That was only one sign seen at the March for Life in Washington D.C. Friday, carried by the Hare Krishnas. Feminists for Life were there, Atheists for Life, and members of the gay Republican group GOProud joined the March this year, because they’re all against abortion. And for human dignity. For all human beings.

That’s the message, the one Abraham Lincoln and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. ’got’ and stood for and dedicated themselves to in their work in whatever way they could. Which is why this momentous week that opened on Martin Luther King Day was a very big one for the national debate on human rights. Especially since the most pro-abortion president in American history was sworn in on Dr. King’s day, with his hand on a Lincoln Bible and a King Bible. If only he dedicated his presidency to that cause of just laws for “all God’s children” as Dr. King said, and “the millions as yet unborn” as President Lincoln said, he could serve the  great and noble  “common good” to which politicians refer so often, loosely.

Something different was in the air this year at the March for Life, participants said all day through their Tweets and Facebook posts and text messages and radio interviews. The cause was the same, the determination and dedication were the same, certainly the bad weather was the same (bitter cold), even the growing numbers of pro-life ralliers continued the consistency of growing, this year to over half a million strong. And mostly young people. So very many young people, with countless buses of high school and college students from all over the country converging on the Mall of Washington and student organizations carrying banners and chanting with zeal that they’re the pro-life generation.

‘Maybe it’s the 40th anniversary of Roe that made it seem different,’ several said. But I heard more than a few wonder out loud what else it was, because they felt invigorated and fortified in a new way.  The Washington Post suggested there would be a significant difference this year because of the changing of the guard, the new head of the event who brought a new focus to the cause.

[Jeanne] Monahan embodies the movement’s transition. The photogenic, warm former federal government policy worker was picked in November to take over the March for Life after the death of Nellie Gray, the hard-line, media-unfriendly 88-year-old who ran the massive event almost single-handedly out of her home. Despite being an event primarily of youth, until last year the march had a bare-bones Web site and no accounts on Twitter or Facebook…

Monahan’s charge is to modernize the march for a country that is becoming more conflicted about abortion even as it remains steadfastly committed to the Roe ruling and the value of personal choice. For the movement’s next generation of leaders, the question is whether those two things can coexist. Should the focus remain on Roe and changing laws to limit access to abortion, or has that left a legacy too judgmental for younger Americans? Should the emphasis shift to changing minds and hearts, particularly of women who are pregnant and don’t want to be?

It’s not either/or for the wide pro-life movement made of many different intiatives and organizations. It’s both/and. Pregnancy help centers continue to spread all over the country, always near abortion clinics, offering women a real and true choice, with any help she may need in a crisis pregnancy, whether medical. financial, legal, material or emotional. They’re doing heroic work.

So are many, many others, trying to change laws and hearts and minds.

The Silent No More Awareness Campaign gives voice to women who regret their abortions and finally want to speak out about the reality of its ravages.

Rachel’s Vineyard has steadfastly supported women and does amazing work helping women and families heal.

Women are individually helping other women and the culture in general by sharing their very personal experiences in columns and blog posts, and writing opinion pieces like this, about the beauty of maternity and what Pope John Paul II called the “feminine genius,” recalling women to important truths in a ‘theology of the body’ way.

This was a beautiful thing that came together for the terrible reason that ending the life of an unborn child on demand for any reason at all is the law. And the sea of humanity at that March showed the happy faces of just about every demographic and profile that makes up America and many from beyond these shores. They were there because every human life has dignity. No exceptions.

And Pope Benedict sent out a tweet to encourage them all, each and every one.

“I join all those marching for life from afar, and pray that political leaders will protect the unborn and promote a culture of life.”

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....