T. S. Eliot wrote that "April is the cruelest month," alluding to the way life and death are inextricably connected, as when "lilacs" are bred "out of the dead land."

This is the way the March for Life—held every January in Washington since the Supreme Court passed Roe vs. Wade—feels to me. I've attended a half dozen or more times, always arriving with great anticipation and great dread. Overwhelming every other impression—the crowds, the gridlock, the many signs—is the eternal cold. And this year's temperatures were among the lowest for the March. Why didn't the Supreme Court have at least enough decency to issue its mortal ruling in June? But perhaps the dead of winter is more fitting, after all.

A crowed estimated by organizers to number between 250,000 and 400,000 flowed over Constitution Avenue on January 24, spilling out across the city. Before processing, as always, participants received marching orders in an hours-long rally where elected officials meted and were meted rewards for their faithfulness to the cause. Here is where, typically, the cameras, reporters, and newscasters expend their energies and headlines. By the time marchers gather at the Supreme Court, the route's end (and, of course, its ultimate beginning), the majority of photos have been taken, the sound bites recorded, and the stories filed. This part of the story—the culmination of the March and the people who populate it—rarely makes headlines.

But it's the non-headliners who are the lifeblood of a movement in its 38th year. Here are a few I encountered:

  • The 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising of pro-democracy students and intellectuals led to untold deaths of Chinese citizens at the hands of the government. Chai Ling was one of the student leaders who survived the massacre. Smuggled out of China in a box to the U.S., where she received an Ivy League education, married, and had children, Chai became a Christian 13 months ago. Her convictions have turned to the pro-life cause, and she came to the March to help spread the word about her efforts to end female abortion and infanticide in China. Look for an upcoming post devoted to Chai Ling.
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