Sounds of Silence
Pro-lifers in peaceful protest.


To get people to attend this past Sunday’s “pro-choice” march, the organizers had to rename the march…twice. First, it was the Choice March. Then it became the Freedom of Choice March. In a final effort, they came up with the winning “March for Women’s Lives.” While it isn’t accurate or honest, it was certainly effective. Still, they needed more people. Not enough people would march for abortion alone; so supporters issued a widespread invitation that encompassed anyone with an anti-Bush gripe or who simply doesn’t like pro-lifers.

Say what you may about pro-life organizations, they never offer their opponents as moving targets to satisfy the fetishes of so-called supporters.

After more than 30 years of legalized abortion, pro-choicers can now only gather the public support they need to keep the abortion question alive by confusing the issue. Their message is as mixed up as it was 30 years ago–perhaps even more so. They can offer no convincing argument because women themselves, while willing to identify themselves as pro-choice, believe that most abortions should not be legal. Many of these women believe there’s more to women’s health than the abortion issue. But while they may be more interested in HIV/AIDS, healthcare, jobs, or even the election, they allowed themselves to be duped into marching for abortion on Sunday.

Other marchers came apparently because the World Bank protests were over and they had nowhere left to go. Or they were angry. Or (and?) they don’t like President Bush. At the March, Erica Quest, a pro-lifer from Virginia, noticed, “There was no unified message. [It was] everything from ‘We hate Bush’ to lesbian rights. Everything crass and violent. Nothing feminine. Nothing dignified. You’re just taken back by the anger. I was almost embarrassed to be a woman.”

Bevlin Lyons, also a pro-lifer from Virginia, attended the march with her husband, Joe, and their infant son, Sebastian. Holding her son and a pro-life sign she witnessed what she calls “the sadness of it all. They’re angry about something. There was no sign of joy at anything.”

But wait–pro-choice marchers should be excited about their “choices,” and the fact that any pregnant woman can get an abortion at any time for any reason in the United States.

While gay activists have become more and more public about their beliefs, scarcely any women come out with pride–no pun intended–when it comes to talking about their abortions. If the Alan Guttmacher Institute is right in its estimate that about 40 percent of American women have had an abortion, that’s a lot of women who have kept quiet. Some of them may have been at the march on Sunday. They’ll talk about “choice” in general, then, but not about any particular “choice” they may have made.

The abortion agenda has only been able to offer women freedom from–from a difficult situation, from an annoyance, from the responsibility of a child. Yet, this type of freedom doesn’t appear to be a major issue for most women.

Last year, the pro-choice Center for Advancement of Women issued what they titled a “groundbreaking survey of over 3,300 American women.” The survey participants identified 12 priority issues. “Keeping abortion legal” ranked eleventh barely beating out “increasing the number of girls who participate in organized sports.”

A Zogby poll released last week shows that 49 percent of Americans consider themselves pro-life, compared to 45 percent who consider themselves pro-choice. Overall, upwards of 60 percent of those polled support restrictions on abortion. Perhaps more important, only 13 percent support legal abortion at any time, for any reason–hardly a majority opinion. But this is an extremely vocal minority.

Now that 40 million unborn children have died and abortion has become one of the most common surgical procedures in the United States, a growing voice is emerging. This is the voice of the woman who’s had an abortion, who regrets it, and who feels she was never empowered with adequate information to make a real choice. Some of these women and their supporters countered the march with a silent, peaceful protest.

And the silence worked in at least a few cases. Janet Morana, co-founder of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign stood at Constitution and Seventh Streets with a group of about a hundred post-abortion women and their supporters. In the midst of their silence, a woman from D.C. named Shirley came up to two of them. She was holding a Planned Parenthood “Stand Up For Choice” sign and she said, “I can’t hold this sign and march with them anymore.” She explained that she had lost a child to crib death and then she broke down sobbing. She saw the reality of the “choice” for which she had been marching.

Susan Pine, executive director of F.A.C.E. Life, came to the march from Florida. Armed with the experience of her own abortions and subsequent years of pro-life activism, she came to stand in silent witness to the effects of her “choices.” Before the march, she spoke with a group of college pro-choicers there. They told her that although they didn’t believe in abortion for themselves, as a form of birth control, or after the first trimester, they attended the march to “represent poor stupid women with six babies.” Apparently, having six children is a sign of stupidity. So much for personal choice.

Rory Conway, a pro-lifer from Washington, D.C., saw women standing with “I regret my abortion” signs confronted by angry marchers. He commented, “The crowded scene was not so unlike the angry mobs of Jerusalem on Good Friday, and I recall that Christ, in the midst of his detractors, kept his silence. In the midst of a war of words, perhaps only silence can provide the seedbed of peace.”

Susan Pine also saw the quiet effects of silent protest. “Some women,” she said, “would see our signs, start to cry, drop everything, and leave.”

Undoubtedly, most of those who came to march for the so-called right to abortion left with the same convictions that they brought. But they were unable to present a cohesive and peaceful voice. Their anger was frustrated by the few pro-lifers who attended in silence.

The experiences of women who have had abortions, if we are willing to listen, will determine the future of the culture of life in the United States.

Pia de Solenni is the director of life and women’s issues at the Family Research Council.