I like many of you will always remember where I was when I heard that Roe v. Wade had been struck down. I was in Wichita Kansas preaching a priests retreat and preparing for Mass on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Tears welled in my eyes as I ran to share the news with the bishop and priests. I have been marching in the March for life almost uninterruptedly since 1975. We knew it was an uphill fight, but we had precedents and hope in the abolitionist movement and the Civil Rights movement that had ultimately prevailed. Some years of the march were cold and snowy others mild or rainy. Some years featured hopeful signs other years discouragement. But we always marched.
A memorable year was 1985. Washington DC, was covered in a blanket of snow and the temperatures reached no higher than 7 degrees. The previous day had seen the second inauguration of President Reagan moved indoors. But on January 21st, 1985 we marched in the bitter cold. We always marched.
Things were especially discouraging at the beginning when abortion rates soared and stayed high all the way through the 1980s. They only began to drop in the mid-1990s. So, progress was slow and often felt stalled. Nothing can ever change the horrifying fact that over sixty-three million babies have lost their life since 1973 in this country alone. The mounting death toll was like a dagger in my heart and a very dark cloud that has hung over our land. But through it all, we marched, we always marched.
Even during COVID a small group of invited marchers made the journey and marched. What ever the COVID numbers, abortion was declared an essential service and 3,000 children a day were still dying.
So we marched, in smaller controlled numbers, but we marched, we always marched.
To march implies getting an army to a battle site. I’d like to think that we were an army deploying the weapons of prayer, sacrifice and the truth. Our Lady’s Rosary was a great weapon, a kind of fifty-round spiritual clip directed against the lies and distortions of the evil one. Through these spiritual battles and campaigns, armies marched. We sought to “capture” hearts and grow the movement and love for life. We sought to summon the soul of the nation to repent, and to revere all human life as sacred. Yes, we marched, we always marched.
And we must still march. Abortion is still not illegal and unthinkable throughout this land. The marches must now go to the states. Also, perchance, a yearly march still in the Nation’s Capital on June 24th. While our victory is pleasing and encouraging, it remains shocking how many Americans think abortion is necessary, even good:
- Extremists in the “pro-choice” movement “shout” and “celebrate” their abortions. Many cry out “My body my choice.” But they refuse to concede that there is another body in question, that of the baby in the womb. It isn’t just “my body,” there is another human person there.
- Some speak of abortion as a key component of “women’s healthcare.” But what sort of women’s healthcare is it that kills over 500,000 young women in the womb per year? Infant women are in fact fifty percent of the victims of the nearly one million abortions a year in this country. It is simply not an honest discussion to speak only of “women’s healthcare,” a “woman’s choice” and “my body” with no reference to the clear scientific fact that another human being is growing and developing who is also in need of healthcare. They too are due respect, need care and should not have their life ended by and intentionally lethal procedure euphemistically called “choice.” But, the “choice” in question is to cause the death of a young child in the womb. Obviously, no one should have the “choice” to own slaves, and so, no one should claim the choice to kill children in the womb. Abortion is not simply about “choice” in the abstract, it is about what is chosen in reality.
It remains astonishing to me that so many of my fellow Americans, even fellow Catholics, do not grasp or ignore what is really happening in abortion. It is simply wrong to claim the right and choice to kill another human being who has done nothing wrong and is not an aggressor. But many do claim it, and the right they claim is demanded, shouted and celebrated by increasing numbers in the most absolute of ways: no exceptions, no limits, right up to the moment of birth. Abortion, they say, is to be available on demand, no exceptions, no limits and no questions asked. Gone are the days when even the pro-choice movement spoke of abortion as a tragic “need” that should be “safe, legal and rare.” For the extremists, “abortion on demand” is the only acceptable view. And the extremists are gaining in number on the pro-choice side and have commandeered an increasing number of political leaders on the left.
So yes, we must still march, literally and figuratively. Many hearts must still be won, prayers and appeals to conscience must be made. Abortion remains widely available in this land. The overturn of Roe v. Wade may help in local areas where most citizens consider abortion as unconscionable and work with their legislators to reflect that view. But in other states abortion on demand remains a deeply rooted mentality, and citizens with their legislators are crafting laws that remove almost any restrictions on abortion. There is work to do. The Supreme Court ruling has not ended abortion, it has shifted the battlefield where a great battle for souls and consciences must take place. And so we march, we always march.
St. Paul’s task and testimony must remain ours:
Therefore, since God in His mercy has given us this ministry, we do not lose heart. We do not practice deceit, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by open proclamation of the truth, we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor. 4:1-3)