This past weekend, I went to Washington, DC, to participate in the March For Life. While I have always been pro-life, I rarely make my position public or take a stand for what I believe. I know that this is an issue around which the rhetoric is highly charged. People on both sides believe that theirs is the “correct” viewpoint. I know that many women think that abortion is their only option and that most do not make the decision lightly. But I also know this:
When our youngest son was almost two, I became pregnant for child #4. I had always wanted a large family and was thrilled to be pregnant. The pregnancy went well. I heard the baby’s heartbeat at my 15 week checkup. My doctor scheduled me for a routine ultrasound at 19 weeks. My mom watched our kids while John and I drove to the appointment. We were laughing and joking with the nurse and the doctor. He spread the goop on my belly and began to look around. He began to tell us what he was seeing and then, all of the sudden, he said “Where is the heartbeat?” With those words, my world collapsed. Events of the next 24 hours are still extremely painful and I will not share them here, but I delivered our stillborn daughter the next day.
After I recovered a bit from the horrendous delivery, the wonderful nurse came into my room. She told me and John that our baby was beautiful and she thought it would be good for us to see her. We agreed and the next minutes are forever imprinted on my memory. We held her and stared at her. The baby was so very tiny, but so very perfect. Her teeny, tiny fingers and toes were beautiful. Her body looked perfect. Although I had always believed, hypothetically, that an unborn fetus is a human being, I now knew this to be true on a deep level. I looked at my baby with so much love and grieved the loss of her life with us.
In the years since my experience of loss, I have talked with many women who have faced pregnancy situations of all kinds: unwanted pregnancies, infertility, miracle pregnancies, pregnancies where something was terribly wrong with the baby. I know that women who have ended a pregnancy are left with a scar and that, many times, the scar never heals. I believe that everyone who offers abortion as a quick solution to a problem is telling women a lie. I believe that it is a lie to tell a woman that, because her baby is not perfectly healthy, it does not have enough “quality of life” to be born. I think it is time for someone to stand up and tell the truth. Abortion is not easy. It is never the only answer. There is great grace in choosing life. I decided that this is my time to stand up for that truth, and so I went to Washington.
I was a little afraid of the March, because of the way pro-life people are portrayed in the media. In movies and on television, people who are pro-life (or anti-abortion) are often shown as rabid zealots, throwing blood and calling women entering clinics “baby killers.” I did not want to have anything to do with that kind of anger-filled movement. I was pleasantly surprised to find that all of the people participating in the March for Life were loving. I heard, over and over, that we are not anti-anything but instead, we are pro-life. We have a message of life. We want to spread a message of life and love. Speakers reminded us that women often feel trapped into choosing an abortion and called us to help them find alternatives. We are called to be loving and care for women who find themselves with nowhere to turn. We are called to be willing to care for babies who are born with a mother who chooses life but who cannot care for them.
I know that many women want to have a right to make decisions about their own bodies and I agree that we have been denied many rights for too long. But we must not make the mistake of choosing freedom or convenience over life. We must not believe the lie that the quickest answer is the best answer. We must not believe that only perfect babies deserve to be born. I held my 19 week-old baby in my hands. I know that she is a person. I wish, every day, that she had lived and been born and walked and talked and brought joy to our lives. I needed help to heal from the grief of my miscarriage. I know that many women need help to heal from the grief of their choice to end a pregnancy. There are programs, such as Project Rachel, that can help anyone who is carrying around a scar from an abortion.
The March for Life and its Youth Rally and Mass were a fantastic experience. Receiving Eucharist with 17,000 people and then joining with them in singing “Here I Am Lord” was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. I am proud that I stood up for life and love. Too many women are offered the choice of abortion as if it is their only choice. As part of the hundreds of thousands of people marching, I felt renewed hope that we can change our culture of death into a culture of life, into a culture of generosity, into a culture of love.