A reprint from the editors at the National Catholic Register, first published on January 17th, 2007:
America, we won’t go away. Many people wish we would, and heaven knows we would rather be doing almost anything else. But we can’t go away, and we won’t.
I’m sure you’ve seen us. We may have made you angry, or sad, or we may have made you turn quickly away and find something else to look at.
You may have seen us two days before Christmas outside the Planned Parenthood building. The old man with the rosary, the college kids in sweats, the sad-looking woman clutching brochures and an “I Regret My Abortion” sign — that was us.
Maybe you felt offended that we stuck abortion in your face as you rushed out to do last-minute shopping, cheered by Christmas songs on the radio. Well, we felt offended that the “clinic” was open that day. We wanted to enjoy ourselves, too.
Or maybe you heard one of us at a town meeting you attended at the school or the senior center. Maybe it was a savvy young woman lawyer that you heard voice the pro-life argument. Or maybe the voice of the pro-life movement you heard was a halting, nervous voice that got a little too angry or whose words got a little too tangled. In either case, that was us, too.
We may have made you uncomfortable that day. We’re sorry for that. But we’ll be there again at the next town meeting, too. And the next. And the next.
We won’t go away, and we won’t stop talking about abortion. We won’t stop saying, again and again, that this is wrong, and it has to stop.
America, you know more about the unborn than you ever have before. Life magazine used to sell out when they put an unborn baby on the cover. Now, we’ve seen National Geographic’s “In the Womb.” We have sonogram photos at the front of our baby books and we saw our children for the first time in utero, through a video monitor.
America, you know more than ever that abortion hurts women. Those of us who have had an abortion know the guilt at what we’ve done and the anger at those who made it seem inevitable, who refused all help except the kind that kills. Those of us who have a friend who has had an abortion know it is a topic that we must never, ever discuss. It causes too much sadness, inflicts too much pain that can’t be relieved.
America, you know what abortion is, and we know you know. We won’t stand by and pretend with you that nothing is happening.
And we won’t go away, because we can’t make abortion go away from our own consciences. Abortion stings us. The sting is there when we see an empty playground and remember that 1 in 3 children in America dies by abortion. The sting is there when we read of successful surgery saving unborn children in the womb, and remember that babies don’t survive the most common surgery in the womb.
Is abortion necessary for women’s rights? Ask the teens impregnated by older men and brought to the “clinic” by them, too. Is it a matter of choice? Ask the women who wanted to have their babies but were badgered and pressured and tricked and even forced to kill instead.
But doesn’t abortion help women? Ask the ones who died on the operating table — or the ones who say they wish they died because the depression is too much to bear.
What would America be like without abortion? We can’t even imagine. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey gets a glimpse of what Bedford Falls would be like if he hadn’t been born, but then he returns to a world where that tragedy never happened.
We won’t get to return to the world we could have had.
Did we abort a statesman who would have changed the course of this country? Did we abort the musician who would have taken that art — and our emotions with it — to new heights? What cures, stories, jokes, athletic feats or technological innovations did we abort? What great actor is missing from our movies, what great teachers will never inspire our kids at school?
No, America, we won’t go away, no matter how much you want us to or how much we want to go.
We want to think we would have told the slave-sellers, “No way. Not here. I will use every legal means to stop you.” We like to think we wouldn’t have sat still in World War II Germany as the trains rumbled by. We wish we could have sat with Rosa Parks or prayed with Ruby Bridges on the way to school.
But we can’t do any of that. What we can do is remind you, America, in season and out of season, of the words you were founded on: “All men are endowed by their Creator with the right to life.”
So you’ll see us shivering in the cold again this January for the March for Life. And you’ll see us next January, and the January after that, and the January after that, until we wear you down at last and there’s no more reason to march.
And if we die before you change, America, we’ll be able to stand before God and say, “I defended the defenseless. I stood for the weak. My brothers and sisters couldn’t cry ‘Stop,’ so I cried it for them. And I refused to go away.”
I remember the marches of years past. When I was little, my parents took me along to one, and it was huge. We wound through the streets with a police escort. My parents and I were in a Catholic section, so we had a group Rosary going (albeit with a bit of a delay given how spread out we were) and some hymns. I held a sign that was almost as big as I was.
Like this, except I did not have a snazzy red and black jacket.
I remember my mom telling me to stay away from a couple of hecklers (“heckler” was a new word for me that day) who were tagging along because they were throwing rocks. When we were taking the bus back to where our car was parked, we saw the mom of one of the kids in my class on the bus with us and waved at her, but there were so many people there was no way to shove ourselves through to say hello and chat. (On a side note, when I got back to school I mentioned that he and I had both been at the march. The other kids jumped on that with the illogic that only crazy grade schoolers understand, declared it was a date, and teased us [and by us I mean me, because I had already become The One To Tease] about being boyfriend and girlfriend. This made life very awkward because even though I liked his mom a lot – she was the playground lady least likely to punish me for being a victim – I was not fond of her son in the least. I even went to one of his birthday parties when I was little, and I only remember two things about it – the oddity of having a body of water with bumper boats in it indoors, and that his mom gave me a ride and let me eat Pop Rocks which were rather disappointing in that they didn’t really explode.)
In fourth grade our teacher was telling us about abortion and since 1. my parents were very active at the time and 2. I was an insufferable know-it-all (it was a defense mechanism, all right? And I got in trouble for using my other one), I was very dramatic in my adamance that she NOT tell them was partial birth abortion was. Her face went a little funny and later I became pretty sure it was because she was not planning to go there at all, but the cat was out of the bag and now everyone wanted to know what it was. So, turning the tables, she made me explain it. I couldn’t finish – I got too emotional and started describing it in terms WAY too graphic for a fourth grade class – so she had to salvage the end of that.
When I was in high school, I took an intro to law class with a spectacular possibly-Nordic teacher who was an Honest To Goodness Lawyer. I’m pretty sure she came down each morning from her Cloud of Awesome to teach Catholic school kids about law and the legal system as her Good Deed for the day. Anyway, one the projects we had to do was research a landmark American court case and present it to the class. Well you bet I snatched up Roe v. Wade before some lesser entity got it and screwed it up. We were in groups of four and I wound up with three of the genial jocks – our school was too small for cliques to be completely isolated so most people got on well enough despite stereotypical high school self-selection into different packs – who wouldn’t know what Roe v. Wade was if you planted 50 million crosses in their yard. So we were doing research in the computer lab, looking up arguments and putting together our Powerpoint presentations, and joking around about colored pencils and other random stuff high schoolers joke about when given some freedom in the classroom, when I heard one of my group mates say, “We need a good picture for this slide. Just put ‘abortion’ into Google.” As I spin around I hear the tippety-tap and tap of the search term and enter key, and suddenly I am throwing out words like You don’t want to search for that and We could get a picture of Norma McCorvey instead to three of the best football players on our team huddled around a computer screen saying, “Hey, that looks like a baby.” “What’s wrong with it? Where is it?” “Click on it, let’s see a better view.” And then: “Oh my God.” “Oh. My. GOD.” The rest of the (smallish) class came over. Shock. Noises of disgust. Silence. “Yeah,” I said flatly. “That’s what happens in an abortion.” They had never known before. Juniors in high school, not stupid or sheltered, but raised in a society where people talk about abortions and “choice” and terminations but they never knew, never heard, never saw what an abortion DOES. What an abortion leaves behind.
I am going to the rally today because no woman should think that she has no choice but to leave her dismembered baby, a chemically burned baby, a tiny little wandering baby behind. I am going to that rally today to show my support for a world where there are more choices than “choice”.