I was among the hundreds of thousands who traveled to Washington D.C. for the 2013 March for Life on January 25.
My teenage daughter won an essay contest at our parish, the Basilica of St. John in Des Moines, and the pro-life group there sponsored her to attend, along with me as her chaperone on the trip with Iowans for LIFE.
It was a gift from God.
I’d never been to the March. I had wanted to take her for years but it’s never been a good time financially to do so. The blessing of being given the March experience provided ample perspective as to what pro-life people will do and how they will sacrifice to stand up for life.
As a practicing Catholic, being pro-life comes with the package by definition.
The black-and-white nature of the life issue was imprinted on me for the first time back when I was a little girl, and my mother, as many Catholic mothers at the time did, donned a gold bracelet with a charm that had a black and white image of an unborn child. Alongside the child on the charm were the words, “January 22, 1973 – Black Monday.”
An otherwise beautiful piece of jewelry also displayed the grim reality of Roe v. Wade. It spoke the truth about abortion, and really, it said it all: Life is beautiful, taking it is evil.
When I asked, my mother explained the purpose of her bracelet. It was difficult, no, it was inconceivable, for me to understand how such a thing was possible, legal or not.
Forty years and 55 million lost lives later, in the face of pervasive cultural denial of the humanity of the unborn, the disregard for the sanctity of life through legislative and judicial complicity, and alongside a multi-billion-dollar for-profit abortion industry that enjoys criminal absence of regulation; it still makes no sense.
Being pro-life was and remains a no-brainer for people of faith, people of morals and for anyone who employs intellectual honesty.
The only question for me has been, how immersed in the fight to uphold the sanctity of life I could be at any given time of my life.
Sure, I’ve been a pew-sitter, talking the talk only. Thanks to God, in more recent years I’ve been blessed to become more on the front-line on several levels, and decidedly committed.
There’s intellectually and principally pro-life, and then there’s personally and spiritually pro-life.
You might be going along, operating from the right side of things, and you’re thinking it’s all good, and yet God more often than not has a way of bringing you even further in his direction with your convictions. And that only happens through his allowing you to share in his son’s cross.
I was told as a teenager I probably couldn’t have kids and may have to adopt or consider fertility drugs. I didn’t flinch at the time, as marriage and children were not even on my radar.
Fast forward, I’m now married and have been blessed (and surprised) with three of my own biological children here on earth. Becoming a parent has been the most profound experience of my life.
I thought that this brought me to another level of being pro-life. It sure did, but God’s had so much more in mind, and I’ve had to keep reminding myself to be ready.
We’ve also lost two children before birth. Nothing prepared me for that any more than anything could have prepared me for having children in the first place.
There was a several-year gap from our youngest living child and these two children, and I was beyond the age that our contraception-soaked culture largely regards as reasonable for child-bearing when they came into being.
Despite my non-concern for what people would say, past-40 parents who are open to life can still meet with ridicule and even judgment, so this was there, along with all of the by-definition practical concerns, and it tipped the scale toward my feeling very vulnerable at the time.
For the first time I faced fear, doubt. And for a lightning-fast moment, I knew what it felt like to be in a crisis pregnancy.
The myth that pro-lifers only care about the baby and not the mother aggravates me to no end. Anyone who puts forth that nonsense is either grossly miss-informed or actively engaged in slandering the pro-life movement.
No one needs to be telling the millions of pro-lifers who volunteer, donate, give of themselves in service, and pray; that they don’t care about the mother in a crisis pregnancy. They do what they do at great cost to themselves and with no material benefit, because they love them both.
While there are tons of people infinitely more involved in pro-life work than me, I’ve certainly had compassion for mothers who are unsure about how to provide for their unborn children.
Yet God saw fit to take me to a new level of compassion with that short bout of doubtful feelings I had with the pregnancy, and he brought me even further when that child and his younger sister went to heaven before they were born.
I lost the first child before I knew intellectually and medically that he was gone. For that month or so length of time I was consumed with overwhelming feelings of not only vulnerability, but melancholy as well.
I knew in my heart he was gone before I knew it in my head. So much for the unborn child not being a member of humanity.
My two youngest children may be in heaven, but they are also in my heart, and they got on the bus for Washington D.C. with me and their older sister to go and be part of the March.
Taking the bus accentuates the pilgrimage.
We had dangerous weather overnight on the way out, and a just about four-hour wait in an Indiana McDonald’s rest stop when one bus broke down coming home. There’s close quarters for lengths of time with some-60 people and all that entails.
But there’s also prayer, singing, pro-life films, camaraderie and conversation with people who love life.
Countless events surround the March. Meetings, panel discussions, rallies, speakers, vigils and Masses, are everywhere. You can’t possibly get to it all.
You may have read or heard that the March experience itself is a cold one. Well it IS cold. Those hours in the frigid January air are part of the March pilgrimage just as is the bus ride.
Marchers truly believe this is about sharing in the suffering of their unborn brothers and sister in Christ, along with everyone who has been devastated by abortion.
The people, the joy for life, are something to take in. It’s difficult to describe floating along in that sea of humanity.
If you’re paying attention to this issue, you know that the largest annual gathering in the nation’s capital is virtually ignored or completely miss-reported by the secular and other liberal media. I was told one report had March numbers at more than 700,000 people this year. I believe that.
The last few years were at 500,000 and the regular marchers I talked to said they noticed the crowd was markedly bigger. The 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the passing away in August at age 88 of March founder Nellie Gray made this March even more important to many.
It occurred to me as we marched, watching the police escorts, that law enforcement certainly had to prepare for the real number of marchers, not the imaginary figures reported in the press.
While I had my work cut out for me during the March, keeping visual contact with my daughter and her boyfriend in the crowd, taking as many photos as I could, and trying not to lose our group, it was still powerful.
This massive crowd of people behaved better than any crowd of any size I’ve ever been in for any event.
The only ugliness I encountered was when we reached the Supreme Court and the requisite token showing of protesters – you know the ones, the dozen or so who end up constituting the totality of secular media coverage – attempted to shout down exuberant marchers and block abortion survivors who were speaking for the Silent No More awareness campaign.
Otherwise; young, happy people everywhere.
I interviewed young people from around the country, and they get it.
They were all resolute in their support for life and their mission to see the end of Roe v. Wade. Many said they believe they will see it in their lifetime. These kids don’t just want to end abortion, they want us to get back to a culture of life overall. They understand the dignity of every human life.
Young people were the stars of the day, but I also saw people of all ages, one pushing her own walker, another being pushed along in her wheelchair, families with young children walking and in strollers. It was beautiful.
At one point as we passed the many government buildings along Constitution Avenue, knowing that so many public servants inside those walls worked at being oblivious to us as we marched on that day, and to the life issue every day, I actually had the thought, “Is this doing any good?” The pro-life witness was so big, so many sacrificed so much to come and stand up, and yet, so many in power are so blind.
The thought passed quickly. God knows what’s going on in and outside his house.
The trip was fraught with mishaps for us. Delays, a missed event, the fullness of some things hampered or reduced, all resulted from unforeseen things out of our control.
As a mother working to usher in the next phase of my daughter’s growth in faith through her support for life, and as someone convicted in the sanctity of God’s gift of life making it to the largest pro-life mobilization in history for the first time, I could have been upset by how some parts of the trip played out. I’m also someone who loves to travel and see new things, and I am a patriot who was visiting the capital for the first time, not to mention a journalist through it all.
I was and remain at peace about the course of our March trip. I’m happy and blessed to say that the truth of the March for Life as a pilgrimage remains at the forefront. We saw and took in precisely what God wanted us to.
Two consistent themes from those who’ve attended the March is that it changes lives, and that it inspires pro-life people, instilling in them that they’re not alone in the fight, enabling them to return home energized. March pilgrims invite others to come and experience the same; tempered of course with the prayer that someday we won’t have the need to march anymore, unless it’s in celebration of a victory for life.
As my daughter and I continue to process what we’ve been witness to, the next question to be answered will be, How does the Lord want us to use it?