Opinion: Anger no match for joy in March for Life
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Every year, for as long as I can remember, the annual March for Life is about the same: Joyful high-school and college students flood Washington, D.C., in buses. And a few angry counter-protesters show up around the Supreme Court.
I’m pretty used to the routine. And yet, I wasn’t prepared for this year’s annual anti-abortion rally.
“Blood-curdling” comes closest to describing the scene. The anger on display by the small band of pro-choice counter-protesters was so intense that I imagined the terror of hell. The shrieks seemed to be coming out of such deep wounds and mammoth fury.
As the pro-life marchers made their way up Capitol Hill, a group in white and black descended upon the Supreme Court, seemingly bent on drowning out all other voices. At that particular moment, members of the Charismatic Episcopal Church were praying for an end to abortion and those hurt by it. They expressed their love and prayers for those who were screaming at them.
The counter-protesters seemed to have missed that March for Life’s theme this year was about loving both a pregnant woman and her child. They didn’t seem to be interested in the older woman with the “I Regret My Abortion” placard.
The demonstration outside the Court — in all its crude, rude, anger — was a cry out for help, and not in the way intended.
During the same week, Marist polling commissioned by the Knights of Columbus showed that two-thirds of those who describe themselves as pro-choice want some restrictions on abortion. One-third of them, in fact, say that abortion is morally wrong. The “pro-life” label, in other words, doesn’t tell the whole story. People want to know that women in tough situations have the help they need, have choices. Choice should not be pressure to abort. Choice should be what former Cosmo writer Sue Ellen Browder described during a March for Life panel as interconnecting bonds of loving support.
Every year before the March for Life, high school and college students move into the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception adjacent to the campus of the Catholic University of America, my alma mater, where they hold a vigil.
Talking to these students, Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan told the story of a scared mother who left her newborn in the crib of a Nativity display in a Catholic Church in Queens. The mother told a reporter: “I’m very religious, so right away I thought of my church, Holy Child Jesus. I go there a lot, and the priests and people are so good. I just knew if I left him in God’s hands, my baby would be OK. So, I ran into my church and put him in the empty crib. Then he started crying. I just hoped he was warm enough. I hid in the back of church, knowing Father would find my baby and the people would help him.”
Dolan, who is head of the office of the bishops’ conference devoted to pro-life ministry and education, said: “God bless that baby — who I hear is doing well and is named Jose after the foster father of Jesus; God bless that frightened young mom who refused to believe in what Pope Francis has termed our ‘throwaway culture’; God bless Holy Child Jesus Parish in Queens for radiating such a spirit of welcome, joy, warmth and outreach that our Mexican mother spontaneously knew her baby would be safe there; God bless this culture of life!”
It’s that welcome that will end abortion in America. People knowing there is support for those who choose life.
There is nothing more self-destructive than turning in on ourselves, lashing out, doubling down on a politics that pits a mother against her child. The shrill sounds of counter-protest seemed to betray the unhappiness at its heart, especially in such stark contrast with the joy and hope that overflowed from those who want to help, and in many cases provide that help in the work of their everyday lives.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA.
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