Martin Luther King’s Dream Is Our Dream

1 foundation girds both the civil-rights movement and the pro-life movement.

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Msgr. Charles Owen Rice march to the United Nations in New York.
Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Msgr. Charles Owen Rice march to the United Nations in New York. (photo: 1967 CNS photo from Pittsburgh Catholic)

Just seven days separate the commemoration of two of the most important dates in the history of the United States.

Jan. 15, 1929, was the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. For the last 25 years, it has been celebrated as a national holiday.

Jan. 22, 1973, marks the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which, together with that same day’s Doe v. Bolton decision, guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion on demand, for any reason, through all nine months of pregnancy. For the last 38 years, it has been marked by pro-lifers from coast to coast as a day of mourning. To the shame of our nation, it is also celebrated by some as a victory.

These two historic dates might seem to have no obvious connection, and yet they are deeply intertwined. Martin Luther King devoted his life — indeed, lost his life — fighting the inequality imposed on his people by segregation. Roe v. Wade has wounded our nation as well, and we continue to fight the inequality imposed on our youngest children by abortion.

This wound, perpetuated by slogans invoking freedom, has proven to be freedom’s very antithesis. It has destroyed human bodies and enslaved human souls. It has unleashed violence against human life on a scale matched by no war or act of terrorism, by no disease or condition of poverty. Neither AIDS nor drug abuse, neither gang violence nor guns, neither racial tension nor international tension, neither infant mortality nor old age, has caused as much death and destruction as this single wound on America: the wound of legal abortion.

Jesus Christ prayed that all his followers would be one, and that means we are all called to work together to fight injustice. King recognized that. While he proclaimed a message of the equality and dignity of all men and women, he also preached about the centrality of love and forgiveness and the vital role of prayer. Love, forgiveness and prayer fuel our efforts as we work to heal the gaping wound of abortion.

We extend mercy to the physicians who have committed abortion and the women who have subjected themselves to it. We reach out with love to the women who are facing unplanned pregnancies as much as we love their unborn children. We pray for those who have become so misguided that they mistake choice for freedom.

The foundation of the civil-rights movement and the pro-life movement is one foundation: the sacredness and dignity of the person, the inviolable right to life, the equality of all people inside and outside of the womb. Martin Luther King’s dream is our dream.

My prayer, during these seven days in January, is that all who believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ will recommit themselves to making that dream come true for all God’s children.

Father Frank Pavone is national director of Priests for Life.