On the 41st anniversary of legalized abortion throughout the U.S., pro-life lawmakers from both political parties voiced hope about the future of the pro-life movement.

“I've been in the pro-life movement since 1972,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) told CNA, and “I've never been more hopeful.”

Smith, who is both co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus and chair of a House subcommittee on international human rights, characterized the pro-life movement as a “human rights struggle based on faith and compassion.”

“This is an injustice that will not stand the test of time,” he said.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has worked in Congress to promote the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, agreed.

“How can you not be hopeful when you see families from all around the country making the sacrifice to come to Washington to support the rights of unborn children?” she said, referencing the annual March for Life.

Held every year on or near the Jan. 22 anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that mandated legalized abortion throughout the U.S., the March for Life routinely draws massive crowds consisting primarily of young people from around the nation. An estimated 650,000 people attended the 2013 March for Life.

Blackburn said that while “it's important to remember that lasting change takes time,” the annual march is essential in showing “the continuing vibrancy of the pro-life movement.”

“Too often, Americans seem to regard the pro-life movement an antiquated pursuit mired in the past,” she said, explaining that the march “gathers young people from around the nation to a central place where they can discuss the moral implications of the matter at hand and feel confident they are not alone in their beliefs.”

Rep. Dan Lipinski (D.-Ill.) co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, told CNA that the annual march shows “that we're not just anti-abortion — we are pro-life” and that pro-life advocates “want to support life in every way possible.”

The congressman suggested that “sometimes there's too much of a focus on changing the laws” without addressing larger cultural issues surrounding abortion.

There is a need to change both culture and law, he said, adding that he is “doing all that I can” in Congress, while other efforts are being made on a cultural level.

In these efforts, he explained, it is important to show the American public that “the pro-life movement is bigger than it's been before.”

The March for Life helps the pro-life movement “to show we are strong” in order to help change both the culture and the law.  

“Eventually the leaders will follow the people,” he said of the movement's continued success, noting that while “federal law has gone backwards on this issue” there has been progress in promoting pro-life laws “at the state level in some states.”

Rep. Smith suggested that the annual March for Life offers the country a “serious witness for life” and an opportunity for “people to converge on Capitol Hill.”

In the past 40 years, some 56 million unborn babies have been aborted, he said, adding that this “equates to the number of all of the people living in England.”

“Equally frightening is the harm that is done to women,” he continued, pointing to studies conducted around the world from “data showing a linkage to breast cancer” as well as mental health problems and other adverse effects of abortion.

While many national policymakers are “extremists” who work “continuously to promote the abortion agenda,” Smith said, “at the state level we've seen an acceleration, a deepening commitment to the sanctity of life.”

“In the various state legislatures, 205 laws have been enacted in the last three years alone,” he emphasized, calling state activism the “backbone of the pro-life movement.”

There is a need on the national stage “to elect pro-life lawmakers from both political parties” and “to elect a pro-life president,” Smith said.

Reflecting on the March for Life, the congressman said it provides an opportunity for the pro-life community “to get re-inspired.”

What he finds most “breathtaking” about the march is “the idealism that is coming from the young people” in attendance.

“I've never met so many smart, idealistic, faith-filled young people.”

“One out of every three” members of the youth “are missing,” Smith observed. “I think that doesn't go unnoticed by this generation.”

---Catholic News Agency