Washington — Catholic admonitions about inclusion mixed with strong political language before the March of Life got underway Jan. 22 in Washington.
At a Jesuit-sponsored Mass for life at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church that morning, Fr. Paddy Gilger's homily reminded a small group of students that because Jesus made an effort to be inclusive when he chose his disciples, they, too, should be respectful of others' opinions.
"As we join in the fight against the scourge of abortion, our differences remain, and that's OK," he said.
Gilger also told the students to combine prayer and penance to create a culture of life. "Our efforts are to be able to create the same amount of space for people to change their hearts."
Later, at the March for Life rally at the Washington Monument, attended by nearly 50,000, Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, stuck to her standard political stump speech.
Visit EarthBeat, NCR's new reporting project that explores the ways Catholics and other faith groups are taking action on the climate crisis.
She drew loud cheers with her claim, "You can bet that I will win this fight against Hillary Clinton."
The next president, Fiorina said, "will decide whether we force taxpayers to fund the political arm of the abortion industry," meaning Planned Parenthood.
"Make no mistake, ladies and gentleman," she added, "this election is a fight for the character of our nation."
Fiorina also expressed her continued support for the series of videos released last summer by David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress that purport to show California representatives of Planned Parenthood discussing the sale of parts of aborted fetuses.
A lawsuit against Daleiden and the center over the videos has reached the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with the National Abortion Foundation and Planned Parenthood accusing him of misrepresenting his organization and illegally taping without permission, and aiding in violent threats against abortion clinics and the women who go there.
Planned Parenthood officials claim the videos were edited to manipulate the interviews and any mention of money for tissue and body parts is related to customary handling fees. But Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress stand by its videos.
"Ours is a fight for the character of our nation," Fiorina said. "For the value of life. It is a fight that we must win to take our country back, and citizens, we must take our country back."
Patrick Kelly, the Knights of Columbus vice president for public policy, said opponents of the pro-life movement, "insist on dividing and bullying those who disagree with them by speaking of a fictional war on women. Our movement, the movement to protect human life, is different. It is built by you, the grass roots. … We come her to show that we cannot be intimidated."
Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, co-chairman of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, praised efforts by state legislatures. "The gains have been historic -- 282 pro-life laws have been enacted since 2010 including laws to stop dismemberment abortions, require a 72-hour waiting period, and informed consent."
Smith, a Catholic, said the House override vote of President Barack Obama's recent veto of a bill removing all federal funding from Planned Parenthood was scheduled for next week.
The rally was the first formal involvement in March for Life, which is held on the anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion, by the evangelical community.
"We are grateful for your leadership on the culture of life," said Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family. "It's taken us time to come to the party, but we are here with you!"
Daly also was headlining the first major pro-life conference for evangelicals to be held in conjunction with the March for Life.
After the rally, participants marched up Constitution Avenue to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Marchers headed to the court as snow fell -- the beginning of a snowstorm that was to turn into a major blizzard and leave at least 2 feet of snow in the Washington region.
Over the years, pro-lifers participating in the March for Life have endured freezing rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures and there might have been more than one blizzard that swept through the nation's capital on or around the Roe anniversary.
But 19 years ago, the circumstances Jan. 22 were a carbon copy of what marchers faced this year. CNS reported that a blinding snowstorm "whited out the view of the U.S. Capitol" and "sent federal employees home from work before noon."