January 19, 2024 : By Christian Shields - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Hundreds of Liberty University students traveled to Washington, D.C., on Friday to participate in the 2024 National March for Life, taking a united stand against the continued practice of abortion in America.
Over 1,000 students registered for the trip. They departed campus at 5 a.m. on 19 buses. The march is a longstanding tradition at Liberty. The school has been offering the trip to students for decades. In recent years, the trip has been sponsored by Liberty’s Standing for Freedom Center.
The annual march has taken place in the nation’s capital every year since the enactment of Roe v. Wade in 1973 and aims to raise awareness and support to the pro-life cause. This includes not only pushing for anti-abortion legislation but also ensuring that pregnancy centers and families are prepared to respond when unplanned pregnancies arise.
This year, the event included a pre-march concert, featuring three-time Grammy nominated Christian singer-songwriter Danny Gokey, and rally with many special guests. Several current pro-life members of the United States Congress participated, including newly elected Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson, who has served as an adjunct professor for Liberty’s online program.
Johnson stressed that every human being, even an unborn baby, deserves to be treated with dignity and protected from harm. As the product of an unplanned pregnancy himself, Johnson encouraged the crowd to defend a child’s right to life. He also noted that the House of Representatives recently passed the Pregnant Students’ Rights Act requiring colleges and universities to inform pregnant students of their rights and of the resources available on campus to ensure no woman feels forced to choose between motherhood and pursuing her degree.
“Every single person has ineffable dignity and value,” Johnson said. “Your value is not related in any way to the color of your skin, what ZIP code you live in, how good you are at sports, or where you went to high school. That is irrelevant. Your value is inherent and was given to you by your Creator.”
As flurries fell on the capital, the students marched from the rally, which was in the National Mall, and through the streets of Washington, D.C., to the U.S. Supreme Court Building, while carrying signs advocating for the lives of the unborn.
“Life is the most important thing,” said current residential master’s student Jason Swofford, who graduated from Liberty with a bachelor’s in religion in 1996. “The way I define between good and evil come from where Jesus said, ‘The enemy has come to steal, lie, and destroy, but I have come that they might have life.’ Anything that promotes death is from the enemy, but God brings life. We need to stand for life because that’s where God stands.”
Freshman AdaLynn Kendrick said she chose to march to dissuade any women who are currently contemplating having an abortion.
“There are hundreds of people telling women that they need to have abortions and there is no other way, so I wanted to be one of the thousands of people that were here today to tell them that there is another way,” she said.
For junior software engineering student Ashton Bengtson, the right to life strikes close to home. He said that he knew multiple people in his high school who either were the result of unplanned pregnancies or became pregnant themselves while students. He has spent several summers working in crisis pregnancy centers to minister to mothers in need and said he appreciates Liberty’s willingness to live out the love of Jesus through supporting events like the March for Life.
“Liberty not only prioritizes life, but they are genuinely seeking the Christian faith in all that they do with community groups, resident shepherds, and encouraging people to get into community, having worship nights. It shows how sincere (Liberty) is in wanting to take action to what they say,” said Bengtson, who has attended three National March for Life events and two as a Liberty student.
Liberty Vice President of Communications and Public Engagement Ryan Helfenbein, who also serves as executive director of the Standing for Freedom Center, joined students at the march.
“I am so proud to see Liberty University students taking time out of their schedule to voluntarily make the trek all the way up to D.C. on a snowy day that was below freezing,” he said. “Our students were among the largest on record. It demonstrates they care and are deeply committed to protecting the sanctity and dignity of human life. We recognize that we march because people desperately need the Gospel of Jesus Christ to know the love of the Savior and receive forgiveness and healing. We cannot begin to solve abortion without the Gospel message.”
Last year, for the first time, Liberty students were selected to hold the banner that leads off the march, and Liberty student Summer Smith, who served as president of the Students for Life club at Liberty, spoke at the pre-march rally.
Liberty will host a special March for Life-themed Convocation on Jan. 24 featuring Ryan Bomberger, a columnist and international public speaker on the sanctity of life. More student testimonials and videos will be shared from Friday’s march. The Convocation will begin at 10:30 a.m. EST in the Vines Center and will be streamed live on Liberty’s Facebook page.