This Saturday marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the following Monday, of course, will see hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers from across the country converge on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Every year, the scene of the massive crowd is peaceful, prayerful and – most striking of all – youthful, as even abortion advocates have been unable to ignore.
This year's March for Life takes place in the context of several recent events – some heavily publicized, others barely noted by mainstream media – that reflect how abortion is discussed in our national conversation.
For one, the horrific case of Kermit Gosnell shocked the country this week when the Philadelphia abortion provider was charged with seven counts of murder, two counts of infanticide, 33 counts of performing illegal late-term abortions and several more criminal and health violations. Notable in the litany of charges was the death of a young woman who sought out Gosnell for a late-term abortion and went into cardiopulmonary arrest after he prescribed an overdose of medication.
Pro-lifers and abortion advocates alike expressed their outrage over Gosnell's actions and negligence, though the latter have been quick to distance themselves by proclaiming that what Gosnell practiced (including the delivery of live, viable infants before severing their spinal cords at the neck with a pair of scissors) was not, in fact, abortion, and that for the sake of women's safety, late-term abortions should still be kept legal and accessible across the nation.
Yet that argument overlooks the very reason why Gosnell's actions elicit such a visceral reaction, regardless of one's views on abortion. We know, at a gut level, that Gosnell was doing something horribly wrong – not just because he was a surgeon with "bad technique," as TIME magazine so underwhelmingly puts it, and not just because he treated his patients like the waste that filled his filthy clinic – but because he undeniably slaughtered defenseless babies.
"There is a very clear line, and Gosnell crossed it," one pro-abortion blogger wrote.
Yet just where, to abortion supporters, is that line drawn? Recent polling has found that more than eight in 10 Americans favor much tougher restrictions on abortion – up to making the procedure illegal past the first trimester. Only a slim percentage – six percent – wish to see abortion available at all stages of pregnancy, completely unrestricted.
The case of Kermit Gosnell brings America face to face with the reality of the victims of abortion – both women and children. Those who will march in Washington next week will witness to that.
Much less publicized than the Gosnell case is the story of another former worker in the abortion industry, Abby Johnson, who less than two years ago was a Planned Parenthood clinic director in Bryan/College Station, Texas. Johnson, who left her post after witnessing an ultrasound-guided abortion, recently released a book entitled "Unplanned: The dramatic true story of a former Planned Parenthood leader's eye-opening across the life line." In it, she details the profit-oriented atmosphere at the clinic where she worked, as well as the powerful impact of a peaceful, compassionate pro-life witness. Johnson, who will be accepted into the Catholic Church this year, is a speaker at this weekend's Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco.
Finally, the issue of federal funding for abortion is once again taking the national stage, with the House of Representatives pushing forward the No Tax-Payer Funding for Abortion Act in what House Speaker John Boehner says is a top priority in the legislative year. If passed, the bill would codify the Hyde Amendment, which currently bans the federal funding of most abortions but must be renewed every year. As New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith – the bill's main sponsor – has pointed out, two-thirds of taxpayers oppose the public funding of abortion. You can bet this issue will be at the forefront of pro-lifers' minds when they seek out their representatives this Monday in D.C.
Perhaps it's fitting that the miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II – opening the door for his beatification this May – involved the healing of a French nun whose religious order is dedicated to the care of pregnant women.
This is, after all, the pope who challenged our nation with the following:
The best traditions of your land presume respect for those who cannot defend themselves. If you want equal justice for all, and true freedom and lasting peace, then, America, defend life! All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person.
On this weekend's anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and the March for Life to follow in Washington, D.C., let us invoke the prayers of the soon-to-be Blessed John Paul II – that our faithful, loving witness to the dignity of life will convert hearts and bring change to our nation.