I have a standing appointment every January 22, at the place where the most disastrous decision in American history was made. The place is the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, and the decision is Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion. The event is the annual March for Life, joined by tens of thousands of Americans, young and old, of every race, religion, and age.
Why do we march?
*We march to give voice to the children.
If abortions continue, we can be sure they do not continue unopposed. We proudly join our fellow citizens who will walk in our nation's Capitol to give witness to the fact that a policy that allows the killing of thousands of innocent children a day cannot, will not, and must never be accepted passively by the people of any civilized country.
*We march to give voice to pro-life Americans.
On January 22, 1973, the laws of most states protected unborn children from abortion. When Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton were issued that day, however, the will of seven Justices struck down those laws, and ushered in the age of abortion-on-demand. The policy our nation has on abortion has never been voted on by the American people. In fact, that policy contradicts the will of the people as revealed in opinion polls and legislative activity throughout the country. Surveys show that most Americans oppose 99% of the abortions that actually occur. The contradiction between the Courts and the will of the people was most clearly demonstrated in the June 2000 decision, Stenberg v. Carhart, permitting partial-birth abortion. Some 30 states had banned this procedure, not to mention the overwhelming votes of Congress to ban it. Yet the will of one President and five Justices prevented that from happening, and the bloodshed continues.
*We march to challenge mistaken policies of our government.
In the recent words of our United States bishops, "We know that no human government can legitimately deny the right to life or restrict it to certain classes of human beings. Therefore the Court's abortion decisions deserve only to be condemned, repudiated and ultimately reversed" (Abortion and the Supreme Court: Advancing the Culture of Death, November 15, 2000).
No nation can be free if the state is absolute. We still have the freedom in this country to voice our opposition to the policies of the state. That voice must be the conscience of the state. If that voice is not raised, its enemies will move more boldly to silence it. If that voice is silenced, the people are no longer free, but are subject to every decision of those in power. The US Bishops spoke bravely on this point when they wrote, "When American political life becomes an experiment on people rather than for and by them, it will no longer be worth conducting. We are arguably moving closer to that day" (Living the Gospel of Life: A Challenge to American Catholics, 1998).
The March for Life provides the opportunity not only to speak to our elected officials by our presence in the streets, but also to visit their offices and call for legislation to protect the unborn.
*We march to encourage pro-life elected officials.
Those in Congress who support the right to life need to hear from us. They need to see that we are out there in great numbers, so that they can continue their work in fighting abortion.
*We march to encourage one another.
The March for Life is like an annual pro-life family reunion. For pro-life activists, who often only see the people in their own pro-life groups, the March affords an opportunity to interact with activists from around the country. On the day before the March, in fact, there is a pro-life convention, during which expert speakers share their insights and advice about how to make pro-life work even more effective.
*We march to train young leaders.
My first March for Life was in 1976, when I was a senior in High School. That event inspired me to become active in the pro-life movement. Seeing so many people from so many ethnic and religious backgrounds praying, singing, and marching with such faith and determination taught me that this cause is great, urgent, and worthy of my time, energy, and commitment. Each year, more and more young people attend the March for Life, and in fact outnumber the adults! This is a tremendous sign of hope for the movement and for the nation.
A recent LA Times survey revealed that only 8% of the general population have ever been involved in the effort to either end abortion or keep it legal. (By a margin of 7 to 1, most work to end it). The March for Life can help to raise that number. Who knows how many more students will be inspired this January to join the ranks of the pro-life movement!
*We march to be faithful to God.
Some ask whether the March for Life accomplishes anything. It does, as we have already seen. But even if we had no evidence that it does, there is a deeper question: What happens on the inside, in the realm of our relationship to God? By taking part in this event -- or in similar events in our own cities -- we can stand before God and say, "I did speak out; I was not passive in the face of the greatest injustice of our day."