March for Life 2020
Comment: The Fundamental Reason Roe Must be Overturned
by Richard Stith
Roe v. Wade has done much more than legalize abortion up to birth. By making abortion a constitutional right, our Supreme Court has validated and legitimated abortion.
In a presumptively just society, like ours, an individual citizen has a right to rely on the Supreme Court’s judgment. It seems to me perfectly reasonable for an abortion-minded woman to think that she doesn’t need to worry about the biological data, or the moral debates, since abortion must be okay. She could think, “If abortion were really killing a little baby, those nine wise guys on the court (who are a lot smarter than me) would never have permitted it for a relatively minor (or no) reason.” That’s how I would reason if I came upon a bridge that looked somewhat unstable, but which had been certified as safe by the Army Corps of Engineers. At least if I were under pressure, I would almost certainly trust the engineers and not do any further investigation myself before using the bridge.
By contrast, legislatures that approve abortion along the lines of Roe, such as New York or Illinois, have much less credibility. Someone considering abortion is much less likely to defer to their judgment.
Only if Roe is reversed are many of our fellow citizens likely to face up to their own consciences in all seriousness.
Photos and stories from the March for Life 2020
Top: Rehumanize International at their meet-up before the March started.
Bottom: Franciscan peace activists.
At the end of the pro-life March, there was a small band of counter-protesters stalwartly standing for choice in the midst of a sea of pro-lifers, who were trying to tell them they didn’t belong there. I went over to one young woman who had a “Shout your abortion” t-shirt on, and I opened with my favorite greeting “We’re glad YOU got to be born!” She responded with a broad smile. Then I went over to a man who had just told the pro-lifers that they thought women were mere incubators. I also told him I was glad HE got to be born. He responded with a smile and a thank you.
I truly believe that this greeting, uttered orally or placed on a t-shirt, is a wonderful way to reach out to the other side. It’s friendly and yet, if they think about it, it makes them realize that if they’re happy to be born, others would also be happy to be allowed to be born.
Note that it is important to say I’m glad YOU “got to be” born, rather than I’m glad you “were” born. The words “got to be” imply that they existed prior to birth and made it to birth.
Rosemarie & Richard Stith, Tony Masalonis, Rachel MacNair
I had exhilarating conversations with so many people. One that shows how crucial it is for us to be there was in a session on Elections at the Students for Life conference held the day after the March (a perfect place to leaflet about our Peace & Life Referendums project). One presenter occasionally referred to watching out for what the Left would do. I went up to him afterward and introduced myself as a member of the pro-life Left. He was delighted and acknowledged he was well aware a pro-life Left exists.
Actually, I don’t care for the Left/Right distinction at all; I don’t find it helpful. But for those who insist on the dichotomy and use that vocabulary, the Left is where I go.
And in this election year when dividing up into two “sides” is worse than usual, it’s important that we be there for the bridge-building. Just as we’re the most credible people to present a pro-life case in peace-movement venues, we’re also the most credible people to offer peace and justice ideas to pro-life activists, especially since so many are eager to hear them.
Amanda Putman, a student in Denton, Texas, came by our table with this sign she had made.
Representing the Consistent Life Network (CLN) at the 2020 March for Life involved many good and memorable experiences. The two most striking encounters came at the very beginning and the end of the day of the March.
I had the great pleasure, the morning of the March, to attend the breakfast sponsored by CLN member group Democrats for Life of America. The featured speaker was Lesley Monet, the international director of the Family Life Campaign of the Church of God in Christ. The Church of God in Christ is a major network of black churches in the United States, and its work includes pro-life activism. Lesley spoke about this pro-life work, as well as this work’s connection to her personal experience. Lesley is the child of a single mother who carried her to term despite difficult circumstances and subsequently arranged for a couple to adopt Lesley.
Several remarks from her talk made a particular impression on me. She noted that black women of child-bearing age make up a disproportionately large percentage of the women having abortions, accounting for roughly a third of all abortions. Lesley also noted that black Americans’ political affiliation tends overwhelmingly to be Democratic. These figures were not news to me, but the conclusion she drew from them was pointed and striking. Ending abortion in the United States should involve the black community and (although Lesley identifies as an independent) should also involve the Democratic Party.
Lesley also made valuable comments on the importance of persistence and working with other groups, even those very different from our own. Persistence requires you to communicate your message repeatedly and to try to get people, especially politicians, to listen. Working with others requires not merely getting past philosophical disagreements but cultural or stylistic differences. We are most naturally comfortable working with people like ourselves, but that is something we need to get past to build a coalition for a common goal.
The other most memorable encounter I had during the March for Life came at the very end of the day. I was staffing the Consistent Life exhibit table at the March for Life expo. I was tired and the event seemed to be winding down. Then a man stopped by the table.
He was an older white man, from Kentucky, and I reflexively thought “He doesn’t seem like someone who will be interested in our message.” Still, I gave my standard speech about who we were and what the consistent life ethic was. He listened, and then we got to talking.
The man was a retired Marine, who had served during the Vietnam era and recalled getting hostile reactions to his uniform and military service. His son had also served in the military and done two tours of duty in Iraq. In short, he did not fit the stereotypical profile of a peace activist. Yet his son’s experiences, combined with his own observations, had recently led the man to an anti-war stance.
He described his extreme skepticism about whether American intervention could bring peace and democracy to the Middle East, as well as his equally extreme disappointment in contemporary politicians of both parties. The approach he now favored was to bring the troops home.
I was surprised, to put it mildly, but also touched to hear his reflections and grateful he shared them. He also shared, in passing, that his wife and priest had managed to change his position on the death penalty to opposition. We chatted for a while, and I gave him some Consistent Life literature. Meanwhile, he gave me a much-needed reminder that you never know who might support a consistent life ethic.