Religion

A Real Look at the (Notoriously Under-Reported) March for Life

Marchers walk past the U.S. Capitol during the 46th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., January 18, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Anyone who doesn’t see what goes on year after year is missing an important part of American life today.

Washington, D.C. — “Happy March for Life!” More than a few people said that to me as I arrived here for the annual March for Life. The march is really a few days of events. And it’s weird, in a way. It’s in fact a protest of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions, which legalized abortion in all three trimesters of pregnancy and codified a war that cruelly and unnecessarily pitted women against their unborn children. It took the most natural thing in the world, pregnancy and birth, and inserted the most intimate violence into it. It’s a poison that is relentless. It touches probably just about everything, if you really start to consider it.

And, frankly, if you hate politics today, I’d humbly suggest you consider the role of this Roe moment in it. It raised the stakes and dehumanized us at the same time. Abortion truly changes you. And not just the child whose life ends and the mother who had life ended within her. It affects the people in her life and people who will be in her life. Everything plays into who we are and how we interact; the enduring repercussions are inescapable. Mercifully there are beautiful ministries (Project Rachel, Rachel’s Vineyard, the Sisters of Life) that help women — and men — heal from abortion.

So why “Happy March for Life”? In no small part, marchers say this because of the kids. The young people — the vast majority of them are high-school and college students — show us a reality that is the very opposite of abortion. It happens without fail every year around the March for Life: I walk into, usually, St. Matthew’s Cathedral, not very far from the White House, on the morning before the March. I forgot this past week that it was going to be a full 8 a.m. weekday Mass. As I saw the high school students getting off their buses, I smiled. Most of them appeared to be from Baton Rouge, La. After Mass, I asked a woman to confirm where they were coming from; she noted that I looked very familiar. Perhaps her local paper runs my column, or maybe she remembered me as the happy tweeting lady from the year before (I posted photos of the students and the religious sisters traveling with them and a wise word or two from the Mass).

It’s in large part because of the young people that “Happy March for Life” is a perfectly appropriate greeting — an exclamation, actually. And it’s thanks to them that I associate the March for Life with hope.

Helen Alvare, a law professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School in Virginia, often talks about how abortion leads to the immiseration of women. She notes that certain women in certain situations face the expectation that they will abort their child — for the sake of a career, among other things. The pressure on the poor and on minorities should be a matter of outrage. But so should the pressure on working women. The upcoming movie Unplanned — about the journey of Abby Johnson from her job as a Texas Planned Parenthood director to her new life as a pro-life activist — illustrates well the kind of corporate Planned Parenthood mindset that would keep women from fully embracing life, even while abortion as an industry hides behind the words “freedom” and “choice.” The immiseration is something evil, wreaking damage in individual lives and in our culture. It poisons our institutions, too.

The March for Life isn’t a Catholic march, but there sure are a lot of Catholics who show up and Masses seemingly in every church in town. It was hard not to think about the scandals in the Catholic church during that Vigil Mass. For one thing, Theodore McCarrick had been there the year before. I believe it was his last public event before the news about him and boys and seminarians. (I hope they won’t be offended, but I consider the young men “kids,” the same way that I think of the high-school and college students. They are young and, yes, need to take on responsibility, but they also need the rest of us to be wise for them and look out for them in their vulnerability.)

But as with the recent Fellowship of Catholic University Students SEEK event in Indianapolis at the start of the new year, this was a little window into the future. We prayed a prayer for the healing of victims of abuse, all of the 10,000 people at the Mass that night, and I walked away with a sense that these kids reject the poisons. One of the last things I ran into before I left the Catholic University of America’s campus, adjacent to the shrine, was a snowball fight outside the church. It wasn’t vicious so much as playfully tender. There’s a light hand to much of this generation because they have seen harshness and callousness destroy lives and hearts. In the wake of and in the face of so much that’s grave, they are a breeze that helps us move onward. Pray for them. Be loving mentors to them.

This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.

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