Questions on the March for Life

Questions on the March for Life January 21, 2008

Abortion clearly needs to be stopped. There are many ways abortion is done. Some of them are obvious ways, some of them, such as the destruction of embryos which were conceived by IVF, are often ignored. Indeed, many people who are opposed to abortion seem rather unconcerned about IVF and the multitude of human persons who have been destroyed because of its practice. 

But here we are, and there is another March for Life. It’s a good idea, it’s an important thing to be concerned about. However, here are my questions:  

In the March for Life, do other life concerns other than abortion ever get spoken about? If so, is it more than just a nominal nod? Is there, for example, any discussion on the dignity of the human person and the implications of that dignity? Is there any discussion of the sanctify of all life (sin does not make one evil, nor does being a sinner undermine the holiness of that person’s life)?  And is there any discussion on the need to work for the dignity of life in all of its stages, and not just its preservation?  I do not know. I’ve not participated in the March; but whenever I see it discussed, the only concern I see people have is abortion. If it is a March for LIFE,  why is abortion the only thing ever discussed? How many people who are anti-abortion still give in to other aspects of the culture of death? And how can abortion ever be stopped if the underlying ideology which allows for it continues to be accepted?

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  • Blackadder

    Perhaps the fact that the march is held on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade gives some indication of why it is focused on abortion.

  • Thanks for expressing my concerns, Henry.

    I am part of the Respect Life group in my parish and we do a lot of wonderful things for young mothers who are expecting and for poor families who have recently had children so they can support them. We organize the prayer rounds in front of Planned Parenthood and we did several activities this weekend, because we had the Respect Life Mass. This is all really wonderful and a blessing, but I think that to truly see the dignity of the person once he/she has been born poses quite a challenge even though it shouldn’t be like that. I get disappointed sometimes in my parish group, because we only talk about abortion specifically and nothing else. However, our Social Ministry takes care of the poor and the migrant as well, which is also a blessing. There is just no talk in our “Respect Life” group about prisoners, death penalty, torture, or even life issues like lack of health care insurance and so forth. Oh well…

  • Blackadder

    I agree — as I said — abortion should be a major concern. The reason why the March for Life takes place now (as a sign of displeasure over the terrible Roe v. Wade decision) is not confusing either. My concern is why it has to be limited to abortion, when other aspects of the life issues, when not addressed, help reinforce the culture of death and abortion. So keep abortion central — just I think some people should also show the connection of abortion with other moral concerns.

  • I agree, Henry. I think we need to wake up. We need to stop thinking that abortion can simply go away while being isolated from the reigning culture of death. Abortion is killing of human beings we cannot see and that is much easier than killing human beings whom we can see, because people assume that embryos “can’t feel” or that they are not “real people”. As long as we dehumanize life that we can see (or that pro-choice individuals do consider “real people”), how can we expect to have them realize the personhood in the embryo?

  • radicalcatholicmom

    Look Henry, just like there are organizations to end the death penalty, or domestic violence, there are organizations who target abortion. That is the point. if you looking for other topics, you should probably join the other organization. I would never join an anti capital punishment organization and expect them to be against abortion even though logically they should be. I am GLAD there are organizations specifically targeting the abortion movement. If they were not there, abortion would be completely overlooked since most other “human rights” groups are completely pro-abortion.

  • RCM

    The thing is — they call it a March for Life. They help confuse people, making them think that the only life issue is abortion. That’s the problem. I have said I agree with them that abortion is wrong, and should be protested. But when they are trying to take this as an issue of life, and make abortion the only life issue, that is where I am concerned. People who are in organizations against the death penalty usually do not call their protests “March for Life.” Why is it? Because life issues now are seen as only abortion. That’s the problem. That makes “life issues” disconnected from the full Gospel of Life. Sure, make abortion central, but if you are going to make it an issue of life, you can’t disconnect abortion from the other life issues. You could make it merely an anti-abortion group without claiming the Gospel of Life as your central focus, of course…

  • radicalcatholicmom

    Henry, you are looking for perfection. Are they incorrect in calling it “life” only because they focus on one aspect? I don’t think so. They are defending life even though they don’t defend all the other life issues. Why instead of being critical of them, you create your own pro-life organization and commit the extensive amount of time, and personal money and sacrifice that it takes to be a true “all pro-life” person?

    I have served on my State’s Board and I had the same issues with them. But you know what? Those people have been working in the movement since R-W. Many have lost their jobs because of their beliefs, many have adopted children they saved from their side walk counseling, many are foster parents. I frequently do NOT see the critics doing much. Talk Talk Talk. I am GLAD there is a specific March for Life every year to 1)Remind people about the consequence of “choice and 2) That the country can see that thousands of Americans do not believe the media rhetoric about “choice.”

    Do you think they should call their March “The March for Fetuses, Embryos and Zygotes!” Or should they define themselves by the pro-abortion movement “The March Against Abortion”? Personally, I think focusing on “Life” is more positive and THE reason why we are against abortion.

    Name an organization that fights against every injustice? I don’t know any except the Church.

  • Should we say, “Ok, so you can’t really handle a baby, it’s not a perfect world, go ahead and have an abortion?” No. Nor should we use “it’s not a perfect world” argument to encourage people to disassociate abortion from the full Gospel of Life. Remember, heresy is the extraction of one truth, trumpeting it, while ignoring its rightful place and ignoring its proper context. When I see so many people who are opposed to abortion, call themselves pro-life, and yet ignore the full Gospel of Life and Catholic Social Teaching, I know the problem is more than “it’s an imperfect world.” The problem is people have removed abortion from its proper context, and made it the only issue of concern for people who are “pro-life.” That’s why people can be pro-torture and still proclaimed pro-life. Absurd as it really is.

  • Here’s how coalitions work: agree to cooperate on the issue you all agree needs work, and agree to avoid controversy about other issues, even if such issues are related.

    If the death penalty, for example, is included as a March for Life issue, you could get a split between those opposed to capital punishment and those(a minority I think) who believe abortionists should get the death penalty.

  • Kevin

    Here is the problem: all these years of protest, all these “walks for life,” and what REALLY has changed? Nothing. It’s a focus on abortion without willingness to look to the real isse — life — while claiming to do so. How can anyone think there will be any real progress when what’s been done before isn’t working, and what’s been done before allows for people to reject the principle of life “in defense of life”?

  • radicalcatholicmom

    I agree with your concern Henry. I do. But I believe it is completely ineffective for a group, whose sole purpose is to overturn the abortion law, to focus on other life issues. That is not their mission. It is like saying a cloister nun is not doing anything because she is not active in the world. There are degrees here and they should be respected. Honest to God, the pro-life movement has enough enemies. Do we really need to tear down those who are prophetic voices for those who do not have any? In turn, I appreciate those who speak out on other human rights issues even if they are not all encompassing. Remember, Jesus told his VERY critical disciples that “if they are not against us, they are for us.” Let’s keep those words in mind.

  • I agree with Henry. I totally understand why there are groups that focus on single issues. I would not expect an anti-abortion group to necessarily concern itself directly with the issue of war for example. Nor would I expect Pax Christi to focus directly on abortion.

    The problem is when we call this thing a “March for Life” and many of the people involved are directly involved with movements that are anti-life, and have politics that are pro-war, pro-death penalty, etc. This is a fact — I have been the to MFL twice and it’s obvious.

    The only sign of hope that I did see was at the youth Mass held at some arena where the homilist (a bishop, not sure who) definitely made it clear that abortion is not the only “life issue.” But out on the streets, it was pro-Bush central.

    I even had a sign with me that read “BUSH IS NOT PRO-LIFE” on one side and “PRO-LIFE MEANS NO ABORTION, NO WAR, NO DEATH PENALTY, NO POVERTY…” etc on the other. I ended up having to ditch the sign because we went to the Mass first and there was no room for me to carry it. But as we were leaving for the day some people saw the sign and criticized me for it… and folks in my group, including the Jesuit who led our group, were not happy with my signage.

    There are severe problems with the March for Life in my opinion. Its name should reflect the purpose of the March, if it is going to actively exclude voices that are thoroughly “pro-life.”

  • radicalcatholicmom

    Michael, the concerns you have are the reason I ultimately had to resign from RTL. BUT, as Blackadder points out, the March for Life is on Roe-v-Wade day. Why is that? And I do agree that there are serious problems with pro-life people being for other forms of death, specifically hormonal contraception, death penalty and the war issues.

    I belong to human rights groups or support them even though most of the members are pro-abortion. Those who fight for the limited good are fighting for the good in general.

    The other thing, that I believe SUPER important, is that many of these people live a sacrificial life even if they live in ignorance of the other life issues. And it is SO easy to be the critic without living the sacrifice ourselves. My challenge since I have resigned from RTL is to keep doing something (besides prayer) to remain “pro-life.” For me, that has caused me to become a Billings Method instructor because I believe the human life issues begin with Love. But have I sacrificed my witness? I no longer side walk counsel. I no longer stand outside the clinic just to remind people what is happening inside.

    As for Bush central, I will speak for both my spouse and myself. We both fasted and prayed over who to vote for for both elections. We both voted for Bush. Do we regret it? Yes. But our vote was done in the pure belief that embryonic stem cell torture loving Kerry would be terrible and that ZPG Gore would be worse. When both choices are evil which happens all the time in politics take your choice. There was a time that I thought Catholics could not be moral and Democratic and my belief was sincere. In my heart I was trying to do the right thing and I believe many pro-life people are in the same boat. It has only been the atrocities of the Bush Admin that have made me rethink previous assumptions.

  • Henry & Michael,

    Let’s be frank, “Pro-Life” is in part a marketing term, just as “Pro-Choice” is a marketing term.

    Now, I think it was picked for a very good and true reason: in order to emphasize that it is a human life that is ended in abortion — that if you do not get an abortion you will bring a new life into the world.

    But it is at root a marketing term. Sure, one can criticize it. Goodness knows, it drives “pro-choice” advocates nuts. But if I may be partisan for a moment: I don’t want to stop using it unless “pro-choice” advocates agree to all call themselves “pro-abortion” instead.

    I think RCM is right to point out the importance of having an organization whose sole purpose is to oppose abortion. I understand that especially for those who are radically anti-conservative (or for those who are hit-up about terminology: anti-GOP) it must be annoying not to be able to cast out anyone who does not agree with them on their ears, but recall the point when the disciples asked Christ to order others to stop performing miracles in his name and he responded “those who are not against me are with me”.

    Give these folks a break. If they’re against abortion, maybe they’re doing at least one thing right. And with his supreme court nominations and some of his stances on the Mexico City Policy and such, Bush has done a few things right too. Let them support him for that for one day — and resist the urge to make a spectacle of yourself by carrying a counter-sign that is simply designed to stir up bad feeling. There are 364 other days in the year when you can attack fellow anti-abortion advocates about war and poverty and the death penalty.

    And honestly, can we think for a minute about the chances of giving any sufficient witness against abortion if we first purge out everyone who disagrees us on anything? For heaven’s sake. I’m willing to sign my name to anything the catechism says on the death penalty, war, torture, poverty, etc. and even so I routinely get anathematized around here.

  • I guess I see a huge difference between being ignorant of other life issues (haven’t many of us been there? I certainly have; and I’m still learning, still ignorant) and active involvement in anti-life politics, which, sadly, I saw a lot of at the March for Life and related activities.

  • As I made it clear, I have no problem with the day being used. It makes a lot of sense. But if it is going to be used for the Gospel of Life, it cannot be limited to the fact of abortion — even if abortion should be a main theme. The same reason why Christopher today mentioned how King’s neice is against abortion, and she sees the relationship between racism and abortion. The issues tie together, and breaking them apart, just as breaking abortion from all life’s issues, begins to cause other questions. People could be against abortion because they want more slaves — and abortion kills slaves; would you find that to be a pro-life position? No, nor do I. Just like the Steve Taylor video I posted earlier shows — being pro-life is more than being anti-abortion, and as long as people are willing to “defend life” by removing the Gospel of Life, they ultimate help support the culture of death and are working against themselves.

  • I agree that being truly pro-life (in a Gospel of Life) is much more than being anti-abortion, but at the same time I think that the quest for total purity can quickly become corrosive.

    People who are against abortion span a wide range of views: atheists, Catholics, Jews, Protestants, Mormons, Muslims, etc. It’s no wonder that they don’t all agree on every issue in the Gospel of Life, especially when even within the sphere of orthodox Catholicism there’s disagreement about what the right concrete policy implementations of Catholic doctrine are.