Brian T. Olszewski The Catholic Virginian

Since the time she had them as sixth-graders in her religion class at St. John the Apostle School, Virginia Beach, Eileen Mayette has been talking to her students about the sanctity of life, and bringing speakers to her religion classes to offer pro-life testimony.

Bishop Barry C. Knestout rode the bus to and concelebrated Mass in the EagleBank Arena at George Mason University, Friday, Jan. 19, prior to the March for Life. Pictured in front of the bishop are Duncan and Liam Hart, members of St. Patrick Parish, Lexington.

She knew that now, as eighth-graders, they were ready to participate in the 45th annual March for Life, Friday, Jan 19, in Washington.

“The kids have been passionate about this,” she said, noting this is the first time a group from the school had participated in the march. They were among the 300 youth and young adults that comprised the Diocese of Richmond’s contingent, including Bishop Barry C. Knestout.

In addition, the Knights of Columbus chartered seven buses in order to bring people from all over the diocese to the march on the National Mall. There are no specific crowd estimates, but some groups put the figure at “hundreds of thousands.”

Abigail Truax, one of Mayette’s eighth graders, Called the march “a big deal.” She continued, “There are other ways (to deal with a pregnancy). Abortion isn’t the way.”

Truax said that she isn’t concerned if people disagree with her pro-life views.

“They can say what they want,” she said. “I’m fine with what I believe.”

Michael Roberto, a 16-year-old junior at Kellam High School, was attending his first March for Life.

“I believe all life matters,” he said, noting that sometimes “it’s tough holding true to your values.”

Ally Gronski, a 16-year-old sophomore, participating in her second march, “loved” seeing so many people participating on behalf of the unborn.

“I believe no matter how small you are (when you are born), every person has every right to live,” she said.

Jacqueline Frampton, a member of St. John the Apostle Parish, Virginia Beach, walks with members of her parish at the March for Life, Jan. 19. Three hundred youth and young adults from across the diocese participated.

Rob Hamrick, director of evangelization and catechesis at St. Benedict Parish, Richmond, was participating in his second march. He brought four high school students with him, and hope through word of mouth more will be there next year.

“They need to do this; they need to experience this for themselves,” he said of the experience they would have being part of the March for Life.

hile many of the marchers engaged in quiet conversation, occasionally one would hear a rhythmic chant. Like the person who encourages fans at ballgames to do The Wave,  Eric Frampton of St. John the Apostle Parish, Virginia Beach, periodically prompted the crowd: “I say ‘pro,’ you say ‘life’!”

“Pro!”

“Life!”

“Pro!”

“Life!”

For the first time in recent memory, the weather in Washington was more than tolerable for March for Life participants as they gathered on the National Mall to mark the anniversary of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. The sun was shining and the blue sky was cloudless. By the time the speeches ended and the march to the Supreme Court started, the temperature had reached 50 degrees.

In remarks broadcast to the March for Life from the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump said that his administration “will always defend the very first right in the Declaration of Independence, and that is the right to life.”

He invoked the theme of this year’s march, “Love Saves Lives,” and praised the crowd as being very special and “such great citizens gathered in our nation’s capital from many places for one beautiful cause” — celebrating and cherishing life.

“Every unborn child is a precious gift from God,” he said, his remarks interrupted several times by applause from the crowd gathered on the National Mall. He praised the pro-lifers for having “such big hearts and tireless devotion to make sure parents have the support they need to choose life.”

“You’re living witnesses of this year’s March for Life theme, ‘Love Saves Lives,’” he said. His remarks were broadcast to the crowd live via satellite to a Jumbotron above the speakers’ stage, a first for any U.S. president, according to March for Life.

During their tenure in office, President Ronald Reagan, President George H.W. Bush and President George W. Bush all addressed the march via telephone or a radio hookup from the Oval Office, with their remarks broadcast to the crowd.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, was among several others who addressed the crowd. “Thank God for giving us a pro-life president in the White House,” the Catholic congressman said.

“Your energy is so infectious,” he told the crowd, praising them for being “the vigor and enthusiasm of the pro-life movement.”

Seeing so many young people “is so inspiring because it tells us this a movement on the rise,” he said. “Why is the pro-life movement on the rise? Because truth is on our side. Life begins at conception. Science is on our side.”

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, gave an emotional speech about the troubled pregnancy she faced about four years ago. She and her husband, Dan, were told their unborn child had severe defects, that the baby’s kidneys would never develop and the lungs were undeveloped because of a rare condition. Abortion was their only option, they were told.

Today, that baby is 4-year-old Abigail. She and her younger brother and their father stood on the stage with the congresswoman.

“Dan and I prayed and we cried (at the news of their unborn child’s condition) … and in that devastation, we saw hope. What if God would do a miracle? What if a doctor was willing to try something new? Like saline infusions to mimic amniotic fluid so kidneys could develop?” she recalled.

With “true divine intervention and some very courageous doctors willing to take a risk we get to experience our daughter, Abigail,” Herrera Beutler said.

Catholic News Service contributed to this story.