WASHINGTON – Though the forecast rain never fell,the bright yellow ponchos of the students from the Ave Maria School of Law in Naples,Fla.,helped them stand out in the crowd of thousands Friday.
Forty students,two staff and one faculty member from Ave Maria's Lex Vitae (Law of Life) Society joined the tens of thousands of people who marched to the steps of the Supreme Court to showcase their anti-abortion message.
People of all ages from across the country turned out in force at the March for Life to acknowledge the 37th anniversary of the Roe V. Wade Supreme Court decision. The National Mall was jammed with people,and the crowd spilled into surrounding streets and alleyways.
A group of about 60 abortion-rights proponents met the anti-abortion march on the Supreme Court steps. The two groups shouted slogans at each other. As of late afternoon,police reported no arrests.
The outcome of the ruling handed down on Jan. 22,1973,gave women the right to all early term abortions and late-term abortions with restrictions.
“It's murder in my view,” said Bill Wirkus,the 23-year-old vice president of the Lex Vitae Society. “It's just as serious to murder a fetus as it is to take an adult's life on the street. It's not apples to oranges,it's apples to apples.”
The Lex Vitae Society at Ave Maria speaks out against abortions and other “right to life” issues. They boast an active membership of about 150 from the school's 375 students.
The society works in the community to spread the anti-abortion message by holding prayer vigils every Saturday in front of the Planned Parenthood clinic and engaging in sidewalk counseling. The group also brings in anti-abortion speakers.
Large numbers of students from the society have attended the March for Life every year since the Ave Maria law school opened in 2000.
Approximately 20,000 people attended the first March for Life in 1974,according to the march's Web site. In the past few years,the march has been attracting more than 200,000 participants,according to the Web site.
An increasing number of the marchers have been young people,especially from college organizations,said Olivia Gans,director for American Victims of Abortion at a press conference held Thursday by the National Right to Life Committee.
“States have sent busloads and truckloads of young men and women,” she said,noting National Right to Life has affiliates in all 50 states.
Friday's march was full of youthful energy. Groups from high schools and colleges across the nation,as well as children in single-digit years,showed up holding banners,chanting,singing and marching for their cause.
The Ave Maria law students were no different. Proudly displaying a large white banner with the school name and a picture of an unborn fetus,they walked the streets while singing the school's alma mater and shouting anti-abortion chants.
Ave Maria School of Law was established by Tom Monaghan,the founder of Domino's Pizza. He provided financial backing to a group of professors who left the University of Detroit Mercy after they felt it was straying from its Catholic ideology. Their collective idea to create a Catholic law school came to fruition when the campus opened in Ann Arbor,Mich. The school relocated to Naples in 2009.
“As a Catholic law school,we see it as part of our mission,part of the reason the school exists,to defend the sanctity of human life in all forms,whether they be adults,infants,the elderly or the unborn,” said second-year student John Shea,19. “Participating in the March for Life is a very direct way for us to actually go out there to act our mission and walk the talk.”
The Ave Maria school stands behind the efforts of the Lex Vitae Society for promoting the institution's values and the teachings of the Catholic church,said acting president and acting dean Eugene R. Milhizer in a telephone interview from Naples.
“It's one thing in an academic environment to look at the issue of abortion and critique it in an academic way,buts it's another thing to be able to act on that and go out into the marketplace of ideas and engage with what you believe is true,” he said.
The students of the school feel similarly.
“Abortion was legalized by lawyers – it's going to have to be defeated by lawyers,” said Lex Vitae president Jebediah Conrad,26. “I think it's our job not only to train top legal minds,but also to set my fellow students' hearts on fire for the pro-life movement.”