March for Life 2024: Life-changing Stories and Bold Testimonies

Braving the snow, pro-lifers from around the country united in Washington, D.C. to walk the 51st March for Life.

In this piece, you’ll get the viewpoints of three pro-life students who attended: their favorite memories of the March; their discussion on current events such as Ohio’s Issue 1 referendum and the upcoming presidential election; and their own remarkable journeys in the pro-life movement.

Prepare to be inspired!

Felipe Avila: testimony of a pro-choice student turned pro-life whistleblower

Felipe Avila of Las Vegas, Nevada is many things: a nursing student at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.; a Students for Life student spokesperson; and the youngest-ever member of the National Association of Pro-Life Nurses board of directors.

He was also formerly pro-abortion.

“In middle school and high school, I was pro-choice because that was what I was expected to be, to fit in socially and belong to friend groups,” he said.

In early high school, after about a year of “challenging myself a lot on my conviction,” Avila “came to an understanding of what abortion is” and became pro-life. Now, he’s a bold defender of the unborn.

On January 23, 2024, during a psychology class at Catholic University of America, Avila recorded abortion doula Rachel Carbonneau’s in-class guest lecture. Avila sent the recording to the Daily Signal, drawing national attention to the incident. Catholic University fired Melissa Goldberg, the professor who invited Carbonneau to guest-lecture.

Avila said that the incident is “a reminder, even for students like me who have this feeling of being safe at a Catholic and Christian institution, that there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

This year, “there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to the March,” he said.

Avila attended the March for Life in both 2023 and 2024 and was able to draw out similarities and differences between the events.

Felipe Avila at the 2024 March for Life

Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, and the January 2023 March for Life was packed, Avila observed: “the weather reflected the mood: bright and generally very euphoric.”

On the other hand, “with all the recent challenges and ballot initiatives and setbacks, the pro-life movement at the 2024 March for Life had a more serious tone,” he said. “We’re going back to the drawing board. We realize we have an uphill battle that we’re facing.”

“I will definitely say that I think there was a reduced turnout, which I think was unfortunate because past marches have been really big, but I think it really came down to the weather,” he added, referencing the snow and frigid temperatures.

Avila also noted that the 2024 March for Life reflected that this is an election year.

Referring to House Speaker Mike Johnson’s speech, among other legislator talks, Avila said, “I think the reality is that a lot of Republicans, especially, are almost caving on the abortion issue, and it was great to hear speakers who are leaders in the Republican party and are very vocal about how abortion should not be an issue that we compromise on.”

He added, “The pro-life generation is here to say that we will not support candidates who will compromise on the abortion issue.”

Mia Akins: working in the pro-life movement “has completely changed the trajectory of my life.”

The FIU Students for Life

For Mia Akins, a Georgia native studying biology at Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, standing in the D.C. snow at the March for Life was “freezing”! However, Akins’ viewpoint was, “A few inches of snow doesn’t compare to what many of the unborn are going through.”

While some students struggle to maintain their pro-life values at college, Akins discovered her calling to pro-life advocacy while attending FIU.

In November 2022, Akins encountered pro-life students tabling on campus and decided to join the new Students for Life at FIU group. Akins serves as the group’s first vice president.

The overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 further empowered her.

“For such a long time, abortion seemed like a decided issue that no one could do anything about,” she said. “Then, Roe v. Wade was overturned, and abortion is up to the states.”

Attending the 2024 March for Life with a group from the FIU Students for Life chapter was a full-circle moment for Akins. She cherishes fond childhood memories of attending the Georgia Right to Life in Atlanta.

Inspired by the number of children and families at the 2024 March for Life, Akins said, “Even though it was freezing outside, the kids were having the best time of their life. Even though they might not understand what we’re marching for – like me when I was a kid at the Georgia Right to Life – they’re making those memories.”

As part of the leadership team of a newly formed Students for Life chapter, Akins appreciated the witness of other pro-life college groups who spoke at the March. Dominick Tolentino, president of the Students for Life chapter at Penn State University, delivered a “relatable” speech about the chapter’s struggles, said Akins.

“At FIU, we do sometimes face challenges with administration and getting things approved for events and funding,” she said, “but hearing how other students have similar circumstances, if not worse circumstances” and “hearing how they overcome that” was inspiring.

“After those struggles, you know the people who are still with you are the most dedicated,” Akins said, reflecting on the FIU group. “No one would go to those lengths unless they truly cared and know that it’s worth it.”

Akins is inspired to continue working on campus to educate students on abortion and to help women in need.

As a member of the Students for Life National Leaders Collective “Standing With You Fellowship,” Akins launched a program with the FIU food pantry and other participating organizations to assist women on campus. Since June 2023, according to Students for Life at FIU’s records, the ongoing project has amassed thousands of donations in diapers, wipes, baby formula, shampoo, powder, baby bottles, baby food, pads, and tampons.

Working in the pro-life movement “has completely changed the trajectory of my life,” Akins said. “I wanted a prestigious STEM job in a science lab or the medical field, but being active in the pro-life movement has shown me where I’m meant to be.”

After graduating, Akins aspires to a career in pro-life advocacy.

At the March for Life, “you know every person matters in the movement,” Akins said. “Some of the people in the March for Life were pro-choice or had abortions, but because of the compassion that people showed them, that’s how they got to the March. Every person matters, because individual people create that big crowd of thousands.”

Ella Schumacher: standing for the unborn in Ohio

Ella Schumacher, a high school senior from Ohio, is already a veteran in the pro-life movement. She is the founder and president of the Kalida Students for Life chapter, which won the Students for Life national Group of the Year award in June 2023. She also participated in the Pro-Life Generation Voices program and is part of the National Leaders Collective “Thaddeus Stevens Leadership Fellowship.”

She’s been able to accomplish all of this, and more, since becoming actively involved in the pro-life movement in 2022!

As an incoming junior in the summer of 2022, Schumacher attended a pro-life bonfire event that changed her life.

“I mostly went for my friends and the food,” Schumacher admitted. However, the witness of Students for Life Ohio regional coordinator Jamie Curry, as well as other students’ testimonies, inspired Schumacher.

“I saw how much fun they had, and I realized that if I’m going to put any time and effort into anything, I should definitely put my heart and soul into this,” she said.

Initially, Schumacher joined the Pro-Life Generation Voices Program for online activism and leadership. However, Schumacher said, “Even though I loved it, I wasn’t quite satisfied, so I was pushing really hard to get a group at school.”

Schumacher established Kalida Students for Life in December 2022, and the group gained momentum and became nationally recognized.

Then, the October 17, 2023 chalking incident occurred. Kalida Students for Life gained permission from the school to write pro-life messages in chalk for National Pro-Life Chalk Day. The context: the November 7, 2023 election involving the Ohio pro-abortion Issue 1 referendum.

That morning, the group wrote edifying messages including, “You are loved,” “You always have another option,” “No woman stands alone,” “Let their hearts beat,” and “Vote no on Issue 1.”

Later that day, school administration told the group that they were washing off the Issue 1 message, along with some other messages.

Schumacher said, “I wanted to meet with the principal and come up with policies so we could do chalking events and other events,” but some group members “were really scared and wanted me to drop it.”

Although the incident was resolved, it had a demoralizing effect on the group.

Attending the 2024 March for Life was a rejuvenating experience for Kalida Students for Life, even though Schumacher believes this year’s march was “more serious” than in 2023, “especially being from Ohio.”

One of her favorite memories happened right after the March ended: a snowball fight with other group members and total strangers.

“It was really cool to be able to connect with others we didn’t even know, and have fun with people with the same values,” she said.

Attending the March for Life had a positive effect on Kalida Students for Life. Whereas the group’s activity had dwindled before the March due to the chalking incident, engagement has soared since the March.

Schumacher has big plans for the coming semester and the election year.

“We have to find a way to help, even though we can’t vote yet,” she said. “For Issue 1, we hosted our county’s very own Walk for Life right before the election. We want to do more events like that, spreading the pro-life message, that we should vote pro-life first.”

Additionally, Schumacher is the only high schooler serving on a team organizing an upcoming Ohio pro-life summit for high school and college students, planned for this spring.

Schumacher can personally testify to the positive impact of the pro-life movement.

“Throughout high school, I’ve dealt with a bunch of anxiety, which affected me a lot during junior year,” she said. “Sometimes I didn’t really see the value of life. Finding a group where I felt welcomed, accepted, and loved really helped me find the value in life, especially when I went to the National Leaders Collective.”

Schumacher added, “I always knew life was valuable, but I got to see it on a different level that applied to myself, too.”

Avatar photo


Emily Chaffins is a fiction writer who has won multiple awards, including a Silver Key Award in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards (Humor Category) and First Place for Undergraduate Fiction in the Florida International University Student Literary Awards. She is also a freelancer for the Florida Catholic newspaper and OSV News, and contributes to the Archdiocese of Miami's Let’s Talk Blog and Catholic Exchange. Additionally, she curates and contributes to the Archdiocese of Miami’s “Through the Catholic Lens” blog. Besides writing, Emily enjoys singing at church, cooking and baking with her family, and reading really big books. She can be found on Instagram as @the.smallest_things.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage