By Howard Lurie

The "pussy hat" marchers have departed from Washington and will be replaced Friday by another kind of activist.

The two events are radically different. Saturday's march was primarily about, by, and for women. It is undeniable that, since the beginning of time, women have been treated far less favorably than men. The women's march was an effort to achieve more for women and to ensure that rights already won would not be lost.

The marchers Friday seek nothing for themselves. Rather, they seek for others the most basic, fundamental, and precious right of all. They seek, not for themselves, but for those who cannot themselves march or protest, the right upon which all other rights depend: the right to life.

Friday's March for Life is a march against abortion. In contrast, the women's march was in large measure a march in favor of a woman's right to abort her unborn child.

Those who are pro-abortion (I refuse to use their terminology: pro-choice) frequently support their position by arguing that a woman has and should have the right to control her own body. The truth is that we have a number of laws that deny both men and women the right to control their own bodies.

I know of no state where a woman may legally sell her fetus even for important medical research. She can pay to have the fetus killed, but she cannot receive money to enable its destruction even to advance beneficial research.

I know of no state where a man or woman can legally sell a kidney or other bodily organ that could keep another alive. An organ can be donated, but not legally sold.

I know of only one state where a woman can legally sell the use of her body for the sexual satisfaction of another.

And it is unlawful throughout the United States for anyone to agree to be paid less than the minimum wage for the labor their body performs.

The March for Life began in 1974 on the first anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Since then, literally millions of abortions have been legally performed in the United States.

The probability that Roe v. Wade will be overturned in the foreseeable future is remote. Why then, you may ask, do these life marchers continue year after year in a quest that is so unlikely to be achieved?

I confess to being a romantic, and so when I ask that question, I am certain that for the marchers and me the answer is to be found in the words of the Man of La Mancha song: "The Impossible Dream." Dulcinea asks Don Quixote why he continues his hopeless pursuits, and he answers her by saying that he does it:

To right the unrightable wrong . . .

No matter how hopeless

No matter how far

To fight for the right

Without question or pause

To be willing to march into Hell

For a heavenly cause

And I know if I'll only be true

To this glorious quest

That my heart will lie peaceful and calm

When I'm laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this . . . .

There is another, lesser-known song that I am sure would echo the sentiments of the marchers for life when they depart Washington. "Mary Brown, Abolitionist," by Adirondack folk singer Peggy Lynn, is a letter to her husband, John Brown, who will be hanged for his raid on Harper's Ferry. She sings to her husband of their struggle against slavery and the rewards that await.

Here's the chorus of the song:

We may not see the slaves go free,

Neither did Moses reach the Promised Land.

Still none could be more blessed than we

Who are an instrument in God's hand.

Howard Lurie is an emeritus professor of law at Villanova University.