South Dayton Pastor Shares March For Life Experience
On Friday, Washington, D.C. was filled with marchers once again, and one local pastor was there to see it in person.
The Rev. Matt Wittenbrook of South Dayton Free Methodist Church made the trek from Western New York to Washington to take part in the 44th annual March for Life. He said it was his second time attending the march.
Wittenbrook is also the New York State leader of the Democrats For Life, a national organization of pro-life democrats. The March For Life is held every year on or near the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. Due to the Presidential Inauguration, the event was held Friday.
Wittenbrook said he began the day by sharing breakfast with about 30 other Democrats For Life members at The Old Ebbitt Grill in Washington. Alex Schadenberg, Euthanasia Prevention Coalition executive director, addressed the group and afterward they proceeded to the march.
The March for Life Rally began at about 11:45 a.m., and Vice President Mike Pence spoke to the crowd. Unfortunately, Wittenbrook said he did not witness Pence’s speech due to heightened security. The purpose of the march is to show support for life. Originally, Wittenbrook said abortion was supposed to be “safe, legal and rare,” but it has turned into something else entirely.
“Now, people are boasting about it,” he said. “We have to put things back into perspective.”
“It was different this year because of Pence,” Wittenbrook said. “I didn’t get to hear him because we were in a different area. There were huge crowds.”
The march began at the grounds of the National Mall and ended at the U.S. Supreme Court. Other speakers included Kellyanne Conway, Senior Counselor to President Trump; U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-IA; U.S. Rep. Mia Love, R-UT; Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ; Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York City; Benjamin Watson, Baltimore Ravens tight end; Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood director and founder of the nonprofit “And Then There Were None” group; and others, according to MarchForLife.org.
The organization said this was the first time a vice president has spoken at the event.
Wittenbrook said the mood was good as the march progressed. The group did not run into much push-back as they went on, he said.
“There were a couple of counter-protest folks, but nothing too bad,” he said. “Some people (in the march) had different angles – there were some signs that said, ‘I regret my abortion.’ I think they were going to share their testimony … and there were women and men in that group.”
Wittenbrook said a variety of groups were represented, not just certain religious groups or political groups. During the march, he said his group was standing near the pro-life secular group as well as the New Wave Feminists.
“People were there to support life,” he said. “It’s generally a pretty upbeat group. My friend heard a police officer say this was the biggest (crowd) he had seen. There were gobs of people coming up to the court house – it was big.”
The crowd was made up of a lot of young people, either college-age or high school age, Wittenbrook said. There were people from many walks of life, not just conservatives, republicans or Christians, he said.
“It’s not just old white guys either,” Wittenbrook added.
During the march, Wittenbrook said there is a lot of prayer, especially for those who have had abortions or those who are considering abortions. While he said it is an invigorating, and upbeat event, there is also a seriousness about it as well.
At one point during the Archibishop’s speech, Wittenbrook said the Archbishop referenced the idea of sanctuary, where those who were in trouble would run to the churches and claim “sanctuary.” A sanctuary in that sense was considered a safe haven or safe space. Yet, the Archbishop pointed out that a woman’s womb is supposed to be a sanctuary and lives are being torn away from them, Wittenbrook said.
Criticism of the pro-life movement often states that pro-life individuals and groups are only pro-life up until the child is born, and they are not concerned with life after birth for the child. However, Wittenbrook said Democrats for Life are supportive of life at all times and seasons.
“That is the crux of the (Democrats for Life),” he said. “That’s why we are supporting having more of a social program involved. We are concerned about after the child comes into the world as well.”
Also in their line of view is the assisted suicide issue. While the idea can sound good on paper, and come out of a place of compassion, it may have an impact that was never intended, Wittenbrook said.
Overall, the pro-life movement is more than just preventing abortion, he said. Instead, it encompasses the role of the man involved, employment, community stability and other social factors as well. When looking at the issue of abortion, he said it is important to look at what might lead someone to make that choice.
“If we have secure communities, if we have secure jobs and families, that fosters a good, pro-life atmosphere,” he said.
As for the march itself, Wittenbrook said his takeaway from the event was a message of less judgment and extending more understanding.
“It is serious when you think of what people are going through to be brought to the point of terminating a pregnancy,” he said. “My heart crushes for that and the people in those situations.”
For more information on the March for Life, visit marchforlife.org. For more information on Democrats For Life, visit democratsforlife.org.