I am told that Mike Pence is the first vice president to speak at the March for Life.
Well, good for him. I am also against abortion. It’s good to find some middle ground with someone who seems so different. I hope he’s serious about being pro-life and truly pro-life, rather than just throwing a bone to the people who voted for him.
If only defending life were as simple as a march and a rally, saying the right words into the right microphone, carrying the right sign, walking up and down the right street.
I used to March for Life every year, before my health failed and before I had a baby of my own. I used to take the buses up from the Catholic university, overnight, all noise and excitement and youthful exuberance; we’d go to the Basilica for Lauds, and later for Mass. We’d eat our lunches in the crammed cafeteria or sitting on the floor by the gift shop. We’d take the train to the National Mall for the rally, then march up the street carrying our signs. We’d shudder with a quiet thrill at the counter-protesters, and believe that their presence was a persecution for which we would be rewarded.
One year, I helped carry a big picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe for part of the way. Try getting a five-foot tall framed portrait on and off the metro during rush hour sometime– it’s quite the experience. White people mostly looked confused or ignored us the whole way, but every Latino who saw us crossed themselves and reverently said “thank you, thank you!”
Marching for Life is not one of the parts of my past I regret. Public protest on behalf of the helpless is a vital thing.
But it’s not enough.
And if it makes us feel that we’ve accomplished something just by marching– if it makes us shudder with a quiet thrill at the counter-protesters and feel righteously persecuted; if we get back on the buses saying “well done, good and faithful servant” to ourselves, and go back to our lives feeling holier and more important– then it’s downright bad for us. Better to stay home. If a politician can convince us he’s beyond reproach by taking the stage and speaking a few words against abortion, then our view of politics is completely wrong.
We need to be truly pro-life. I know that many pro-life people understand this, but not enough do. We need to work in all of the spheres of our own life, to form a culture that respects all life from conception until natural death. That means prayer, fasting and personal conversion. That means a change in how we treat our own family members and neighbors. It means contributing time and money to the works of mercy. It means working to change our culture and not just our laws. It means being active in politics and at political demonstrations, as you’re able. And it means doing this for all life, not just for the unborn.Being truly pro-life means never settling for lip service, or letting a politician off the hook because he does one thing we would like. I’m pleased that Vice-President Pence spoke at the March for Life. I think he must really care about the unborn. I’d be pleased if I thought that President Trump really did respect the humanity of unborn children, or anyone for that matter. But that’s not enough.
Right now, as Simcha Fisher said today, President Trump is “engineering an American Kristallnacht.” His executive orders are turning immigrants into scapegoats and putting them in danger. Human beings– human beings worth every bit as much to God as unborn children– are going to suffer and die because of this. Those very people who said “thank you” and made the Sign of the Cross when they saw the portrait of Our Lady I helped carry to the March for Life, are in the crosshairs. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are being put in danger.
We cannot ignore abortion. But nor can we use opposition to abortion as an excuse to ignore the plight of immigrants or anyone else the president wants to scapegoat. We can be glad for a politician when he gets something right, but we must turn around and fight him tooth and nail when he wants to do something wrong. We can’t let them play us; we can’t accept it when they throw us an anti-abortion bone and then try to persecute our neighbors.
Now is the time to be pro-life. Not anti-abortion, pro-life. Not Republican, pro-life. Whatever the cost, whatever the dangers, we must settle for nothing less than respect for all life.
(image via wikimedia commons)