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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The revolution will not be televised.

That, at least, seemed to be the message of the most recent March for Life, held Friday, Jan. 25, in Washington, D.C.

Between 500,000 and 600,000 gathered in the nation’s capital for the annual protest, likely making it the biggest year in the event’s history. And yet, on the mile-long route from the National Mall to the steps of the Supreme Court, the only news camera visible was from the Catholic network, EWTN.

Event organizers are used to the media blackout. The March brought approximately as many people to Washington as President Obama’s second inauguration, held just four days before—but only one event received 24 hours of wall-to-wall coverage. As a friend in attendance observed, “If we were protesting anything else…”

She’s right. In its 40-year history, the March for Life has become the world’s largest civil protest—and is met annually with almost complete radio silence. 20,000 attended the first March in January 1974, led by Nellie Gray, a D.C.-area attorney, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision (which, decided 40 years ago last week, has since led to 55 million abortions). Four decades in, unless you’re already connected to pro-life circles, you likely would not know the March is happening.

Still, March for Life is managing to get its message out. The protest march along Constitution Avenue is preceded by a rally, which annually features a number of pro-life legislators and other activists, among them this year Kentucky senator Rand Paul and former Pennsylvania senator and Republican presidential contender Rick Santorum. Protestant churches and Catholic dioceses, Orthodox congregations, high schools, colleges, and a host of civic organizations from across the country brought contingents by car, bus, and plane: Portland, Maine; Evansville, Indiana; Fort Worth, Texas—even a large group from Ireland crossed the pond to participate. Joining in spirit was Pope Benedict XVI, who tweeted his support.

And it’s not an old crowd. Given the number of high school and college students in attendance, the median age likely hovers around 30—if it is that high. A 2012 Gallup poll showed that 50 percent of Americans self-identify as “pro-life,” while only 41 percent self-identify as “pro-choice.” But more to the point, Gallup also noted (in 2010) that “Americans aged 18 to 29 are trending more anti-abortion.” While 18-to-29-year-olds were most likely to support legal abortion “under any circumstances” in the first years after Roe v. Wade, they are now more likely than any other demographic group to believe it should be illegal “in all circumstances.”

That does not always make it easier for pro-life students on campus, as Ruben Verastegui, president of Northwest Vista College Students for Life, noted in his speech at the rally. “Sometimes it’s going to feel like you’re alone on campus as a pro-lifer,” he said. “But take a look around you right now.”

And around them pro-life students are finding not only camaraderie but support. The Pro-Life Field Program of Students for Life of America (SFLA) is working to help establish a pro-life group on every college campus in the U.S. SFLA reported 637 active pro-life campus groups as of May 2011, with groups in 48 states. That same year, the SFLA National Conference became the largest pro-life youth conference in the world. A strong pro-life presence on campus is particularly important, says SFLA, given that college-aged women (18-24) obtain 44 percent of all abortions.

Their work may be paying off. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the total number of abortions declined from 2000 to 2009, as did the abortion rate (the number of abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years) and the abortion ratio (number of abortions per 1,000 live births).

The revolution may not be televised, but pro-lifers are confident that it will happen nonetheless. “We are the chosen generation! We will abolish abortion, and we will change history!” said Verastegui. For the 500,000-plus pro-lifers who gathered in D.C., the March was an opportunity to bring a message of love and dignity to the nation’s representatives, chief among them a president who has done more to entrench abortion than any president in living memory. For the youngest marchers, it was a chance to show that the pro-life movement is not a niche cause or a fringe crusade; rather, it is a view of human life gaining traction with an entire generation of Americans.

Shortly after starting to march, a small group of young men began to sing the refrain of “God of this City,” a praise song by Christian musician Chris Tomlin: Greater things have yet to come / Greater things are still to be done in this City, they sang.

Indeed.

Fix contributor Ian Tuttle is a student at St. John’s College.

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IMAGE: Beechwood Photography

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As Americans today mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, college junior Tianna Spears is busy prepping to re-launch the Beautiful Pain Movement, a secular campus outreach program that helps students heal from abortion trauma.

Spears, 20, a business major at North Carolina State, founded the campus group after she helped a close friend through the emotional after-effects of an abortion, noting on her blog that “I saw her pain, heard it in her voice, saw it accumulate and drip from her eyes.”

“I saw how she struggled,” Spears said in an interview with The College Fix. “She would go for counseling, but they would be really religious or pro-life. That really encouraged me to make the group not affiliated with anything.”

The Beautiful Pain Movement is apolitical and non-religious. It fashions itself as “a loving community of understanding and acceptance among people who have experienced the same thing.” Its slogan? “Come as you are.”

The group, founded in September, will launch its latest five-week session Wednesday, the day after the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision. An estimated 55 million abortions have occurred since that ruling.

While many feminists and staunch pro-choice advocates often insist there’s no real harm or mental or psychological after-effects from an abortion, Spears’ personal experience through her friend indicates there can be emotional scarring.

The most commonly discussed emotions are guilt, regret and denial, she said. For the men, they felt like they had not done enough, and some were denied a voice when it came time to make the decision, she said. That’s where the group comes in, offering empathetic support.

“As a whole, a society, we are supposed to be strong, but handle our pain in private, behind closed doors, and bury our skeletons in the closet,” Spears blogged recently. “I disagree. People need people to get through difficult situations, no matter what the circumstances may be.”

That comfort is especially vital given the lack of counseling available for women after an abortion, Spears said. While women are scheduled for a follow-up medical appointment to make sure the pregnancy has cleared, there’s no support provided for the emotional turmoil that may follow, she said.

Outside the context of a person being for or against abortion, Spears said most mainstream discourse about abortion doesn’t come close to touching on what her group tackles.

She said she intends for the sessions to be a safe, open place where participants can share how they have been affected by abortion, and through the support of peers, determine their own steps to find peace with what happened.

By hosting the sessions on NC State’s campus, Spears said she hopes more students will come – though the group is open to all, students and non-students alike. As an official on-campus organization, Spears has received support from the university as well.

And that support comes at a crucial time.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, a think-tank which compiles statistics on reproduction, abortions have been on the rise since 2008. Prior to that, they were on the decline. Suggestions have been made that the increase could be due to the recent recession.

In fact, Spears said finances have played a part in participants’ reasoning for getting an abortion, though she is careful to point out that it is not the only reason. She also cites lack of support and pressure from boyfriends or parents as indicated reasons for abortions among group members.

Spears said she hopes to further develop the Beautiful Pain Movement, with plans to file for recognition as a non-profit by May 2014. Further information can be found at the group’s website: thebeautifulpainmovement.org.

Fix contributor Jessica Kubusch is a student at UNC Chapel Hill.

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IMAGE: Dyanna Hyde/Flickr

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