March for Life participants demonstrate near Union Station in Washington Jan. 29, 2021, amid the coronavirus pandemic. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The annual national March for Life – with a rally on the National Mall and march to the Supreme Court Jan. 21 – will go on as scheduled this year amid a surge in the omicron variant in the nation’s capital.

Outdoor events are not affected by the District of Columbia’s vaccine mandate for indoor gatherings, but participants should expect to wear face masks. Indoor events associated with the annual march will have to comply with city COVID-19 restrictions.

The national Pro-Life Summit, sponsored by Students for Life, is also scheduled to take place Jan. 22 at Washington’s Omni Shoreham Hotel. The event will feature former Vice President Mike Pence as its keynote speaker. Pence has been a frequent March for Life speaker, and in 2020 he introduced President Donald Trump at the event’s rally.

The March for Life has canceled its three-day Pro-Life Expo and is combining two planned Capitol Hill 101 panel discussions Jan. 20 into a single event. The organization is still holding its annual Rose Dinner Gala.

March for Life never projects attendance figures, but an informal survey by Catholic News Service of a few groups planning to attend this year’s march indicates that the turnout may approach pre-pandemic levels.

Last year’s march was turned into a virtual event due to the pandemic and the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Only an invited group of 80, joined midway by more than 100 others, marched from the nearby Museum of the Bible to just behind the Supreme Court. It was the first outdoor event in Washington since the Capitol violence, with both the Capitol and Supreme Court surrounded by high fences.

In previous years, total attendance for the rally and march up Constitution Avenue was estimated to be as high as 100,000.

“We have nearly 250 students and faculty headed to D.C.,” said Ed Konieczka, assistant director of university ministry at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. “That is five full buses – our largest contingent since leading the march in 2017.”

A similar number was estimated by organizers of the bus caravan for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana.

However, the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, decided in December 2021 that the COVID-19 risk was too high to sponsor a bus caravan.

The march is held annually on a date nearest the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.

The first march was held Jan. 22, 1974, organized by Nellie Gray, a government lawyer, and the Knights of Columbus. The idea was to form a “circle of life” around the Capitol and the Supreme Court. Jeanne Mancini assumed leadership of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund after Gray died in 2012.

This year’s theme is “Equality Begins in the Womb.” The rally is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. with a performance by singer Matthew West. The march starts at 1:15 p.m. after the political speeches are completed.

Pennsylvanians for Human Life announce buses to March for Life on Jan. 21

Hazleton PHL Chapter

The Greater Hazleton Area Chapter of Pennsylvanians for Human Life (PHL) will host a round-trip bus excursion to Washington, D.C., for participation in the 2022 National March for Life on Friday, Jan. 21.

For further information and reservation details, contact Carol Matz at (570) 956-0817; or Maryann Lawhon at 870-788-JOHN (5646).

Wyoming Valley PHL Chapter

Pennsylvanians for Human Life, Wyoming Valley Chapter, will sponsor a bus for those wishing to attend the March for Life in Washington on Jan. 21, with a morning departure from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Swoyersville.

Transportation cost, which includes dinner, is $65 for adults; $35 for students. Student sponsors are most welcome and appreciated.

For more information and reservations, contact Chris Calore at (570) 824-5621.

Susquehanna Valley PHL Chapter

The Susquehanna Valley Chapter of Pennsylvanians for Human Life will sponsor a bus for those wishing to attend the March for Life. For a seat on the bus, call Evelyn Rall at (570) 398-0722. There is a non-refundable fee of $25. The bus will depart from Beiter’s Home Center on Route 15, Williamsport, at 5:45 a.m.