It was a dramatic sight: tens of thousands of Americans — and foreigners — marching peacefully through the streets of Washington DC on behalf of life on Friday, January 22.
It took about two hours for all the marchers to make the hike from the center of the Mall to the Supreme Court building, about 50 abreast across the main avenues of Washington. Some think there were half a million people present.
In America, the annual January 22 “March for Life” in Washington has become well known for two things.
First, it is big — of the largest public gatherings in the country, year after year, with crowds numbering at least 200,000.
Second, it is ignored — the country’s mainstream media consistently downplay the size and significance of the March. Sometimes they don’t mention it at all. Or, if they do mention it, they give “equal time” to the 250,000 marchers and a group of 40 or 60 opponents of the March for Life who also turn out each year.
But media silence cannot fully blot out reality.
And the reality is that, despite inadequate reports of its existence, one of the largest mass movements in America is continuing, and even growing, after 37 years.
Bigger Than Ever — Including Young Women
This year, in fact, the March for Life was as big as ever — and maybe bigger.
How many were in the crowd? No one knows for sure. But Nellie Gray, the chief organizer of the event, told the Rose Dinner that evening that she thought this year’s crowd was “larger than any numbers we have ever had before.”
Since the March began in 1974, the number of marchers has often been estimated at 250,000 and sometimes more. Therefore, it seems reasonable to estimate, based on Gray’s words, that about 300,000 people joined this year’s March for Life. (Some observers informally estimated that 500,000 were present. From the large crowds I myself observed, that higher figure may not be far off the mark.)
What are the marchers marching for? To try to convince America’s lawmakers and Supreme Court justices to overturn as unjust Roe vs. Wade , the January 22, 1973, decision which legalized abortion in America.
The essential “pro-life” position is that abortion, the taking of the life of an unborn child, is a violation of the “right to life,” a right which is protected with great vigilance for all human beings in society once they are born into the world.
Perplexing Media Distortion
One writer, Jack Cashwell at the American Thinker , wrote: “In covering the 2010 March, the media have morphed from laziness and incompetence to outright fraud. Someone should be fired.
“Let us start with Krista Gesaman writing for Newsweek . Her headline sums up the utter absurdity of her thesis, ‘Missing at the Roe v. Wade Anniversary Demonstrations? Young Women.’ Twisting the words of a police organizer, she informs the reader that ‘a majority of the participants are in their 60s.’ This leads Gesaman to conclude, ‘So this raises the question: where are the young, vibrant women supporting their pro-life or pro-choice positions? Likely, they’re at home.’
The “internationalization” of this March for Life is also noteworthy.
Pro-life leaders from Africa, Europe, South America, Asia and Oceania were present to protest the radical expansion of anti-life policies under the Obama administration.
“America’s March for Life is now the world’s March for Life,” Joseph Meaney, Director of International Coordination for Human Life International (HLI), said. “It has become the world’s pro-life protest because of the aggressive promotion of abortion and population control that is now official policy of the United States, thanks to the administration of President Barack Obama.”
“This is not only the anniversary of Roe v. Wade , which has led to the destruction of almost 50 million American children,” Dr. Ligaya Acosta, HLI Regional Coordinator for Asia and Oceania, said. “This is now the anniversary of President Obama’s allowing Americans’ taxpayer funds to be used to promote abortion and other assaults on life in my own country of the Philippines, in Africa, in China… all over the world where 40 million babies are killed every year. It is wrong and we are here to tell him and Congress to stop paying to kill our children!”
(Dr. Acosta was referring to President Obama’s January 23rd, 2009 reversal of the Mexico City Policy, which had, under the Reagan and both Bush administrations, restricted the use of federal funds to support any organization that promoted or performed abortion abroad. In December, this reversal allowed Congress to pass an omnibus spending bill, signed by President Obama, which included almost $700 million for abortion-promoting organizations internationally.)
“These aggressive policies are undeniably hurting America’s stature with the people of the world, even if they help America appeal to the cruel international elites who want to run everything,” said Raymond DeSouza, HLI’s coordinator for Portuguese-speaking nations. “When international aid is tied to abortion, it’s like holding a nation hostage, telling them that children are bad, which translates into hopelessness for the future. This is a terrible violence against the families and children of the developing world.”
And yet, the March for Life, ignored or distorted as it had been by the media, has also had a missing element: it has failed to produce a spokesman — a leader — who could articulate persuasively, copellingly, a complete, coherent vision for the movement within the context of America’s legal tradition.
The Keynote Address
That spokesman may have emerged this year. His name: Professor Robert George (photo ).
George, a Roman Catholic, teaches law at Princeton University, and was chosen by Nelli Gray to be the keynote speaker at the annual Rose Dinner, held in the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill on the evening of January 22.
In his talk, entitled “Our Struggle for the Soul of the Nation,” George, with remarkable conviction, articulated a comprehensive, nuanced, eloquent, balanced and persuasive pro-life vision for America, and the world, in a way that no other speaker at the dinner has managed to do in recent years.
George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and founder and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton, began to emerge as a public figure in America during the past year, especially after he co-authored the “Manhattan Declaration” (published on November 20), a manifesto of traditional moral principles which has since been signed by some 400,000 people worldwide.
He has even drawn the attention of the New York Times , which recently published a profile on him as the new conservative Christian “big thinker” in America. (Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/20/magazine/20george-t.html )
As a Professor of Politics and an associated faculty member of the Department of Philosophy at Princeton, and as someone who has served on the President’s Council on Bioethics and as a presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights, George has been able to reflect on the ethical issues facing the nation from the philosophical and legal as well as from a spiritual perspective.
George’s talk was a clarion call for continued commitment to the pro-life cause.
“Fellow warriors in the cause of human life, in the cause of human dignity, in the cause of love!” George began, dramatically.
He then outlined the history of how abortion was legalized in America in 1973, characterizing the legal reasoning behind the decision of the Supreme Court justices of the time as “nothing short of absurd.”
The judges found an alleged “right to feticide” within the constitutional right to privacy, he said.
This was an “outrageous usurpation” by the justices, he argued, and led to the “unmitigated disaster” of legalized abortion, with an estimated “50 million unborn victims” since 1973, he said.
But there has always been opposition to this decision, and the opposition, far from dying out, remains and is growing today, after 37 years, George said.
In fact, he said, today there is an “unprecedented interfaith alliance” of “Eastern Orthodox, Orthodox and Observant Jews, Catholics, Protestants, even atheists and agnostics” who oppose abortion.
“It is this alliance of people across the religious spectrum that stands in the gap today against abortion, cloning, and genetic experimentation,” he said.
George then spent some time reviewing the history of the attitudes toward abortion of the two main American political parties.
He noted that many Democrats like Senator Edward Kennedy, representing the party of the “little guy,” initially opposed abortion, then, bit by bit, changed their positions. (George was for some years an advisor to the pro-life Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, the late Robert Casey, who was ostracized by his own party for his strong pro-life views.)
George then said he believes that the present Democratic president, Barack Obama, “will continue to try to undermine the pro-life cause.” He said those evangelicals and Catholics who “abet” the president by arguing that he is in fact “pro-life” are wrong.
But George, even-handedly, also criticized Republican presidents, saying they had not chosen Supreme Court Justices who would be firmly pro-life. “It wasn’t the Democrats who appointed Sandra Day O’Connor,” he said.
And he suggested that the election of the next US president, in 2012, will be critical, as that president will quite likely have the chance to propose several new justices. “That’s when the seats will be on the line that will make the difference,” he said.
But, he said, “success on the judicial front will only be the prelude to the larger political battle. The pro-life movement must bring the unborn fully within the protection of our laws.”
He then turned to the example of the great 19th century British anti-slavery activist, William Wilberforce
“We have a marvelous model in the work of the great anti-slavery crusader, William Wilberforce,” George said.
He said that Wilberforce was tireless in his commitment to end slavery, though he was branded a “zealot,” a “religious fanatic,” an “enemy of freedom,” someone who was “imposing his religious beliefs on others.”
“Sound familiar?” George asked. “But Wilberforce refused to be intimidated.”
And, George said, Wilberforce won. He ended slavery.
Then George took a more spiritual tack. He cited Mother Teresa, noting that she had said that “prayer is the most powerful weapon.”
And he noted that she had called on America to be “true to yourself — be faithful to the ideals you have.
George was at pains to emphasize that the pro-life position does not imply hatred of its opponents.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “For decades, pro-life women have devoted themselves to assisting their pregnant sisters who are in need. Even women who have succumbed to the temptation to abort have been offered forgiveness, reconciliation and healing.”
“Will we achieve our goal?” he asked. “Will abortion finally go the way of slavery?”
He said he “dared to hope” that “the killing of the unborn” would someday be “not only unlawful but unthinkable .”
Abortion would become something “you wouldn’t want to do it even if it were legal.”
George concluded: “Let us become finally and fully, once and for all, a nation dedicated to the principle that all men are created equal.”
And the Rose Dinner audience erupted in thunderous applause.