Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963:
"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'"
More than 50 years later, his niece Alveda King, a pro-life activist, asks this follow-up question:
"How can the dream survive if we murder our children?"
If you're truly "pro-life, you'll embrace every life with compassion," King told about 200 people at a talk Oct. 28 at St. Louis University. The event was hosted by SLU's Students for Life and the archdiocesan Respect Life Apostolate.
King, director of African-American outreach with Priests for Life, shared her first-hand experience of having two abortions. Three months after her first child was born in 1970, King believed she was pregnant again. Back then, there were no ultrasounds or simple pregnancy tests routinely used to confirm a pregnancy.
Her doctor performed an exam for King's "mysterious female ailment" — a D&C. (D&C stands for dialation and curettage, a procedure for clearing the lining of the uterus.)
Shortly after, King and her husband separated. In 1973, the same year of the Roe vs. Wade decision, she was pregnant again. Her doctor told her she didn't need to be having another baby and performed another D&C.
By this time, King was harboring anger inside her. Her body had been through changes because of the abortions. "I was hiding a lot inside," she said. She and her husband divorced.
King started dating someone else. When she became pregnant, she sought an abortion. Her boyfriend didn't want her to go through with it. King's grandfather told her: "That's not a lump of flesh — that's my great-grandchild. Have the baby, we'll help you."
It was the wake-up call she needed.
Even though she had success in life — she was a state legislator, appeared in movies and built an empire with her husband — something was missing. King examined her life and began to talk to God about the secrets — the "family business" — and the void she was feeling after the abortions. It was life-changing.
King was teaching a college-level business law course. In a discussion on morals and ethics, she questioned her class whether America has gone too far.
"A woman has a right to choose what she does with her body. But the baby's not her body? Where's the lawyer for the baby? How can the dream survive if we murder our children?"
In the late 1990s, King met Father Frank Pavone — founder of pro-life organization Priests for Life — at a conference. In 2005, King became coordinator of African American outreach.
In a Q&A session after her talk, King stressed that we are "one blood," meaning we are united as human beings. The color of our skin is just what's on top. The pro-life movement, she said, has become so much more loving and kind. Pro-lifers must remain vigilant in remembering the humanity of what we're trying to protect. People sometimes would rather throw money at the situation, or listen to others. We must be compassionate and loving toward all human beings.
"There's so much room for dehumanization," she said.
Answering a question about the unrest in Ferguson, King reminded the audience that her uncle said that all people — not just black or white — are created equal. "We need to approach all life with compassion," she said. "Love absolutely never fails in any situation."