Editor’s note: A younger and fresher-faced version of me wrote this piece back in 2015.
In the intervening years, I’ve become more cynical about the existence of a political solution to the execrable moral and spiritual problem of abortion. Readers may see why: this article remains relevant in part because after four-plus decades, the March for Life hasn’t changed much, nor have the circumstances to which it owes its existence. Yet the piece’s relevance endures in other part because the sentiments undergirding the March, the “love and wrath both burning,” don’t change, nor should they.
As we commit to grim memory another year of the blood of child sacrifice soaking the foundation of the United States of America, may we all remember forty-sixfold to keep love and wrath burning in our own hearts – against the holocaust of abortion, and also against the scourges that beget it: idolatry and its miserable children, contraception, fornication, and divorce.
The March for Life takes place as always on January 22, a Thursday in 2015. I arrive around eleven, about an hour before the big rally begins, to check out the media tent and do some interviews. The National Mall is already stuffed with people, the ground muddy and squishy underfoot.
The first impression I get is, there are so many people, followed by there are so many young people. Multitudes of teenagers from high schools and dioceses all over the nation, wearing outlandish hats or scarves to stick together. Little kids running around, and still littler ones sitting patiently in their double-strollers. The grim determination of the previous two marches is gone, or at least underplayed – unlike in 2013 (relentless snow and rain) and 2014 (insane cold), the weather is gorgeous, and I can see how happy these young people are.
As I run around seeking out interviews and photo opportunities, I see the usual suspects among conservative media – Townhall, the Media Research Center, LifeSiteNews, Hot Air. It’s an age-old and well supported complaint that mainstream media shun the March. For some strange reason, outlets like NBC, ABC, and CBS can’t be bothered to cover hundreds of thousands of people peacefully protesting a pair of tyrannical and logically mind-boggling Supreme Court decisions that, à la Dred Scott, allow for the legal trampling of millions of people’s unalienable human rights. I’m surprised to see ABC’s Nightline tailing Live Action president Lila Rose.
An entrenched host of counter-protesters meets the marchers at the Supreme Court. NARAL, fresh from gloating over House Republicans’ shenanigans this morning, is well represented. Some hold huge, grim-toned, black-and-white photos of women they claim died from a lack of access to abortion. Many others brandish orange signs reading “Abortion on Demand without Apology” in all caps. A smaller contingent wear white pants stained red between the legs; they seem unaware of the rushed by ambulance from legal abortion facilities, and where those women tend to bleed from. Many pro-life marchers mention how these counter-protesters, determined to stop the March at the Supreme Court, have no permit to be there; it isn’t long before police haul some of the crotch-stained activists away.
So the counter-protesters are overwhelmed, and the March continues. Having started at 12:30, it continues through three and four o’clock. It continues after I leave, with D.C.’s streets and even Union Station still replete with pro-life marchers as I take Metro home.
There is a powerful pair of opposite extremes here; Chesterton evokes the March when he writes that “we want not an amalgam or compromise, but both things at the top of their energy, love and wrath both burning.” On the one hand, the weight of why the marchers have come is crushing. Overwhelming as the hundreds of thousands of people are, the number only hints at the 57 million who have been killed since 1973. In a way, it’s a shame that the weather is so nice – trudging through driving snow and uncompromising cold helps mollify the survivor’s guilt that accompanies the very fact that these pro-lifers are lucky enough to have been born to march in the first place. Created Equal has a huge screen playing ceaseless footage of the disturbing and violent abortion procedure itself. Dr. Anthony Levatino, a reformed abortionist, tells a rapt crowd, “Abortion affects everyone. It affected me as a physician. It affected my family. My wife and I almost got divorced … and a lot of it was about the abortion business. It affects moms; it affects dads; it affects siblings.”
But on the other hand, there is so much joy here. Not five minutes go by without a chorus of exuberant young voices screaming, “Hey-hey, ho-ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!” or “We love babies, yes we do; we love babies, how ’bout you?” There are great crowds of youths smiling, laughing, delighted to be here; there are the older marchers pushing their strollers stuffed with babies. One young man smiles as he tries to set up a dialog with a group of stone-faced pro-abortion counter-protesters. I look around and think of the Christian martyrs – Saint George, Saint Lawrence – who grinned in the face of death.
Laboring under and striving against the grimmest and blackest stain of our nation, these people exult. They jubilate. Survivor’s guilt, maybe, but they honor the dead by showing how very glad they themselves are to be alive.
It’s easy to be cynical about the efficacy of marches – this one has been going on for forty-two years, with abortion still an institution in America. But the presence of hundreds of thousands of like-minded pro-lifers helps morale in a way that’s hard to put into words. It’s clear that the national media despises the cause; a Facebook friend writes, “ABC News is running the headline: ‘Thousands Protest Abortion in Annual March for Life on National Mall.’ In the text it says ‘tens of thousands’. EWTN said something about 600-700,000 marchers.” It’s one thing, and an inadequate thing at that, to read a number in the hundreds of thousands. It’s quite another to see it, to be part of it.
It’s the same with 57 million, the number aborted in America since Roe v. Wade, or 327,000, the number killed by Planned Parenthood in the last reported year. The number written down, the black on a white screen, becomes academic. “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” You had to be there.
None of us can be there for the innocent children killed in secret in the hundreds of thousands every year. But those who want to speak out for those children can be there on January 22 – at the steps of the Supreme Court, in overwhelming numbers – every year, with love and wrath both burning.
This article was originally published at the American Thinker, where the author is deputy editor.