march for life
Dunia Minnium of Voorhees, N.J., holds a cross during the 2013 March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 25. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.

This year's March for Life reaches a new group: evangelicals

march for life

Dunia Minnium of Voorhees, N.J., holds a cross during the 2013 March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 25. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(RNS) Evangelicals are the most likely religious group to say that abortion should be illegal in all cases. So why would organizers of the March for Life, the annual demonstration on the Washington Mall, hire someone to reach out to that group?

The 41st march, scheduled for Wednesday (Jan. 22), has traditionally had a strong Catholic presence, with priests and nuns marching on or around the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Its founder, Nellie Gray, who died in 2012, was Roman Catholic, as well as is her successor, Jeanne Monahan.

“The march has a very Catholic feel to it with lots of rosaries, Virgin Marys and crucifixes," said Jon Shields, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College. "It hasn’t been particularly savvy about reaching broader audiences."

jeanne monahan

Jeanne Monahan president of March for Life, the large anti-abortion protest on the National Mall that will mark the 41th anniversary of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. RNS photo by Adelle Banks.

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

But that's changing. Monahan met with evangelicals last year to shore up support, and she hired Bethany Goodman, an assistant director whose job includes reaching out to evangelicals and other religious groups. This year the march will feature one headliner most evangelicals can recognize: Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.

One of the challenges Goodman has faced in rallying evangelicals to the march is the lack of formal structure and organization, compared to the Catholic Church, which has offices of "pro-life ministry" both nationally and in each diocese around the country. Catholic schools will often bus youth to the march.

Goodman said she has started working with parachurch organizations such as the Family Research Council, the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and Alliance Defending Freedom.

“The Catholic Church does a fantastic job of coordinating the bus trips when there’s obviously not that structure in the Protestant realm,” Goodman said.

This year's march will feature a mix of parties and religions. Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who is Jewish, and Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski, who is Catholic, will be among those speaking at the rally. As abortion opponents seek to capitalize on gains they have made in restricting abortion at the state level, it is natural that they would try to bring in more evangelicals at their most public event of activism.

Organizers are also exploring other strategies, including the use of technology. They hope to use the success anti-abortion activists had on Twitter during last year's trial for abortion provider Kermit Gosnell, hoping to get #whywemarch to trend and draw in more attention -- and eventually marchers for the future.

Last year, Pope Benedict XVI surprised marchers by tweeting his support, and observers are watching for whether Pope Francis will do the same.

The consensus among historians has been that Catholic doctrine provided a teaching on abortion long before evangelicals came around on the issue in the 1970s, Shields said.

Monica Kunze and her father, Stephen Kunze, from Colby, Wis., on the National Mall for the March for Life on Jan. 25, 2013.  RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.

Monica Kunze and her father, Stephen Kunze, from Colby, Wis., on the National Mall for the March for Life on Jan. 25, 2013. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

But today a majority (54 percent) of white evangelical Protestants favors overturning Roe v. Wade, according to the Pew Research Center. In contrast, majorities of white mainline Protestants (76 percent), black Protestants (65 percent) and white Catholics (63 percent) prefer keeping the ruling.

“The March for Life folks’ outreach to evangelicals is of course about rounding up people who already agree with them and getting them mobilized for action,” said Michael Mitchell, communications director for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. “We are doing the same thing from a mainstream and progressive position that represents the majority of Americans and a majority of people of faith. Evangelicals are not on our radar screen for mobilization.”

This year’s theme for the march focuses on an issue evangelicals have become increasingly passionate about: adoption. Some evangelical leaders have urged a focus on solutions to helping women avoid abortion rather than focusing on defeating Roe v. Wade in the courts.

The march, where tens of thousands brave frigid weather as they make their way to the Supreme Court, will feature Dobson's son, Ryan, too. Monahan said march leaders reached out to Ryan Dobson because he has spoken publicly about being adopted. The father and son run their own show called "Family Talk."

Also speaking will be Radiance Foundation co-founder Ryan Scott Bomberger, who was conceived during rape and later adopted.

Many well-known Christians like musician Steven Curtis Chapman, former Indianapolis Colts football coach Tony Dungy, Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore and retired megachurch pastor John Piper are adoptive parents. Popular evangelical authors and bloggers like Jen Hatmaker, Jennie Allen and Justin Taylor have written about adopting children.

Support for orphan-related causes has been one of the top issues that have seen increased giving from evangelicals in recent years, according to the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. All charitable giving in 2012 rose about 3.5 percent, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. In contrast, evangelical giving to adoption rose by 9.5 percent and orphan care by 17 percent, according to ECFA.

Evangelicals see abortion as a moral issue. Three-quarters of white evangelical Protestants consider having an abortion morally wrong, compared to 53 percent of white Catholics, according to Pew.

Monahan said there were no official estimates on the size of the march, and she isn’t sure what the breakdown would be among religious groups. She expects this year's march to be smaller since it will take place on a Wednesday.

The march is not advertised and marchers don’t sign up. Nor do organizers police signs. Some marchers will hold up graphic images of aborted fetuses. Monahan said she is not a fan of that approach but can't tell marchers what to do.

“It’s kind of wonderful and scary; you don’t have control over what they’re wearing, what they’re carrying,” she said. “It’s the joy and the frustration of being an organic and grassroots organization.”



  1. The involvement of evangelicals does not help many causes. They are almost always extremists who suffer the awful problem of considering biblical writing as literal. They too often tend to extremes in their reactionary behavior toward those with whom they disagree. Their behavior, based on their literal and extreme beliefs, is the stuff of all that was evil in the history of religion. Their grasp of other branches of knowledge like history, science, sociology, and psychology is too often very minimal at best and seldom blended to moderate their extremes of understanding the ancient mythologies of biblical writings. That is what brings them to murder abortion doctors even inside churches.

  2. gilhan,

    That is the problem. Evangelicals aren’t extremists. They are only doing as instructed:
    Jesus said, “Bring those my enemies and execute them in front of me.” (Luke 19:27)

    Morality is doing what is right, regardless of what you are told.
    Religion is doing what you are told, regardless of what is right.

  3. Maybe I am not understanding correctly what this person is trying to say, but it frightens me.

  4. I am NOT an evangelical, I am a Lutheran. But, Wow! Thank you for putting into words exactly why evangelical and mainline Protestants have been scared away from the March for Life for years. Your bigotry is appalling. Did you not bother to look at the numbers above. Protestants are MORE pro life than Catholics! Why don’t you go to youtube and listen to our Lutheran Church Missouri Synod President Matt Harrison discussing the HHR mandate. Maybe you would learn something about how to work together for God’s kingdom. Bigot handled…now a suggestion. Our system of Lutheran Concordia Universities sends busloads of students to March for Life every year. Perhaps you could reach out to Evangelical Universities as wellm

  5. Anything necessary, short of violence, to protect the over 27,000 innocent unborn children who killed each week mostly for reasons of convenience and comfort.

    State. Y stae, law by law these children will be saved.

  6. Thanks, Max, for making gijcan’s point.

    Unthinking humanicans programmed with selective Bible verses. Lord, save us.

  7. John,

    All of religion is extremist at its core.

    There is no escaping it because there are no checks and balances to stop it from being as crazy as anyone wants to make it.
    Jesus preached both love and hate so…. do either one and you have god on your side.

    Religion needs to die off.

  8. @Atheist Max provides a great example of how often some atheists either misquote or twist the Bible for their own devious purposes. By isolating Luke 19:27 he completely ignores context and makes it sound as if Jesus is commanding that someone be executed. But if you read the context, it’s crystal clear Jesus was giving a parable and talking about a fictitious king.

    I find it interesting that you can do something like that in the name of “morality.”

  9. LARRY Short,
    you are Wrong. And you are a sloppy Bible reader.

    Jesus is calling for EXECUTION OF ENEMIES at the hands of his followers.

    Look at the context and see that Jesus uses the fictitious NOBLEMAN as an EXAMPLE OF HIMSELF!

    Luke 19:11-27

    11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: “A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.[a] ‘Put this money to work,’ he said, ‘until I come back.’

    14 “But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’

    15 “He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.

    16 “The first one came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned ten more.’

    17 “‘Well done, my good servant!’ his master replied. ‘Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.’

    18 “The second came and said, ‘Sir, your mina has earned five more.’

    19 “His master answered, ‘You take charge of five cities.’

    20 “Then another servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.’

    22 “His master replied, ‘I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?’

    24 “Then he said to those standing by, ‘Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.’

    25 “‘Sir,’ they said, ‘he already has ten!’

    26 “He replied, ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and KILL THEM in front of me.’”

    The original meaning of the parable was aimed at the scribes who had withheld “from their fellow men a due share in God’s gift,” according to most Lutherans. In this well accepted view, Jesus is saying that these scribes will soon be brought to account for what they have done with the Word of God which was entrusted to them.
    The Lutheran position also put forward by Joachim Jeremias and many Catholic theologian also believed that in the life of the early church the parable took on new meaning, with the merchant having become an ALLEGORY OF CHRIST HIMSELF so that “his journey has become the ascension, his subsequent return … has become the Parousia, which ushers his own into the Messianic banquet.”


    Hitler was fond of this more accepted interpretation which was so closely related to his love of Lutheranism which openly called for death to Jews.

  10. @Max & Larry –

    The wider context of Luke 19 also shed light on whether Jesus is talking about himself as the king in the parable. Immediately following the verse given by Max is the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, with praise and pomp befitting a king. It’s clear that the gospel writer (called “Luke”) was portraying Jesus as the king in parable, as part of Luke 19 which tells of Jesus as the king whose reign is soon to come. Whether or not Jesus actually said any of it is an open question, but beside the point because those who do read their chosen Bible as history will see Jesus telling his followers to kill in his name.

  11. I thought evangelicals were already vocal and active in anti-choice brouhahas

    I guess this one is a little different because it is usually Catholic organized. Evangelicals like to consider Catholics as heretics unless their political agendas intersect.

  12. Frank you can take care of all the unwanted children. People will send them to your home.

  13. All parables are open to interpretation. And that is fine.

    But the problems begin when you attribute the parable to a God.
    Then the meanings become urgent, pressing, absolutist and for some fundamentalists even fanatic.

    The trouble with religion is it pretends an authority it does not deserve.

  14. Where does God say anything about the ‘sanctity of life’?

    “Thou shalt not murder” is not an affirmation of life.
    Especially since God commands capital punishment for almost every crime.

    Christians pretend God is good. There is no sign of it:

    “Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer… Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts…they shall bear no fruit: yea though they bring forth, YET WILL I SLAY even the beloved fruit of their womb.” (Hosea 9:11-16)

  15. FRANK,

    I do wonder where people get the idea that Christianity is a simple, clear, loving message. Jesus is so ready for violence and rage it makes you wonder how ‘peace’ and ‘love’ managed to rise to the top of this philosophy.


    “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what constraint I am under until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on Earth? No, I tell you, but division.” – Jesus – (Luke 12:49-51)

  16. Wow Max. You should be embarrassed about your ignorance. I am embarrassed for you.

  17. @ FRANK,
    Excuse me…but Where is it written?
    The only sanctity of human existence is tied to being a servant of the Lord. Hence we are valuable ONLY for our service to the Lord. As in “behold the Lillies of the field” and “temple of the holy spirit”.

    Life itself is not sanctified anywhere in the Bible.
    Only DEATH is sanctified repeatedly.

    “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” (Luke 17:33)

    Do you mind telling me where God declares a sanctity of LIFE?
    I have never seen it.

  18. I don’t know how you do it but you have managed to look even more foolish.

  19. FRANK, ……Embarrassed? Me?

    Why do I look even more foolish?


    I cannot find anything in the Bible which supports your claim that God cares about the sanctity of life of the body or mind – can you?
    “Thou shalt not murder” is joined by stoning to death the murderer.
    So this is not an affirmation of life.

    The Bible honors only DEATH of the body – not life:

    “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

    “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor….” (Revelation: 14:31)

    “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-45)

    “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.” (Isaiah 57:1-2)

    “If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” (Romans 14:8)

    “A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of death better than the day of birth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1)

    The Bible: “Life sucks”, but “Death is to die for.”
    What is the morality of this?

    I submit that only death is what God seems interested in:

  20. Great story on the new outreach effort by the March for Life organizers. I would add that along with Catholics, Missouri Synod Lutherans have long been actively participating in the march. We can find that Lutherans for Life have been actively marching since 1996 and LCMS Life Ministry has been organizing the church body’s participation in the march since 2008. Here’s a link to more information about The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s participation in the 41st National March for Life:

  21. why are you fighting so hard against a woman’s right to her own body?
    Don’t you believe that women have a right to what they do with their bodies?
    Do you realize women had to fight for centuries for the right to consult doctors without their husband’s permission?
    Do you want to eliminate all of that progress?

  22. Whaaat???

    You said, “I am hoping all the enthusiasm for life will translate into fully rejecting the culture of death. We must reject contraception before we can fully choose life.”

    Reject contraception??

    Are you nuts? The culture of death is called Christianity. When did Jesus start showing interest in human life? God wants you dead, not alive.

  23. All right, anti-abortionists.

    Let’s put your morality where your mouth is.

    Adopt an unwanted child, please, or two or three – Otherwise forever hold your peace.

  24. Thanks Max. Some quick thoughts:
    1) Believers of course scramble to defend a call to murder by their prince of peace (whether JC or Mohammed). Koran calls for killing non-believers and Islam followers pull the same stunt…OH NO! Misinterpretation. Our religion is all for PEACE.
    2) Why any sensible human would gives two figs about some soiled old texts cobbled together when we didn’t even know the earth orbited the sun, beats me.

    Grow up children. God is a dreary fiction.

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