So today is the March for Life in Washington. Probably the evening news will feature a small group of counter-protesters while behind them a massive crowd will continue moving through the street, all but ignored. That's the usual way it goes. Of course, there will be a handful of real loonies with their bizarre or hateful slogans who might be singled out of the crowd to represent the whole.
Outside of Washington, where the pro-lifers are doing the extreme penance of facing the elements, all Catholics are called to make this a day of prayer and of penance: prayer that every human life will be reverenced and protected, and penance for the violations of human life through abortion, neglect, abuse, euthanasia, and every other way the worth of each and every person is violated, ignored or threatened. I think all this is harder than it seems because society has become so fixated on the individual in isolation that we hesitate to get involved in another person's need or offer them alternatives when they are making a serious decision of any kind. We can pull back, thinking "Who am I to butt in like this?" or we might be honestly aware that getting involved means getting committed, and we're just not ready or able to carry through.
Here in Chicago, Father Joe at Assumption wrote a helpful presentation about what it means to be pro-life. One thing he mentioned that I'd like to underline is that here in the US there are more than 2300 pro-life "safe houses" where women can find a place to life, social services, parenthood and job training during pregnancy and in the first months after their child's birth. I read a few months ago that the leading cause of death among pregnant women is murder: does that mean that pregnant women "need" access to abortion, or that they need help in dealing with unhealthy relationships and domestic violence? Contrary to the slogans about women "needing" abortion when they are homeless or facing a health-challenged child, what those women (and their partners) need is a helping hand. More safe houses and services are needed, but it is contrary to truth (and an injustice in itself) to say that pro-lifers only care about the child, but dismiss the mother.
There is still more to be done; no reason for anyone to sit at home, satisfied that that carrying a sign in a march is sufficient to save a life. Today the Archdiocese of New York announced the formation of a new support network for parents whose unborn babies have been diagnosed with severe health problems. Women considering adoption need particular support for the difficulties they will face along that heroic route.
But even more than these last-minute issues when a woman's life and choices have already led her into the area of an unexpected and unprovided-for pregnancy, we need to redouble our efforts in helping men and women appreciate the unique gifts of marriage and why the intimate expression of love that leads to new life deserves to be limited to that lifelong relationship of mutual self-gift. The Church takes a lot of hits over her insistence that the marriage of one man and one woman is not just the only ideal situation for raising children, it is the most protective of women (this is borne out by many independent studies).
We could probably all start to contribute to this change of values by developing a spirituality that recognizes and appreciates having "enough" even when "enough" is not "everything that would be convenient or appealing."