Editor’s Note: We believe that considering and discussing multiple perspectives on the future of the pro-life movement and social conservatism in general is important at this time in our nation’s history. The following, therefore, is the opinion of the author and not the position of 1P5.
That the national March for Life has been laid to rest for 2021 is a fitting emblem of our cultural shift. I can’t think of a more appropriate bellwether for the years ahead. We’d be wise to heed it.
No, no, the March isn’t cancelled, it’s just virtual, you say? Well that’s ironic. An unseen event (“we are asking all participants to stay home” said the announcement) attesting to the real humanity of the unseen unborn child?
At any rate, I’m not talking about the “virtual event.” I’m talking about The March we know from years past. The one with half a million people who all seem like your best friends. The one with college students in neon hats shouting the rosary with joy. The one where you make a mad dash to the National Gallery of Art to change a toddler’s diaper, run into an old friend from college, lose your group and spend the rest of the March with people from Omaha. The one where you know rain is a problem but slush is far worse. The sideline debates with Fundamentalists informing the Catholics they’re going to hell. The drums of the TFP and the inspiring presence of the CFR’s. The disorganized denouement at the Supreme Court and the outsized line at Capitol South metro. THAT March.
It was a high. For pro-lifers in the trenches who face a great deal of discouragement in everything they attempt—whether counseling an abortion-minded woman or speaking with a niece about the humanity of the unborn or so many other uphill battles—it was a moment to feel supported. For all the teens who came from the far corners of the US on tour buses—whether they were mostly there for the fun trip with friends or not—it was a moment to feel that it’s actually good to be prolife and maybe to learn a few things about abortion along the way.
Not only might that chance for a high be gone for good, but it could be a good thing that it is. Remember first that this cancellation isn’t about COVID-19 and civil unrest, it’s about the new prevailing thought stream in our world—a current that smart elites have harnessed to accomplish their pet goals. Before the March was cancelled, organizers had announced that participants would need to “social distance” during the March and that anyone older than age 2 must wear a mask. After I got over laughing about social distancing during the March—the one where out of necessity I once nursed a six-week-old baby while standing on Constitution Avenue shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of people—I was struck by the sheer folly of the plan. It really would be better not to come together. The kind of march they described was not a March for Life at all—it was a humble profession of submission.
What will the prolife response be? Already, many Catholic leaders like Leila Lawler have called on us to go instead to the place the killing actually happens—our local abortion centers. Think what our impact could be if we poured all our resources into this kind of effort instead of the trip to DC. As she said, “It has always bothered me that while everyone is marching in DC, the abortion clinics are doing their bloody business.” Is this perhaps what we should have been doing all along? If not—because we needed that encouragement once in a while that the March provided—it is certainly the appropriate thing for us to do now.
I said that the March’s cancellation is an emblem of our times. The March wasn’t cancelled by its own organizers. It was cancelled by the same breathtaking current that swept away so many of our freedoms over the last year. In the time we find ourselves in now, we cannot look to a feel-good gathering numbering in the hundreds of thousands for support and encouragement. The days of preaching Christ’s message to one another in a friendly environment like that have passed. It’s God’s mercy that this has become so clear now.
In a time of trial many such encouragements are stripped away. Think of Fr. Ciszek. Bl. Miguel Pro. St. Maximillian Kolbe and St. Teresa Benedicta. Where did they find encouragement and strength? In a crowd of thousands or in the Source of all strength?
The youth who benefited from the March for Life—because it had become largely a joyful, vibrant youth event—need not be forgotten. But they can be supported and formed in a way more commensurate with our current times.
Events like the March for Life, while they provided some encouragement once a year, could never be the sole means of helping youth truly understand abortion. We always knew that it was more important to help them make the life choices such that abortion would never be a temptation. More so now that the cultural zeitgeist has reached tornado-strength. Will our youth be able to withstand all the temptations that lead so many women eventually to that lonely, deadly place: “I have no choice?”
We must build.
We need strong, cohesive families with rock solid faith, ready to support one another on the pilgrimage to eternal life. That’s where faith is born and nurtured. That’s where teens come to make the faith their own—to internalize it, to truly own it.
First, let’s support fathers: help them become stalwart spiritual leaders in their homes, examples of strength and perseverance in the faith. Can we help dad see that his primary role is not that of sports chauffeur and provider of technology and the odd lame joke? His support of the family is not just through his paycheck, but through his discernment of what is allowed to come into the home, and what priorities determine how the family interacts with the culture. Formation of fathers is the number one way to fortify our families and reach our teens. No youth director or caring aunt will have the impact of a father (or one who steps into the role of father for a family without one).
Second, let’s give our youth to God. Put them right in front of Him in Eucharistic Adoration. He is pursuing their hearts. So make it easy for Him to find them—or more truly, for them to see Him.
And please, let’s be present at the abortion mill. In your own community, despairing mothers turn to people who do not love them, who seek profit from their pain. Instead of turning to you. But how can they turn to you if they do not see you? Be there.
This is where our efforts and resources belong. It is commonly said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome. How about doing the same thing in a deteriorating environment and expecting a better outcome? Whatever kind of insanity you want to call that, that’s what we’d be doing by dedicating our time and money to a national feel-good effort when our nation is falling apart at its core. Look local now, and make a real difference in real lives.
Suzan Sammons has been involved in prolife work for three decades. She is an editor, writer, and homeschooling mother.