ROME – Nearly two million people marched on Saturday in Pope Francis’s native land of Argentina in pro-life demonstrations dedicated to defending the life of the unborn, and offering solutions to mothers in crisis pregnancies.
The rally was organized by Argentina’s March for Life, a lay-led organization. Although Catholic bishops, evangelical pastors, and Jewish and Islamic leaders participated, they were not involved in the organization of the event, which took place in more than 200 locations across the country.
The movement doesn’t have a political affiliation, either. In fact, the only political message issued from the stage was a warning to Argentine politicians: Abortion will be an issue in the upcoming presidential elections, and those who were out in the streets won’t vote for candidates who support overturning Argentina’s pro-life laws.
The other thing close to a political note of the rally was the presence, on stage in the country’s capital Buenos Aires, of a group of veterans from the 1980’s Falklands War, the only armed conflict in Argentina’s recent history.
“We’re all ordinary people, but at a moment in life we’re called to do extraordinary things for the nation. We defended both islands. Today, we’re here, as soldiers, to implore that we defend both lives, to save the nation,” their spokesman said.
Buenos Aires drew the largest crowd, with more than 300,000 people marching across the capital. Aerial footage showed that at one point, the column of people was more than one mile long.
Though the rally had been planned well in advance, the city government provided no security for the event, and neither did the national government. However, several participants told Crux that “seeing the climate of joy and celebration, it would have been a waste of resources.”
Some did, however, regret the fact that there were very few traffic police to make sure that those walking were safe from traffic, and in several instances cars could be seen among the crowd.
The city of Buenos Aires is governed by Horacio Larreta, who belongs to the party of President Mauricio Macri, who last year allowed Congress to debate the legalization of abortion for the first time in a decade.
According to Carolina Brown, one of the organizers of Saturday’s rally, there was a “palpable spirit of celebration, of joy, with families rallying together, as well as an overwhelming presence of young people.”
The latter, she said, wasn’t the case last year, but “seeing that young people are the ones who will have to continue fighting, seeing them come out in numbers, joining friends, is a reason for hope.”
During “march season,” Brown has a key role: Making sure that the people in the street find out about the event, as they have little support from Argentina’s major media outlets, and not everyone has access to social media.
“But Argentina, culturally, is pro-life, so when we’re out in the streets with the light blue handkerchiefs that represent the pro-life movement, many approach us, ask for information, ask for a handkerchief for themselves,” she told Crux on Sunday.
According to Brown, the narrative and attitude of the pro-abortion groups in the country “helps us a lot” because “Argentina is pro-life.”
“I’m very thankful, as an Argentine, of the response the convocation received, and also of the country I belong to: the Argentine people is expressing itself in the defense of life,” she said.
Pictures from the different rallies across the country show people holding signs calling for the state to “save them both,” people claiming to be “agnostic, leftist, pro-life,” “with abortion I won’t vote you,” “pro-life generation” and “lesbians for life.”
In different shapes and forms, the rally has been taking place every year since 1998, when the country declared March 25 to be the Day of the Unborn Child, but the participation and visibility has grown exponentially in the past two years, after the strong effort to legalize abortion.
Abortion today is illegal in Argentina, though there’s a protocol adopted by some states that allows for the practice when the pregnancy is the result of rape, or the life of the mother is at risk.
According to Alejando Geyer, one of the organizers of the rally, the event took place this year for three reasons: “Everyone’s right to be born, the right of families to educate their children without gender ideology, and the need to raise awareness of the fact that in our country, particularly during this year of elections, we define the future of the country, of the family, and of millions of unborn children.”