(Photo by National Catholic Reporter)
They were there to protest a landmark court decision that legalized abortion four decades ago.
Darla Bent, a Family and Consumer Science teacher at Bloomfield Junior-Senior High School, and Debbie Harding, who also teaches Family and Consumer Science at Linton-Stockton High School, participated in the event.
The annual march took on added significance for many in the half-million-strong crowd because this year marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that created a constitutional right to abortion in some circumstances.
The demonstrators, carrying signs with messages such as "Defend Life" and "Defund Planned Parenthood," shouted chants including "Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go."
They packed sections of the National Mall and surrounding streets for the March of Life.
The large turnout reflected the ongoing relevance of the abortion debate four decades after the Jan. 22, 1973 decision.
When asked why they decided to make the trip and make a public stand on behalf of the unborn, Bent replied, "Debbie and I both believe in the pro-life cause. We became aware of a group of people from the Indianapolis Knights of Columbus who were traveling by bus to the March for Life and decided to go. It was our first time at the march. People of all ages and of all faith denominations were represented. This year there were over 500,000 people in attendance.
"As for my reason for going, I became frustrated after the November election. Our current administration is ignoring pro-life values. They not only oppose what I believe, but will force us to pay for their agenda. I think that our religious freedom is being threatened. I felt it was time to join my voice with the thousands who come peacefully to Washington D.C. every year to protest."
Harding said she and Bent had read about the trip in their church bulletin and started talking about signing up for the trip.
This kind of a thing was something new for Harding.
"I have never been a part of this type of thing in my life. I grew up in the 1970s and remember my Dad saying if he ever caught me marching for anything he would kick my rear end. Funny how this type of upbringing really sticks with a person. My Dad passed away five years ago and something tells me that he would be OK with this because he would know how strong I feel about respecting life. This march has been on my mind for several years and this year the trip just all fell into place," she said.
Bent says there is spiritual reason to protect the unborn.
"This is the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. I believe in the scripture that tells us that God 'knit us in our mother's womb'. Scripture also tells us 'thou shall not kill'. That is why I felt I had to go. I wanted to stand up for my beliefs and the sanctity of life," Bent explained.
Harding was touched by the experience.
"I have to say that the March for Life was the most moving experience I have ever had in my life. ... We marched down the Mall in D.C. from one end to the other. When we got up The Hill and turned around to look back it was just unbelievable. The solid mass of people all marching for the same causes, respecting life," Harding said. "I can't talk about it without mentioning the many, many, young people that were there for the march. As a matter of fact, the majority were young youth groups. This in itself is very positive for the March for Life. People were there from all walks of life, all ages, from all over the country which really warmed my heart."
Harding called the march a very memorable experience.
"The experience is something I will never forget. We had three buses from all over the state that went east with us for the march. We met so many wonderful people on this trip and formed friendships that will last a lifetime. Going to this March for Life is something that I feel very strongly about and I am sure that I will be attending again."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.