In a few days, hundreds of thousands of pro-life Americans will converge on Washington, San Francisco, and other cities across the country to march in support of the right to life of the unborn. The theme of this year’s March for Life in Washington is “Life Empowers: Pro-Life is Pro-Woman.”
I’m glad that March organizers have decided to emphasize the connection between the pro-life cause and true feminism. The timing couldn’t be better, coming so soon after millions of people watched that simultaneously vile and heart-breaking speech by actress Michelle Williams at the Golden Globe awards.
After winning the Golden Globe Award for best actress in a miniseries or television film, Williams used her acceptance speech to celebrate the “right to choose.” Williams, who is currently pregnant, said that she is “grateful” to “have lived in a moment in our society where choice exists, because as women and as girls, things can happen to our bodies that are not our choice.” She then said she wouldn’t have been able to be in her current position, winning the award she won, “without employing a woman’s right to choose.”
Presumably, Williams was saying that at some point in her career she had gotten an abortion, and that she believes that without getting that abortion, she could not have succeeded as an actress. Her speech struck me as both tragic and deeply revelatory.
Contemporary feminism claims to be fighting for “equality” for women; and yet here was a woman on stage, at that very moment nourishing new life within her, claiming that the ability to have one of her previous babies killed was critical to her ability to succeed. I fail to see how this is equality. To me it looks a great deal like servility. Indeed, it seems to me that a true feminist would have used the opportunity to draw attention to the misogynism inherent in the pressure so often put on women to do violence to their own bodies and those of their unborn children simply in order to meet society’s narrow definition of “success.”
One trenchant cartoon making the rounds after Williams’ speech showed the actress clutching her award, saying “I won.” Next to her was a woman cradling her newborn baby saying, “No. I won.” That sums up Williams’ error perfectly.
Sadly, as Williams confessed to having to end the life of her child in order to succeed in Hollywood, the assembled VIPs applauded. The whole episode provided a stark example of the lack of sensibility that still exists toward the violence of abortion and the callous embrace of murder in order to further one’s social and economic prosperity. It also highlighted how so many of the “elites” in our society have enthusiastically embraced abortion and are willing to fight to the bitter end to protect this “right.” That glittering array of powerful media juggernauts and multi-millionaires passionately applauding the death of an unborn child – that’s what we in the pro-life movement are up against.
The Paradox of the March for Life
When the U.S. Supreme Court unilaterally legalized abortion in 1973, shocked pro-life Americans had to scramble to mount an organized resistance to the new abortion regime. Many of the leaders in the early pro-life movement assumed that abortion would be short-lived, and that they would be out of a job in a few years – which is precisely how they wanted it. Clearly, the Supreme Court had erred grievously. All that was necessary was to show the American people the grotesque reality of abortion and to rally pro-life legislators, and in short order Roe v. Wade would be overturned, or a pro-life constitutional amendment passed.
One year after Roe v. Wade, however, with legal abortion still the law of the land and concerned the anniversary would pass unnoticed, lawyer Nellie Gray assembled some pro-life leaders, deciding to organize the first March for Life in Washington D.C. Thousands of ordinary pro-life Americans came out to show Washington that they would not stand for legalized child killing in our country. Nellie, a pro-life warrior who gave up her job to work full-time organizing the March and lobbying for life once stated: “We will be here till we overturn Roe vs. Wade. And believe me, we are going to overturn Roe vs. Wade!”
The March for Life that will happen later this week is the forty-seventh annual March. Forty-seven marches marking forty-seven long years of the legalized slaughter of the most innocent among us.
There is a paradox at the heart of this March: on the one hand, its continued existence is a tragic memorial to the failure of the American people to stand against one of the great injustices of history; on the other hand, the March’s continued growth and youthful energy stand as a beacon of hope and a testimony to just how much the pro-life movement has accomplished in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
I would bet that first year none of the organizers of the first March for Life imagined that 47 years later we would still be marching to the Supreme Court, demanding justice for the unborn; on the other hand, I doubt they imagined that first cobbled-together protest would be succeeded by decades of increasingly massive marches that would be addressed by presidents, vice presidents, and innumerable congressmen and supported by popes, or that the March would prove to be an event that inspired countless people to respond to God’s call and dedicate their whole lives to the fight against the violence of abortion.
Indeed, the March encapsulates the great paradox of the pro-life movement: As the longest-running annual protest in Washington D.C., the March is a visible embodiment of arguably the longest-running, largest, and best-organized social justice movement in history, comprised of some of the saintliest, most-sacrificial individuals I will ever have the privilege to know; and as the longest-running annual protest, it is a reminder that grave injustice has sunk its teeth into the heart of our country and culture, and that there remains so, so much more to do.
Give All and Leave the Victory to God
I highlight this paradox, because it is precisely this paradox that we must, in a sense, bear within our hearts if we are to be successful in this fight. Sometimes you will hear pro-life speakers promise that we will “end abortion” in our lifetimes. That is my hope and prayer too. And indeed, we may well do just that!
On the other hand, we cannot underestimate the extent to which the Culture of Death has infiltrated the very foundations of our culture, seeping into its bloodstream, rearranging social structures and relationships to accommodate its diabolical principles. Given this, we should be wary of placing our hopes in a quick or easy victory. Our God is a God of miracles, and we may well see the sudden collapse of the abortion regime when we least expect it, just as we saw the sudden fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, spelling the rapid demise of the atheistic Soviet Union.
On the other hand, we must steel ourselves for the long siege, and not measure our success solely by whether or not we have, for example, succeeded in overturning Roe v. Wade. Every life saved from the horror of abortion is an immeasurable victory, and every woman spared a lifetime’s regret and grief is a cause for gratitude and celebration. Even if we have not won the great victory for which we hope, the pro-life movement is winning.
Every day of the week, innumerable pro-life victories are taking place, thanks to the presence of pro-life individuals in pregnancy help centers, outside abortion clinics, and in the courtrooms and legislatures of our country where, bit by bit, the legal regime of the Culture of Death is being chipped away at, paving the path for the bigger victories which will hopefully spell the end of legal abortion in our country.
In the Gospel story, the woman throws a party for all her neighbours when she discovers the lost coin. How much more do we have cause to celebrate when we hear of the thousands of lives saved during the 40 Days for Life campaigns, or of the countless post-abortive men and women who have found spiritual and psychological healing thanks to the post-abortive ministries?
Indeed, there is great cause for celebration and hope right now, with poll numbers showing a growing pro-life consensus in our country, with an administration that has enthusiastically supported every pro-life initiative presented to it, with a sudden glut of pro-life judges (including, we hope, in the Supreme Court) appointed by that same administration, and the astonishing number of pro-life laws passed at the state level. Encouragingly, the statistics show that the number of abortions are at historic lows in this country! The only reason any of these victories are possible is the immense sacrifices of so many pro-life warriors these past 47 years.
Here is another paradox of the March for Life: We come together to mourn the deaths of millions of unborn babies, and yet the atmosphere at the March is one of a great, joyful party! This is as it should be. The pro-life movement is a band of scrappy, happy warriors. We know that the cause we fight for is right, we know that God is on our side and that the victory is assured, and we have growing, lively families with joyful youth who want nothing to do with the nihilism of our age. I hope that this week you will join me and so many others at one of these great celebrations of life: whether in Washington, San Francisco, or in one of the many towns and cities hosting their own local events. Come out, and let your voice be heard!
Please God, we will not have to do this for another 47 years; but for now, we need every single pro-life person in this country to show up to a March for Life, to let our legislators, judges, and powerful elite know that even if they force us to do this for another 47 years, we are passionately committed to the cause and will not ignore or duty to defend the most vulnerable of our race. We’re not going anywhere, we won’t give up, until every human being’s right to life is respected in law and in society.