WASHINGTON, D.C. | Mackenzie Chapman didn’t mind that snow started to fall Friday about an hour after she and 45 of her classmates began walking toward the U.S. Capitol.
Chapman, 16, of Dyer, was one of hundreds of local Hoosiers who braved the frigid weather to join the March for Life with thousands of people from across the nation protesting abortion.
“My favorite part is seeing all the different groups of people gathering together for the same cause,” she said.
Chapman was one of 46 students from Illiana Christian High School in Lansing who participated in this year’s march, which marked the 40th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that created a constitutional right to abortion in some circumstances.
Luke Venhuizen said this was his third time at the march and he believed he saw many more young people taking part.
Venhuizen, 18, of Munster, said it’s important for high school-age students to be aware of the issue because they’re the ones who can effect change.
“A lot of people who get abortions are our age,” he said. “I think it’s just wrong. If they’re not capable of raising a baby, then they can give it up for adoption or find another way to support it. It’s so important for people our age to understand that.”
Abortion remains a divisive issue with no dramatic shift in viewpoint on either side. A new Pew Research Center poll finds 63 percent of U.S. adults opposed to overturning Roe, compared with 60 percent in 1992.
Students from Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond and St. Mary School in Griffith also participated in the march.
The Rev. Theodore Mens, the pastor at St. Mary Church, was part of a large Mass on Thursday night that drew thousands to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Mens joined hundreds of priests at the front of the ceremony and led the Mass in honor of the March for Life.
“We wish to restore respect for the dignity of human life for everybody from conception to natural death,” he said.
After the Mass, he met up with a group of about 25 eighth-graders from his parish.
“It's very important that we change the culture by leading them and teaching them with faith,” he said.
Schools weren’t the only groups with representation at the events. The Franciscan Alliance sent a group of about 40 to the Capitol and to meet with local representatives.
The group stopped to speak with officials working for both of Indiana's U.S. senators.
Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., applauded the effort made by the groups, he said in a statement issued Friday.
“Anyone who has ever raised a child, held a newborn baby or witnessed the miracle of birth knows that life is a sacred and precious gift that must be protected from the moment of conception," Coats said. "Today thousands of Hoosiers and Americans came to Washington to affirm that principle and stand up for the sanctity of human life. I commend them for their dedication to defending the defenseless and fighting for life.”
The Franciscan Alliance group and a group from the Catholic Diocese of Gary met with U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Merrillville, at his office.
Visclosky, who supports abortion rights, said he was happy to take the time to meet with the anti-abortion groups.
"It is always important for me to hear the concerns that my constituents have about the issues affecting them, no matter what their perspective is on those issues,” he said in a statement. “We may not always agree, but we will always benefit by listening to one another."