A bitter but sweet event

On Jan. 24, hundreds of thousands of pro-life activists will gather in Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life. Last year, organizers estimated that nearly 400,000 people braved the cold to be a voice for the voiceless. This mammoth event has been going on since abortion on demand became law after the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. 

I cover the march each year for Catholic radio and Catholic television through EWTN. I have often referred to the march as the “Shuffle for Life” because there are simply so many people making their way past the U.S. Supreme Court that it is impossible to march. We all just sort of shuffle slowly, but joyfully, on our way. It is an amazing sight to behold and a blessing to be a part of a movement that is obviously so vibrant and so young, with a good portion of college and high school age participants. 

And that’s the strange thing about the March for Life — this dichotomy of it being such a bitter but sweet event. Having attended and covered the event for several years now, I can say that I have never seen a sad or bitter attendee. The speakers who address the rally on the Washington Mall each year are determined in their messages as they proclaim their recommitment to the pro-life cause. The women and men of the Silent No More Awareness campaign who give testimonies do express remorse for their decision, but their final words are always words of forgiveness, healing and encouragement for all those fighting the good fight. And then there are the throngs of young people who sing, pray and chant as they make their way through the streets of Washington. It gives you a sense of hope for the future of the movement. 

Some might wonder why pro-lifers can be so joyous and hopeful when marking such a tragic decision. The legalization of abortion in this country still leads to some 1 million abortions annually. We still face an uphill battle because even if the Supreme Court decision were overturned in our lifetime the battle would continue in the state courts. Pro-abortion politicians and spokespersons still have the secular media and Hollywood behind them. 

Despite its size, the March for Life is routinely ignored by the major news outlets. If it is covered at all, it’s banished to the back pages, or not accurately reported. If you did happen to catch a brief TV news report on the march you will most likely hear the newscasters say “both sides in the abortion debate gathered in Washington today.” Technically that’s true, but that is hardly an accurate description when you have hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers versus maybe a few dozen people representing Planned Parenthood or other pro-abortion groups. 

So, why are pro-lifers smiling? In my humble opinion, it is knowing that they are doing the right thing. Abortion is the civil rights issue of our day. The truth, as Pope John Paul II said, does not change. Yes, the March for Life is a bittersweet event when we realize what we are commemorating. The truth of the pro-life cause, however, does not rest in the Supreme Court, Washington politicians or the news media. It is based on the truth of the dignity of each human person. 

Speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves, as it says in Proverbs 31:8-9, is, when you come right down to it, the right thing to do: 

“Open your mouth in behalf of the dumb, and for the rights of the destitute; 

“Open your mouth, decree what is just, defend the needy and the poor!” 

I hope to see you in Washington. In the meantime, onward Christian soldiers. 

Teresa Tomeo is the host of Catholic Connection, produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 160.