Mary Elizabeth Sedeño of Dallas: The sanctity
of every life
By Mary Elizabeth Sedeño
Dallas Morning News
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Over the past year, young people have received much attention for their
involvement in the presidential campaigns, showing that youth can be a powerful
force. On another front, tens of thousands of youths across the country have
become involved in an issue just as important to them as a presidential campaign
– the pro-life movement – and are showing that their voices and actions are just
as passionate as those on the campaign trail. And, we believe, we're also
changing the hearts of many people.
Still, it seems the media refuse to pay any attention to this particular form
of activism among young people.
Along with dozens of others from Dallas, I experienced the vibrancy of the
pro-life movement in mid-January during the 35th Annual March for Life in
Washington, D.C. More than 200,000 people gathered around the Washington Mall to
pray for life, but what stood out for me was the large number of high school and
college-age students who were there, huddled in the cold, holding hands, praying
It re-emphasized to me that these are young people with conviction, not "weirdos,"
as many times we're stereotyped because of our stance.
A recent report from the Guttmacher Institute says that the number of
abortions has dropped to 1.2 million a year. That's down 25 percent from a peak
in 1990, according to the organization that supports abortions, but whose
statistics are accepted as reliable even by many pro-life groups.
Some would say that the decline can be traced back to the morning-after pill
that induces miscarriage. But maybe it's because more and more women who become
pregnant and are thinking of an abortion are being changed because of prayer and
counseling. They realize, like pregnant teenage actress Jaime Lynn Spears, that
adoption is an answer.
Earlier this month, I joined more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of
youths, at Bishop Farrell's Pro-Life dinner. We heard from the bishop, from an
unwed high school student who chose to have her child and from Father Frank
Pavone, one of the country's leading voices on pro-life. His message was that
the youth, as influencers in our generation, are key to spreading the pro-life
message across the country and that we have been successful in that effort. The
sanctity of life is surely one of the issues that drew thousands of young
Americans to celebrate Mass and even meet in small groups this weekend with Pope
For me, pro-life also is a personal mission, driven by my sister Rachel.
In the first few weeks that my mother was pregnant with her, doctors told my
parents that the baby had a major heart defect and that she had Down Syndrome.
They were told that surgery could correct the heart defect, but that Down
Syndrome would require constant care. Abortion, they were told, was an option.
Although they were shocked to hear the news, I remember my parents telling us
that abortion was never an option and that they would welcome Rachel as happily
into the world as my "normal" brothers and me. Complications forced Rachel to be
delivered early on May 8, 1997. She weighed only 2 pounds and spent nearly the
next four months in the hospital, gaining weight so she could have heart
She came home for a month, but on the morning of Oct. 22, just as my parents
were taking Rachel to the hospital for surgery, I remember waking up and begging
them not to take her because, I said, I would never see her again.
Later that night, my parents told us that Rachel had died in their arms after
surgery. I cried all night long. We were all devastated.
After her death, my parents, their friends and other organizations created a
garden at St. Thomas Aquinas to remember the "little angels."
I'll always remember Rachel. Many like her, either "not normal" or unwanted
because their parents were young, unmarried or poor, I'm sure, have not been
given a chance at life.
Whenever I visit the garden, I pray for them and always read the inscription
on the plaque to inspire me.
It says of Rachel, in part, "...her courageous battle for life inspired
community prayer and reaffirmed that every life, despite the hardships, is
precious and should be protected."
Mary Elizabeth Sedeño is a junior at the Cambridge School of
Dallas and a Student Voices volunteer columnist.