The March for Life is a strange combination of sorrow and joy. The sorrow comes because we commemorate a court decision that, although it lacks all authentic validity, continues to allow the destruction of over a million children a year. Yet the joy comes because we gather with thousands of other pro-life activists, proudly taking part in the greatest human rights cause of our day, and we know that our cause will prevail.
This year the March for Life will be held on Monday, January 24 rather than the 22nd (the date of the Roe vs. Wade decision), because the 22nd is on a Saturday.
While it is important to march, we should also understand that the March for Life is, at its core, an educational effort about the “Life Principles.” Miss Nellie Gray, Founder and President of March for Life, has always stressed this point, and I want to re-echo it. The Life Principles express, in a succinct way, the absolute inviolability of every physical human life, and the fact that such a life has a right to protection regardless of the circumstances of its conception. The Life Principles are about equality — the equality of the born with the unborn, the healthy with the sick, the strong with the weak, the adult with the embryo.
One of the Life Principles states, “The life of each human being shall be preserved and protected from that human being's biological beginning when the father's sperm fertilizes the mother's ovum.” This formulation protects us from the linguistic tricks some play when they re-define “conception” or speak in abstract terms about their philosophy of when a human being becomes a person. The fact is that every biological, living human being is a human person.
The March for Life, as an educational effort, has a theme every year, and this year's theme emphasizes that it is the duty of each American to uphold the Life Principles without exception or compromise.
Our duty to these children is absolute, and admits of no exceptions. Although it is legitimate to work step by step, incrementally, toward the protection of every life, it is equally necessary clearly and frequently to articulate where we want to go: to the protection of every life, without exception. The children conceived in rape and incest must have equal protection. The children of mothers with medically complicated pregnancies must have equal protection.
In an excellent analysis of the legitimacy of the incremental approach, Angel Rodriguez Luno, Professor of Moral Theology at Rome's Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, writes, “[T]he absolute personal opposition to abortion on the part of the lawmaker [must be made] known to all, thus preventing any confusion or scandal.” (Click here for the full text.)
Leaders in the pro-life movement must, with even greater reason, avoid the scandal that can unintentionally arise if people think that we are granting moral legitimacy to even a single abortion.
We are not; we never can. The sad commemoration that comes every January is a good time to reaffirm that fact.
Fr. Pavone is the National Director of Priests for Life. You may contact Priests for Life at PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314; Tel: 888-PFL-3448 or 718-980-4400; Fax: 718-980-6515; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.priestsforlife.org.