“Why I March for Life”: a young activist shares her history with the National March for Life

By Taylor Hyatt

For many frustrated pro-life advocates, 2017 got off to a great start. The movement received some unexpected attention when the network of Women’s Marches took the world by storm.

Thousands will gather on Parliament Hill on May 11. Taylor Hyatt will be one of them.

In particular, the Washington protest ignited a fierce debate after its organizers denied the pro-life group New Wave Feminists an official sponsorship role. Vice President Mike Pence addressed the American March for Life a few days later. Friends were asking me what I thought of it all…and forgetting that the only March about which I can say anything of substance is held in Ottawa!

The Canadian March for Life began in 1997. My experience with the march technically began two decades later, when I heard an announcement over my school’s loudspeaker system at the end of my grade nine year. Having been aware of the horror of abortion for two years, I made a resolution to attend the next march. That was quickly vetoed. A physical disability makes my pace when walking extremely slow. Staying safe in a crowd of thousands wasn’t possible. To make matters worse, my family confused the pro-life gathering with the Relay for Life. They approved of an event uniting people against cancer, but the one I really meant was just too controversial and intense.

Fast forward to the spring of 2012. I suddenly had plans to stay in Ottawa following my first year of university, rather than returning home. At first, I didn’t even realize what this meant: years of waiting were over. Everything about that first March was an exhilarating blurIt began with a candlelight vigil at the Human Rights Monument near City Hall. Early the next morning, my church hosted a mass with the Archbishop of Ottawa. My then-new electric wheelchair allowed me to run into some high school friends at the rally on Parliament Hill. A jubilant assembly of 20,000 from all across the country then took to the streets. I certainly wasn’t alone anymore, and I had no fear of being trampled on! The festivities wrapped up with a dinner for students hosted by National Campus Life Network, which turned out to be my first of many speaking engagements as an activist.

In 2014, my third March for Life redefined the experience yet again.  I was invited to join my colleagues at Campaign Life as they worked behind the scenes. (I served as a communications intern in their national office over the summers of 2013-15.) Now, I was no longer just a participant in the prayer vigil – I gave a speech about conquering fear to speak out for the preborn. Besides participating in and welcoming attendees to the other official events – a worship service, the Parliament Hill rally, either the Rose Dinner or its youth equivalent, and the daylong youth conference hosted by Niagara Region Right to Life – I got to document the best parts of the day on the organization’s social media channels. It was also my most somber March. Scantily-clad activists from the women’s rights group FEMEN stormed the stage during an address by the bishop of Quebec. One of them tripped over my walker and sat on me in her haste to escape the organizers serving as security personnel. The speeches from this year also stand out more than any other. I can still hear my friend Stephanie Gray reminding the sea of people that they were not gathered for a celebration. “This march (was) a funeral!” for the youngest Canadians killed via abortion.

However other attendees see it, I cannot deny that the role the march has played in my life has changed over the past few years. Though it is still an occasion to grieve and to be inspired, I now affectionately refer to it as “my biggest social day of the year.”

Many of my friends in the pro-life community – of various ages, creeds, and backgrounds – live far away and only come to Ottawa for one week in the spring. While I believe my Christian faith to hold the fullness of the truth, the pro-life position is based on philosophy, science, and human rights. Therefore, it can be embraced by a diverse audience…and I love seeing this reflected in my city’s streets.  Whoever you are – Christian, middle-class, born in Canada, or not – I hope to see you on Parliament Hill one day. As the theme of this year’s March proclaims, we should be able to tell our youngest citizens that we remained hopeful, “standing on guard” for them even if full legal protection seems a long way off.

Taylor Hyatt is a pro-life advocate who lives in Ottawa. The National March for Life takes place on May 11, 2017. Read some of Faith Today’s past pro-life coverage.

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