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March for Life gears up for pandemic conditions

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CNA Staff, Nov 30, 2020 / 03:05 pm MT (CNA).- With the annual March for Life scheduled to occur in January, how different might it look from previous years due to the ongoing pandemic?

The 48th annual March for Life is scheduled to take place on Jan. 29, 2021, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Normally attended by tens of thousands of pro-life demonstrators from all over the country, the 2021 March will be significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

CNA learned that the March for Life is working with the National Park Service and local officials to ensure a safe protest that will conform with “necessary guidelines.”

While the D.C. government does not have a special set of restrictions for protests, it has barred outdoor gatherings larger than 25 people, as of Nov. 25.

The city has also restricted travel from states where the current virus rate is more than 10 cases per 100,000 people. For travelers from these jurisdictions, they must get a negative test within 72 hours of traveling, and adhere to a mandatory mask policy, among other requirements. Travelers from Maryland and Virginia, and those visiting the city for less than 24 hours, are exempt.

Large protests have occurred in the city throughout the summer, most notably the Aug. 28 “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks” march attended by an estimated tens of thousands. That, too, was affected by the pandemic, as march organizers had to lower their in-person attendance estimate following the issuance of a permit by the National Park Service.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser also had travel restrictions in place around the time of the march, altering travel plans of attendees. March for Life participants normally attend from all over the U.S., and may be traveling on busses and airplanes during the height of flu season.

During the March itself, attendees may have to comply with federal guidelines as closely as possible. According to the Washington Post, the August march reportedly required attendees to wear masks and undergo a temperature check before they entered the Mall. It is unclear if the same requirements will be made and enforced by the March for Life.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has also listed recommendations for events and gatherings, including that all attendees wear masks, wash hands, cover their coughs and sneezes, and try to maintain a six-foot distance from other attendees.

The website of the March for Life says that the group will announce safety measures “closer to the March,” and will be promoting virtual participation for those who cannot attend in-person.

At a press conference in September, announcing the theme of the March, Jeanne Mancini—president of the March for Life—said that it was still on, despite the ongoing pandemic.

“Listen, we marched during the blizzard of 2016, we’ve marched during government shutdowns, we marched after 9/11, we will march again this year,” Mancini said.

“We’ve marched for 47 years, and no sacrifice is too great to fight this human rights abuse of abortion.”

Other events traditionally surround the March, such as the annual Youth Rally and Mass for Life held downtown on the morning of the March. In 2021, the rally will be held virtually and Mass will be live-streamed. The March for Life Expo has been canceled, and the annual Rose Dinner will be held virtually.

The theme of the 2020 March will be “Together Strong: Life Unites.”

Jeanne Mancini explained that “[t]his year, with a 2020 that’s been so unusual in many different ways, the idea of uniting together, and how each of us brings something different to the table, how the variety is beautiful and how together we’re stronger – it just seems like the right theme.”

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