A record snowfall that blanketed Washington and much of the East Coast prevented many from making it to Washington for the annual March for Life on Jan. 23. The snow also caused the cancellation of many of the events scheduled to mark the 43rd anniversary of the Roe decision that legalized abortion. Some hardy souls carried on despite the weather.
A group of students from Notre Dame switched to Amtrak after the bus service they originally planned to use canceled the trip before the impending storm. “I marched because I feel very strongly about this cause and I think it’s really important that as many people as possible show up,” one student told America. “It’s a huge statement, and it spreads awareness.”
On Jan. 22, at a Jesuit-sponsored Mass for life at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Church in Washington, Paddy Gilger, S.J., reminded students that because Jesus made an effort to be inclusive when he chose his disciples, they, too, should be respectful of others’ opinions. “As we join in the fight against the scourge of abortion, our differences remain, and that’s O.K.,” he said. Father Gilger also told the students to combine prayer and penance to create a culture of life. “Our efforts are to be able to create the same amount of space for people to change their hearts.”
Elaborating on his emphasis on listening and respectfulness in disagreement, Father Gilger later told America, “The bottom line for me—and this is also Pope Francis’ example—no one ever changes from being yelled at; they change from being loved. This is what Jesus did to people, the rich young man, his disciples.”
In an opinion piece published on the America website, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore said that in the decades since the Supreme Court “[narrowed] the definition of a human person” and “eliminated legal protections for the most vulnerable…over 55 million unborn children have lost their lives to abortion.”
Now, he argues, new threats to human dignity have emerged since Roe v. Wade, most recently “as conscience protections for people with moral or religious objections to abortion are being taken away.”
According to Archbishop Lori, chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, “powerful individuals and institutions in our society seek to force people to be part of the abortion business.”
He recounted the experience in 2009 of Cathy DeCarlo, a nurse and “woman of faith,” who was forced to participate in an abortion at 22 weeks of pregnancy. “Despite her protests, her supervisors required that she assist at an abortion involving the dismemberment of an unborn child, leading her to suffer long-term psychological trauma, including graphic nightmares and insomnia.”
On a larger scale, Archbishop Lori charged that the State of California illegally requires almost all insurers, even those providing coverage to churches and faith-based organizations, to include abortion coverage in their health plans. “Churches, pastors and charities that recognize abortion as a grave sin are being compelled by state regulations to participate in the funding of abortions,” he wrote.
The Abortion Non-Discrimination Act would have mitigated these conscience threats at the institutional and individual levels. “ANDA simply allows people who believe all human life is sacred to serve others in freedom,” Archbishop Lori wrote. “Unfortunately, ANDA failed to be enacted into law late last year, so the threats to conscience remain.”
He adds, “Today, we recall that the right to life and to religious freedom are both rooted in the inherent dignity of the human person…. Forcing people to do what they believe is wrong—especially when it involves the killing of another innocent human being—degrades people. Laws and institutions that force people to participate in abortion attack the conscience.
“They attack human dignity,” the archbishop concluded.