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BY Helen AlvarÈ
J It's been a busy couple of weeks in Washington, D.C. Since the moment the story broke about the latest possible scandal at the White House, it's been hard to get news about any other subject. Even coverage of the Holy Father's amazing addresses to the Cuban people was sadly truncated.
So, there was little chance that the annual March for Life, marking 25 years of legal abortion on demand, was going to be prominently featured in national or local news. For those of you who couldn't make it to Washington, a few snapshots of the 25th annual March:
Just Keep Walking Ma'am: For those of you who saw national newscasts in which it appeared that equal numbers of pro-life and pro-abortion protesters were on hand to mark the day, a news flash. The ratio was about 3,333 to one. Pro-life marchers numbered about 100,000. There were about 30 four-letter-word-screaming protesters from a group called “Cease and Desist.”
In past years, I have comfortably slowed down during the March to chat with one of the thousand or so pro-lifers I have met in my travels. This year, because the crowd was so dense, I couldn't so much as lean down to pick up a dropped glove for fear of being trampled. That made me very happy.
The Next Generation Has Arrived: I have seen the next generation of pro-life messages, and they are very cool! Several groups of protesters in the March were young men and women in their 20s wearing amazing amounts of leather, dark glasses, and pierced everythings. They carried a sleek banner in black and white that said simply “Abortion is Mean.” Another protester—bald and wearing only jeans and sneakers—was “tattooed” with pro-life messages on his back.
About 700 students from the Franciscan University at Steubenville marched in complete silence save for the recitation of the rosary. At a certain point in their prayers, pall bearers carrying 25 small, black coffins—each marked with a year from 1973 to 1998—would stop in silence, and fall on their knees.
So, just in case there are any pro-life people wondering if there is any new way to communicate the pro-life message to the next generation—relax. They're already doing a creative job of it.
Hope Springs Eternal: This is true when you have surrendered the final authority over the pro-life struggle to the Eternal One himself. At the vigil Mass before the March and at the March itself, an air of confidence and quiet wisdom were palpable.
Why was this so—when abortion on demand is still so much with us?
In conversations with pro-life people, it seemed that the answer really did lie in Mother Teresa's famous words: God calls us to be faithful, not successful.
Here were people conscious that they were pursuing good work, in the company of good people—and leaving to God what would be its final fruits. Were I an abortion advocate, patience and fidelity such as this on the part of my opponents would scare me silly.
The Handle and the Sword: For decades now, pro-life people have been telling anyone who would listen of the dangers of abortion, to the mother as well as the child. Now more and more post-aborted women are speaking for themselves. In the words of one woman whose writing was featured on the bishops' pro-life exhibit in Washington: “Everything I read on abortion before I experienced it told me that women do not suffer depression or regret afterwards…. I could expect to feel relieved…. Where did they get that from? I will never be the same again.”
Remembrance of these women is clearly deeply ingrained into the pro-life movement. From their banners and their conversation, clearly, a desire to spare mothers this awful loss and deep sorrow are part and parcel of what animates them. We have spent time over two decades with post-aborted women, and are acutely aware that the handle is as dangerous as the sword.
So many of the activists with whom I spoke last week were amused at various newspaper accounts indicating that the pro-life movement had just “discovered” women. Uhhuh. That's why we've been serving them at thousands of crisis pregnancy centers for more than 25 years, and why we offer non-judgmental post-abortion reconciliation.
Since the pro-abortion movement is not making much sense to women these days—endorsing partial-birth abortions, condemning Promise Keepers, etc.—maybe the prolife movement stands a better chance than ever of reaching out to more and more women.
Helen Alvaré is director of planning and information, Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, National Conference of Catholic Bishops.