“Babies are loud, smelly, and expensive, unless you really want one” – this Planned Parenthood billboard ran many years ago and it captured succinctly the disordered beliefs of Margaret Sanger, who founded Planned Parenthood in 1916 (it was called the National Birth Control League until 1942). Many people who saw those billboards knew there was another side of the coin, namely that “babies are also adorable, cuddly, and precious even if you don’t want one.”
It was early in my teaching career that I took a tangible step in my pro-life convictions, and going on the March for Life was an integral part. It was January of 2002 and I was teaching at Assumption High School in Wisconsin Rapids. In those days the diocese had not yet organized its own pilgrimage, so we travelled to Washington, D.C. with a group from Pro-Life Wisconsin. Many memories stand out from that pilgrimage (I was blessed to go nine more times), not the least of which was the sheer number of people who showed up.
In those days there were always at least 200,000 who peacefully marched in protest of Roe vs. Wade. Now the numbers often exceed a half million, but you wouldn’t know it unless someone tells you about it personally. That was the second observation: the media refuses to report on what is year in and year out the largest gathering on Capitol Hill.
These days, things have marginally improved, but the coverage given is generally such that you would think from the pictures that each side was equally represented. Sometimes a dozen or so pro-abortion folks do make an appearance and miraculously some photographer always finds them – anyone who suspects serendipity might also be interested in a bridge I’m selling in Crawford County!
Another insight came from Nancy Keenan, then-president of the National Abortion Rights Action League; when she walked out of Union Station and saw the crowds of pro-lifers, she gasped, “They’re so young!”
Yes, the Church is perennially young and any teenager who is blessed by the opportunity to go on the March realizes that this generation is undeniably pro-life. And not only are these pro-lifers young, they are also preternaturally mature citizens. At the moment I am writing this, we see a very different type of protest around our country following the November 8th presidential election. Unlike the kids who march annually for the voiceless children of our world, the protests of our new president are neither civil nor edifying. And not to lay too much blame at the feet of the media, but we sure hear more about these disordered protests than the remarkably peaceful and prayerful March for Life.
One is reminded of the timeless words of Wilhelm Stekel: “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” Now if one were to ask why one type of protest is so violent while the other maintains a tangible peace, the answer is simple: it’s Jesus. At the March for Life, thousands of pilgrims attend Mass and the grace they receive is so obvious that even the police working security say it’s the most impressively peaceful gathering they’ve ever seen. Add to that the thousands of people who make a good confession and the countless hours of eucharistic adoration offered for this cause and you have a peace that the world cannot provide. Jesus came to save souls and he did it without hurting a single person. The March for Life has saved many lives and will one day be a part of the explanation of how Roe vs. Wade was defeated once and for all. “Ten Books that Screwed up the World” – I read this book years ago and was not surprised to see that Margaret Sanger made the cut with her book “The Pivot of Civilization.” Someday I hope the author will write a sequel about the books that saved the world, the greatest of which is of course the Bible. “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more,” (Romans 5:20) – the March for Life is proof of that.
Father Samuel Martin
Pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish and Christ the King Parish