wombs as tombs is perversion, scripture twisters.
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Antichoicers amuse me.
Antichoice, because if they were truly pro life they'd save 10 times as many people by fighting malaria or war.
Of course, they'd rather focus on dubiously living fetal tissues, even fighting the morning after pill which doesn't even cause abortion.
Unfortunately, they think the pill does cause abortion.
Why do you consider it a woman's right to cut the head off of a baby, even if it's in her body. Why isn't the baby transplanted and why is she that desperate in the first place?
The antichoicers amuse me.
Anti choice, because if they truly wished to stop children from dying, they could do a whole lot more by pooling their cash to develop and distribute antimalarial drugs in Africa, or feed Chinese kids.
But I suppose they're like the "Not in my backyard" folks- they don't care about the suffering of foreigners and would instead like to operate on nice, safe, christian friendly western ground, so they can chuckle as they attack women's rights.
The article was not about malaria in Africa and you don't know what the anti-choicers are doing.
I know that they whine constantly about women who choose not to be forced into pregnancy by rapists.
I know that the worst among them would even let her die on the operating table as long as the fetus survives.
I know that they spend millions every year trying to fool people into their lies.
statement a) Why would anyone choose to end the life of a fetus over the rapist?
statement b.) speculation
statement c.) random venting
Atheist trolls have been spotted. Please refrain yourself from responding.
Wait. you are an atheist?
Now that you've gotten TJI to end and you have to create a wp account to post on marquee? Your days of trolling is almost over.
Fundamentalism? Yeah, there's an app for that.
Perhaps the best use of aborted conceptus would be as art material – in mixed media, for example. Human potential blending with human perception and the expression of human ideas and emotions. That is just so exciting. And now it is only medical waste.
Sherman the point of the post was to point out how pro-lifer's are only fighting for unborn children.
They are not adopting all the children that are not aborted, they are not fighting to end euthanasia, all they are doing is fighting to control a woman's choice, not helping the situation afterwards.
You don't know what other political arenas pro life people are involved in. Why compare it to euthanasia when euthanasia is voluntary and abortion is not.
How about the right to be born without original sin. First things first.
Islam teaches that every human born in a state of submission to its Lord and then the children gets the religion based on the environment and parents that child grow up with/in. As long as the human is under parent, will not be held accountable but as soon as that human becomes an adult and makes his/her own decision, will be held accountable…
There is no concept in Islam as reborn…
The Quran explains following states of a human life:
Beginning of this earthly life
40:67 – It is He who created you
i) from dust, then
ii) from a sperm-drop, then (stage-1.1)
iii) from a clinging clot; then He brings you out as (stage-1.2)
iv) a child; then [He develops you] that you reach your [time of] (stage-2: Child)
v) maturity, then [further] that you become (stage-3: Young)
vi) Elders (old age). (stage-4: Old)
vii) And among you is he who is taken in death before [that], so that you reach a specified term; and perhaps you will think. (stage-5: end of life)
Detail of number ii (stage-1.1) and iii(stage-1.2):
Then We made the Nutfah into a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood), then We made the clot into a little lump of flesh, then We made out of that little lump of flesh bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then We brought it forth as another creation. So blessed be Allah, the Best of creators. – 23:14
End of this earthly life
62:8 – Say, "Indeed, the death from which you flee – indeed, it will meet you. Then you will be returned to the Knower of the unseen and the witnessed, and He will inform you about what you used to do."
Resurrection on that day
Every soul will taste death, and you will only be given your [full] compensation on the Day of Resurrection. So he who is drawn away from the Fire and admitted to Paradise has attained [his desire]. And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion. – 3:185
Peace to all!!!
"As long as the human is under parent, will not be held accountable but as soon as that human becomes an adult and makes his/her own decision, will be held accountable… "
So your saying a fetus gets a free pass to paradise? Wouldn't the humane thing to do be to abort all fetuses so they don't run the risk of committing the deadly sin of using their brains to question the beliefs of their parents.
You mean the pro-life or anti-death rally.
The Supreme Court (Roe v Wade) allowed abortion based on not knowing when life begins and said if person hood for the unborn is established, the case collapses. We now know from science that life begins at conception and the baby is a unique person with DNA different than the mother's. Ultrasound proves the baby is always fully human and feels pain at week 20. The Court ruling should be overturned.
Anti-abortion rights is an incorrect term. No one has a right to commit murder. Pro-life is pro baby's right. The baby is innocent and is not getting due process. The father also has a right and a responsibility to keep his baby alive.
EVERYONE is pro-life. It depends if the more important one is the mother or embryo.
The sides are PRO-CHOICE and ANTI-CHOICE.
One choice results in the loss of a person, the other choice results in the inconvenience of the mother.
The aborted is innocent, the mother is usually not facing the consequences of her own actions.
"the mother is usually not facing the consequences of her own actions."
She faces an operation that is FAR less deadly than having a baby, but still an operation. She has to face her own conscience and concern about her decision, either way.
Didn't Jefferson write that ALL men were created equal? So there is no life "more valuable" than another according to the state.
Should women who undergo in-vitro fertilization be forced to carry to term every single egg that is fertilized?
Why is any of this your business or concern?
Um, because it involves the death of a member of our species?
Other species eat their young all of the time... so what's your point again?
"We now know from science that life begins at conception and the baby is a unique person with DNA different than the mother's. Ultrasound proves the baby is always fully human and feels pain at week 20."
Could you not say this about ANY animal species?
I've never heard of another species that is always fully human.
Other than that, sure it applies. But I doubt you honestly believe humans are of the same or less value than other animals.
Fail on so many levels.
"We now know from science that life begins at conception." Uh, Bob, no, some limited scientists believe that is the case. There is no majority claim to that "fact".
"Ultrasound proves the baby is always fully human..." Uh, no again. At two weeks ultrasound would show nothing even remotely similar to a baby.
"... and feels pain at 20 (weeks)." So? Most abortions are done well before that time.
Sorry, but you shifted the goalpost. Bob said "human", not "baby". Baby is a colloquial term used to describe the offspring of a human, no matter what stage of development.
Any honest scientist who knows what the definition of life is knows that conception is the start of an individual's life. Just because it's "a clump of cells" doesn't mean it's not a person. It's simply a stage of development. YOU were once a single cell.
Just like a chicken egg is a hen and an acorn is an oak tree.
This is the problem with atheists. When existence is an improbable accident without purpose a chicken, and oak and a human have the same meaningful life regardless of stage of development.
"This is the problem with atheists. When existence is an improbable accident "
This is the problem with believers. They IGNORANTLY claim that atheists all agree on anything BESIDES the ONE CONCEPT – there are no gods.
That's it. That's ALL there is to atheism. Tell yourself all the LIES about them all believing in anything else. Stay DELUSIONAL about it.
Really, tell me that the vast majority of atheists on this web site do not have a world view (belief) termed materialism.
Please tell me that Christians are not materialistic, too. You can start with their top pastors – evangelists on tv.
Observer, according to the law, protect,ed species, for example baId eagIes' eggs ARE for practical purposes considered equal to adults. And yet unborn humans are considered dlsposable.
When there are over 7,000,000,000 bald eagles in the world, you will have a better point.
Observer, also, don't make equivocations. Materialism is a philosophical term meaning the belief that only the material exists, and yes, atheists most often do hold it. He wasn't talking about the other meaning of it.
This wasn't about population. It was about the remark you made "and a chicken egg is a hen." Well, I always find it interesting that the people who think the world is overpopulated are still alive and presumably haven't killed anyone yet.
If you don't believe in gods, then you'd probably be more likely into materialism, but it's a pretty pointless argument. Atheists have different views.
For all we know we could all be avatars in a giant cosmic video game.
"This wasn't about population."
Wrong. It's EXACTLY about population that caused the protection of eagle eggs.
Before you were born I knew you in the womb. Jeremiah 1:5
That's not a lot of consolation to all the fetuses in the world that God killed with his flood.
You keep using this argument and it doesn't work. Murder is wrong because WE don't have the right to take other's lives. God gives life and only he may take it. You might not believe that, but at least get OUR theology right.
"When a Christian reaches for their book to reference a quote... you know they are about to lie their ass off..." ~LET
"Life" only in it's most basic sense. An undifferentiated mass of cells may be genetically unique, but it is not a -person-. In fact, it can be argued, from Genesis, that "life" begins with drawing the first breath. While in Exodus, it's quite clear that abortion does NOT get the same penalty as Murder, hence, by the bible, Abortion is not Murder.
The question is Personhood, which is distinct from "Life."
I'd argue that it can't be a "person" without consciousness. And it can't have consciousness until there's enough brain development to support it, which doesn't happen until MUCH later in development.
Sorry, but your attempt to use Exodus to support abortion is false. The verse about striking a pregnant woman does not mention the baby being expelled from her.
Please read a Bible before answering next time.
Cool, you sound exactly like those who say "Slaves aren't people!" "Jews aren't people!" "Whoever I want to kill/degrade isn't a person!" ad nauseum. You're on the wrong side of history, my friend.
"Cool, you sound exactly like those who say "Slaves aren't people!"
Yes. That's EXACTLY what the Bible says.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.