The March for Life

A reader has chastised us here at America for not offering a post about the annual March for Life. It is a fair question. I can only answer for myself but I have very mixed feelings about the March. What I like about it is also what I don’t like about: It has failed utterly to make a difference in this nation’s abortion policy. So, on the one hand, is it really newsworthy that the pro-life movement is still banging its head against the wall? On the other hand, my anti-utilitarian sensibilities like the fact that the Church continues to give witness to its pro-life beliefs whether there are legal consequences or not.

That said, there is a different reason why I do not participate in the annual March. I think it probably alienates the very people we should be trying to reach: women facing crisis pregnancies. The rhetoric on the signs tend to equate abortion with murder which may be objectively true but also lacks the empathy with the desperate circumstance of many women that is the necessary precursor to an effective evangelization of the Gospel of Life. And, finally, the March perpetuates the false belief that if Roe were overturned the abortion rate would plummet. In fact, most states would codify Roe. A legal strategy must be replaced by a cultural strategy if we are to make a real dent in the abortion rate in this country.

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There are tens of thousands of parishes in America. Each one of them must become a sympathetic crisis pregnancy center, a place of sanctuary and solidarity for women who find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy and few practical options for raising the child as they would want. The vast array of social services and hospitals that the Church dispenses must be put at the disposal of women in this situation. But, even if we do that, the angry chants outside the Supreme Court will drown out the message of solidarity we need to convey. That is why I do not participate in the March for Life.

Like all pro-life Americans, I was disappointed but not surprised by President Obama’s revocation of the Mexico City policy that forbid government funds for foreign organizations that perform or promote abortions. I believe the President is sincere when he says he wants to reach common ground on this divisive issue, adopting policies that seek to lower the number of unintended pregnancies in the first place. Those of us who supported him despite his pro-choice views await serious efforts in this regard.

So, the March for Life has come and gone. Nothing has changed. It has been that for many, many years. I applaud those who feel called to witness to their veneration for life, but I also hope they will find more effective ways of spreading the Gospel of Life.

 

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8 years 10 months ago
You do not like THE MARCH FOR LIFE because to date it has not been successful. Much the same might have been said of the martyrs. Much the same might have been said of those who fought the Arianizers. If you do not wish to join THE MARCH FOR LIFE - fine. But you could at the least have refrained from denigrating it.
8 years 10 months ago
I think you have several very valid criticisms of the Pro-life movement, but at the same time, I cannot understand how you could assume that because Roe v. Way has not been overturned, the March has had no effect. One would think that as a Catholic journalist who knows full well the horror of abortion both in the act itself as well as its effects upon society you would know the importance of such a movement and support it instead of quibbling over the way in which some of its leaders choose to treat it. You are right in saying that Catholics should have a loving approach rather than a damning one. Yet this demands that Catholics like yourself should work all the harder to create an awareness for the importance of having the right approach. Instead you choose "not to participate" nor to even use the March as an opportunity to run an article expounding these noble claims. All in all you seem to lean towards that large majority of "Catholic" journalists who are rather afraid to stand gently, but firmly, where Christ and His Church call you to do so.
8 years 10 months ago
Michael Sean Winters is surely wilfully naive when he says, ''I believe the President is sincere when he says he wants to reach common ground on this divisive issue, adopting policies that seek to lower the number of unintended pregnancies in the first place.'' Did Winters not read Obama's statement on rescinding the Mexico City Policy? Has he no objections to millions of dollars worth of foreign aid money which could and should be used on providing clean water, food and shelter to countless numbers in the developing world, instead being diverted into explicitly political campaigns on abortion? I'm sorry if Winters finds this doctrinaire but Obama's not initiating a ''fresh conversation'' or whatever syrupy phrase it was that he used, by underwriting the costs of anti-natalist groups' propaganda. Even more scandalously and something Winters didn't even mention, Obama said he planned to refund UNFPA, a disgraceful organisation which was involved in Fujimori's mass coercive sterilisation campaign against native Peruvian women, similar abuses in Mexico and currently works with the Chinese government in implementing the barbaric one-child policy. Only last week, Amnesty International revealed that Mao Hengfeng, who was forced to abort her fourth child and has been repeatedly detained in prisons and psychiatric institutions and tortured by being suspended from a ceiling and beaten has been detained once again. But Winters can't even bring himself to mention Obama's support for UNFPA. How does he think Mao Hengfeng feels about it?
8 years 10 months ago
This reasoning for not participating in the March For Live is sad. Would you not have been on the side of abolision even though it was hard to imagion the country abolishing slavery. Would you have marched with King because the mountain seemed so far away? You are an apologist for the Democrats and Obama NOT the Catholic faith.
8 years 10 months ago
I do not agree with all of Obama's positions, but I see room for hope in his statement: ''It is clear that the provisions of the Mexico City Policy are unnecessarily broad and unwarranted under current law, and for the past eight years, they have undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning in developing countries. For these reasons, it is right for us to rescind this policy and restore critical efforts to protect and empower women and promote global economic development. For too long, international family planning assistance has been used as a political wedge issue, the subject of a back and forth debate that has served only to divide us. I have no desire to continue this stale and fruitless debate. It is time that we end the politicization of this issue. In the coming weeks, my Administration will initiate a fresh conversation on family planning, working to find areas of common ground to best meet the needs of women and families at home and around the world. I have directed my staff to reach out to those on all sides of this issue to achieve the goal of reducing unintended pregnancies. They will also work to promote safe motherhood, reduce maternal and infant mortality rates and increase educational and economic opportunities for women and girls. In addition, I look forward to working with Congress to restore U.S. financial support for the U.N. Population Fund. By resuming funding to UNFPA, the U.S. will be joining 180 other donor nations working collaboratively to reduce poverty, improve the health of women and children, prevent HIV/AIDS and provide family planning assistance to women in 154 countries.''
8 years 10 months ago
You don't know that it hasn't made a difference. How do you know that things wouldn't be worse without the witness of the March and the mutual support and boost it gives supporters of life? More abortions and fewer legal protections (such as they are) for the unborn? I daresay if you talk to women who have had abortions and regret it, they would say that they could have used more prolife witness, not less.
8 years 10 months ago
I appreciate your honest doubts about the March for Life, because I do think some approaches of the pro-life movement are in need of rethinking. Yes, there are posters of abortion=murder, etc. which give a one-dimensional aspect of pro-life counseling. Out of fairness, though, this is the aspect of the march that media also choose to capitalize on (that is, if they cover it at all). There are many viewpoints at the March. When I marched 10 years back, I saw people from all across the country who otherwise may have little reason to be together: Feminists for Life, Punks for Life, Gays for Life, Jews for Life I think you also may have failed to appreciate what the March does for participants. The people who march are the same people who staff the crisis pregnancy centers you are so appreciative of. (It takes sacrifice to come from all parts of America, camp out with friends or at the Basilica, the same sacrifice that is demanded in ministering to women in need). To gather with others and share ideas and hopes and yes, protest is the bedrock of all movements: can you imagine the Civil Rights movement without the March on Washington? It took more than 45 years from that day for a black man to ascend to the presidency. I do not doubt that God in His mercy will grant justice to the unborn one day too.
8 years 10 months ago
I wanted to add one thing to my post. Living the Gospel of Life does not have to be a solitary effort. Here's one group that is already to achieve this: http://www.sistersoflife.org/cw.html. The Sisters of Life run a "Co-Workers" program that allows men and women from all walks of life to serve women and their unborn children. The Feminists for Life (http://www.feministsforlife.org/) are trying to achieve a similar goal, especially at college campuses where resources for pregnant students are terrible. They are also non-sectarian, pointing to the diversity of the pro-life movement which is not always apparent.
8 years 10 months ago
The final proof that the pro-life movement is led by opportunists is its failure to advance a remedy. The March of Dimes learned after polio was cured that it is best to fundraise around a disease that cannot be cured. However, at least the March of Dimes funds some research. The amorphous nature of what the National Right to Life Committee, et al, seeks allows it to function as an organ of the Republican Party. By doing so, it averts serious criticism of its almost non-existent legislative program. It is worth noting that there is no model legislation available for the unlikely event that Roe is overturned, as the devil is truly in the details - the details do not poll well in the general public and compromise does not poll well within the movement. If the movement remains silent on what it would do in the implementation phase it has more utility as an organizing and fundraising tool. This also allows it to avoid compromise, which would also be bad for fundraising. Why is that a problem? Because avoiding compromise means that children die in the interim. The blood of those children who could have been saved are on the pro-life leadership's hands, as much as they are on NARAL's.
8 years 10 months ago
Anent the Match for Life: "What I like about it is also what I don’t like about: It has failed utterly to make a difference in this nation’s abortion policy. So, on the one hand, is it really newsworthy that the pro-life movement is still banging its head against the wall?" This nation's abortion policy? Or the Democratic Party's abortion policy? I believe the appropriate phrase is "a Job's comforter". You might consider the reading of Paul's message to himself at the end of his life. He felt that he had failed.
8 years 10 months ago
Sorry Michael, but your attempt to justify no coverage of the March for Life juxtaposed with America’s “non stop” coverage of the inauguration just a few days earlier in Washington doesn’t fly. I think in this situation the editors missed a great opportunity to not simply ‘cover another march’ as you imply but to look at the pro -life movement in light of the new administration and also take a hard look at the real accomplishments and the disappointments of a movement that has had a pro- life president for 20 of the last 28 years. The March for Life is really the one gathering of the “ big tent” that is the pro-life movement in the United States. I don’t agree with everyone in that tent, nor with their methods but that doesn’t change its importance to country and the church. We depend on America to bring a perspective that goes beyond wire service news reports or even a reporter apparently embarrassed to be associated with these “ineffective marchers”. It was instead left to Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal to briefly (but elegantly) link the two events this week in Washington.
8 years 10 months ago
When I see media coverage of the marchers each year, I am curious how many of the marchers would be willing to take a needy pregnant woman into their own homes and provide her and her child with food, shelter, support, and medical care. How many marchers are willing to pay higher taxes to provide better medical care for infants and expectant moms? I am turned off by the sometimes hateful rhetoric at these marches. I also worry that ''pro-life'' seems to increasingly only apply to pre-natal life. I also find it odd that the Franciscan Renewal monks from EWTN in Alabama buy plane tickets and will fly out to San Francisco to protest abortion, but don't really seem to care about the high infant mortality rate (and children living in crushing poverty) in their own home state of Alabama (a state with one of the highest infant mortality rates in the USA).
8 years 10 months ago
I was wondering at the absence of coverage of the March in this space last week. While I tend to agree with your reasoning, I was looking for an opportunity to comment, as others apparently were as well. I did comment on the National Catholic Reporter site, as they covered the March rather extensively, especially in regard to Senator Casey's new approach as a Democrat for Life. I think you were overly kind to the leadership of the movement. The recent hysteria over the Freedom of Choice Act, which has little or no chance of passage, demonstrates aptly its true nature. While most of the movement's members get nothing out of it personally, there are those for whom it is a wonderful fundraising and organizing opportunity. In essence, it is their meal ticket. While it has been fabulously unsuccessful in achieving, or even championing, a legislative program, it has been quite successful in its opportunism, as the presidencies of Reagan and both Bushes, and the recent rise to prominence of Sarah Palin show.
8 years 10 months ago
Let me continue by restating why the focus on Roe will not and should not succeed. The most important reason is its desire for a state by state solution. This would return to the error of antebellum America, where there were conservative slave states and progressive free states. It is no accident that conservatives are seeking this approach on abortion, which tends to put to lie the contention that the movement is not about controlling women. It has long been a conservative hope to defang federal power over the states, overturning Roe judicially would do this in all manner of areas, especially in the area of privacy, which has been extended to the protection private homosexual conduct. The federal authority in this case also benefits the Church, who may have a hard time in some parts of the South where it is truly a minority Church, especially in those parts of the world where many still regard the Pope as anti-Christ.
8 years 10 months ago
Finally, let me clarify where some specifics are necessary. Exactly who is penalized if abortion is illegal and how? If the rights of the fetus are recognized, can abortion be considered less than murder or manslaughter? Given that when one pays another to murder, would not the procurers of the abortion be equally responsible, as well as the providers? Before Roe, the fetus was not considered an individual. To get past privacy rights, it would have to be - so comparison to the days when abortion was punished with a fine on providers do not apply? What about the right to sue for Tort Damages in the event of miscarriage and the privacy rights of the parents in the face of overzealous prosecutors? I could easily forsee a situation where a Jewish or foreign born doctor is targeted by an opportunistic D.A. The concept of a Liberty Law School grad questioning all of her patients runs chills down my spine. What to do about back alley and self-induced abortions? What about economic measures, such as a living wage supported by tax credits? Are not food, shelter, clothing and shelter a life issue for those who do not have it, trumping the property rights of those who have these things in abundance?
8 years 10 months ago
Mr. Winters, Abortion is not objectively murder. That personhood exists from the moment of conception may be current Catholic teaching, but there are no grounds on which to suggest that this teaching is an absolute medical, or even theological, fact. At best, one can argue that a fertilized egg has the potential to become a human person.
8 years 10 months ago
"When I see media coverage of the marchers each year, I am curious how many of the marchers would be willing to take a needy pregnant woman into their own homes" What a trite argument. Why should they, they did not make the choice to get pregnant in the first place. Where is personal responsibility here? While I make some concession for women in 3rd world countries where they have no access to contraception or little resistance to cultural pressures, women in the USA have many choices before conceiving. Choice should be before we have sex, not after we create a human being. Please tell me why choosing to abort, barbarically sucking our babies from our wombs, should be a valid family planing choice for anyone? And yes, I speak from experience. I got pregnant at a young age because I was careless. Because I believed the pro-choice agenda, I had an abortion. Nobody, nobody, told me how the procedure would go, nobody took the time to explain that my baby was a real human being. It was a clump of cells, no bigger than my thumbnail they said. They were sympathetic and comforting, I was the only one that mattered. It wasn't until I left the clinic and was confronted by a lone protester with embryonic photos that I realized what I had done. To this day I am grateful for that, because before it was just a convenient thing to eliminate my mistake, afterwards, it was just murder. I had killed my baby, no if's and's or but's, I had allowed that doctor to suck my child from womb. I didn't have a husband or partner, it would have been difficult for me to raise the child on my own, but of course it would have been possible. Instead, I made a choice that I regret every day, a choice that should never have been available to me.
8 years 10 months ago
I have written a response on my own blog. Please visit it at http://deuteronomy30.blogspot.com In Christ, Malori

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