Susanna Spencer has a masters in theology from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is a writer and the theological editor for Blessed is She, and writes on her own blog Living With Lady Philosophy. She is a homeschooling mother of four and lives with her family in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The anniversary of Roe v. Wade has passed us by, the March for Life is over, but the work is not done.
There are still the crisis pregnancies. There are still the mothers not sure if they can take care of the babies in their wombs. There are still the couples using abortifacient contraceptives. There are still the women not willing to make the physical sacrifices of being pregnant, but choosing to act in a way that will bring new human life into existence nonetheless. There are still lonely mothers in need of support from others. The fear and worry surrounding pregnancy that has led to legalized abortion is still rampant in our nation, even though deep down inside we all know that abortion ends a human life.
The March for Life is a beautiful thing. It reminds our nation of the tragedy of millions of lives lost through abortion. It reminds our political leaders that our nation needs to stop the legal murder of the unborn. And in some cases it might change peoples’ hearts or give them the courage to speak up for a cause they have never been able to before. But the real work of the pro-life movement happens during the rest of the year.
I once wrote about how various government aids (such a WIC and the Earned Income Credit) helped my husband and me afford to have children in our early marriage. I wrote about how a Catholic charity gave us a changing table for our first baby, and how a Catholic parish allowed me to bring my baby to work with me so that I could still contribute to our family income. These experiences taught me how we are really going to save these babies. We are going to save them through changing hearts and making it possible for women and families to provide for the needs of their children, born and unborn. The real work of the pro-life movement happens in the heart of one person at a time through the love and care of people who do real, concrete things for mothers and families in need.
When a mother knows that her child will have the basic necessities of life, she is no longer afraid for his future. When supportive, loving people who will be there for her in the long term surround a mother, she is more willing to make the sacrifices required in motherhood. When a mother knows her baby is wanted by others, is not a burden to society, but is a joy, she, too, takes joy in her child. When a mother and father believe that having a baby is good and that this child’s very existence makes the universe more perfect, then their hearts have been changed. And this change of heart is what our country needs.
The anniversary of Roe v. Wade is always a good reminder for me that I need to do more to change the hearts of our fellow citizens and to support mothers in crisis pregnancies.
Here are a few ways to be pro-life everyday:
(1) Know about Crisis Pregnancy Centers in your area. The pro-life movement has done an impressive job with creating a safe place for women. These centers provide women things like free medical care, clothing, diapers, pregnancy tests, help toward giving up a child for adoption, Natural Family Planning training, and so much more. If you know where they are, then you can use the information to help women in need.
(2) Support Crisis Pregnancy Centers through volunteering and donations. These people know how to help mothers, and they love your help. Maybe all you are able to do is donate money. Or perhaps you have some gently used baby items to give away. Or maybe you passed a clothing clearance rack and thought how nice it would be for a mother in need to have some nice new clothes for her baby. Or maybe you are at a stage in life where you have extra time to give, or maybe God is calling you to make time to help. These centers are the places where women receive real help. Find out what they need by giving them a call or checking their websites.
(3) Support your local food pantry and thrift stores. Sometimes the crisis happens after the children are already born. My elderly neighbor volunteers many hours a week at a food pantry. She told me recently about how they serve thousands of families in my neighborhood, and the thought of that made me realize how little I do to help the poor I live in the same city as. These people are like Lazarus on my doorstep, and my blissful ignorance was like the rich man who overlooked Lazarus.
The more children we have had, the harder it gets to clothe, feed and house them all. If a family feels that they have some place to go in need, then they will feel more able to care for the babies of unplanned pregnancies. As pro-lifers, we must care for the needs of all people, born and unborn.
(4) Express gratitude and encouragement to families for bringing their children out in public, especially to church. There is nothing more encouraging to a young family at church than when someone comes up and compliments their children and their family. There is nothing more discouraging after a long, tumultuous Mass in the pew for someone to come up and make them feel unwelcome. In the various social media groups I am a part of I hear stories from upset mothers far too often. If we really are a pro-life Church, then as Christians we are obliged to welcome children and their parents no matter how loud and disruptive the children are.
This is the same concept when it comes to in restaurants, grocery stores, the library and museums. If we say that we value every human life, then let’s value it even if it is giving us a headache or distracting us from our prayer. God would rather us love the child at that moment than feel mad that we cannot focus on prayer. When a parent hears that others in the community value their child, they will learn to value him more as well. And they will be able to in their turn, encourage others parents.
(5) Offer to babysit. Parents need a break to restore their energy and care for themselves, and babysitting costs are often prohibitive on a limited income. Several times in my last pregnancy friends offered to help watch my children so that I could go to important appointments without four other little people in the exam room. I do not have relatives in town so it is hard for me to get to these appointments sometimes. Another great time to help is when the mother is in labor. If you are able, being available to watch children is a great way to support mothers in need.
(6) Pray for the end of abortion and the conversion of hearts. Pray everyday: in your home, at church, with your friends, with your family. Do penance in reparation for the sin of abortion along with your prayer. Take part in the 40 Days for Life campaign when it is near your home. Learn how to sidewalk-counsel women who are considering abortion.
These are just a few ways we can work to be more pro-life, and help to change the hearts of the people of our nation. But the last thing I want to suggest is that you pray and ask God how he wants you to help bring about the end of abortion. Ask him and listen to his response. Ask for courage and charity in all that you do to help save the lives of the unborn and support their parents in their time of need. I would love to hear your ideas on how to lovingly change hearts.