Thursday, January 27, 2011

Marching for Life

Many moons ago, way back when I only had three children, I went to the March for Life in Washington D.C. I took my then six-year old Nathaniel and five-month old Rebekah. Kate stayed home with friends. We went with a busload of people, many of whom we knew and would help me along the way with my baby and the stroller. I had been active in the local Pro-Life group, so this was an issue with which I was familiar, as was Nathaniel. He had made a poster for a contest, which he won, the prize being the tickets for the bus to Washington. That year, 1993, the March fell on the day after President Clinton's Inauguration. While we marched, our new President reversed years of pro-life progress by issuing five executive orders reversing Title 10 regulations banning abortion referral by federal employees, repealing the Mexico City Policy restricting federal funding of international organizations that work to reverse countries' abortion laws, negating the ban on funding for fetal tissue transplants, ordering military hospitals to perform abortions, and asking the FDA to "review" the import ban on RU 486. The timing was certainly no coincidence and was a symbolic victory dance for the pro-death camp which had found in William Jefferson Clinton a man after their own heart.

In the years since that march much has changed. I have had two more children, and the Lord has moved us from Pennsylvania to Florida and back again. Life got rather busy for me and one thing that had to drop from my routine was my activity in the pro-life movement. My convictions, however, never wavered. I vote pro-life and I cheer every scientific and medical advance which increasingly and unquestionably prove that life begins at conception and whether the pregnancy is planned or not, that which is carried in the womb is a child, not a collection of tissue.

Since last November's election, we now have in Washington the most pro-life collection of lawmakers than we have had in decades. So this year's March for Life had a different feeling from what I remember; more celebratory than angry. And yet, while we celebrate what our lawmakers may be able to accomplish now, there is a new, crushing sadness. No amount of legislation can change a human heart. And while pro-life laws may pass, there remains the fact that daily, approximately 3,700 women in the United States alone choose to end the lives of the children they carry. According to the fact sheet at the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform:

"1% of all abortions occur because of rape or incest; 6% of abortions occur because of potential health problems regarding either the mother or child, and 93% of all abortions occur for social reasons (i.e. the child is unwanted or inconvenient)."

This is a truly heart-rending statistic. Convenience has become reason enough to snuff out the life of the most vulnerable among us, a baby who has done nothing more than begin to live. A baby in whom resides unrealized potential. A baby who is being knitted together by the God in Whose image he or she is created. Have our hearts become so thoroughly calloused that the life of a child can be thrown away for so little reason? Evidently, yes.

So, a couple of weeks ago a friend approached me to ask if I'd be interested in going to the March for Life. The answer being, "Of course!" Erin, Isaac, and I were promptly signed up to go with a bus which would be leaving from Lancaster early in the morning. This time around I wouldn't be carrying a baby or pushing a stroller. My kids would both walk alongside me and furthermore, would be helpful. We've now gone to D.C. a few times recently as a family, Isaac went with the Scouts and Erin went on a school field trip, so we're not entirely unfamiliar with the area around the Mall and the Capitol building. I planned to carry only my camera, Erin and Isaac packed a backpack and a bag, respectively, of things they thought they might need. The day promised to be extremely cold, and when our friend picked us up at 6 am it was a frigid 3° outside.

The bus ride was not bad, and we were dropped off on the Mall in front of the Smithsonian Castle with a couple of hours to spare before the rally would begin. Since we realized that we'd be standing and walking in the 30° for the majority of our day, we decided to go ahead and see one of the museums before the noontime rally began. Being a diligent home educator, I steered the kids toward the Museum of American History, thinking that surely this would bolster our historical curriculum. We did see some exhibits which related to things which we have been learning and will learn yet this year. What I didn't realize was that this is where those memorabilia of American popular culture are displayed, such as Archie Bunker's chair, Kermit the Frog, and Carol Burnett's Scarlet O'Hara dress. Julia Child's kitchen is also here, and we were glad to be able to see that as well.

The time was approaching for the pre-March rally on the Mall, so we ventured out into the cold. As we walked toward the rally area we began to see people with signs and a growing crowd headed all for the same place. We worked our way through the crowd until we felt we could go no further without pushing and shoving- which I was not willing to do. Finding ourselves right next to the raised platform from which photographers and cameramen from the various- though few- press outlets were filming the speakers on the stage as well as the burgeoning crowd, I wondered aloud to Erin and my friend just what sort of credentials one needed to get up there to take some photos? They encouraged me to go ahead and try to get up there, after all, the worst I could be told is "no". But I'm a big chicken, so Erin took my camera and, finding a way through the barrier, marched right up the steps and started shooting photos.

Meanwhile, the speakers were delivering their pro-life messages. From many newly elected Congressmen and women to leaders of various pro-life organizations, they all spoke strongly for life. I won't re-cap their messages here, but for a roundup of links and clear commentary on the issues take a look at Michelle Malkin's blog post here.

As for us, we were slowly beginning to lose feeling in our extremities as the speakers roused our hearts and minds. And then it was time to march. Well, at least to shuffle. How do you move a crowd numbering in the hundreds of thousands into an orderly march on the streets of our nation's Capitol? I'm not sure that there is an answer to that, but move we did, slowly, step-by-step, we headed toward the pavement. Packed so closely in the mass of humanity that we could barely see our feet, we eventually got to the street and the crowd didn't actually "thin", but we did find room to take actual steps. Meanwhile we were surrounded by people with signs and banners, groups singing, others praying. The kids and our friends help onto one another so that we wouldn't get separated in the crowd. As with the Glenn Beck rally, we did not feel threatened at all by the masses of people, we were all there for the same reason. Though it was very, very cold, the day was sunny and dry, and as we walked our feet warmed up again.

Marching in the river of people up Constitution Avenue we looked back and were astonished at the number of people behind us. From where we were we couldn't see the beginning of the March, nor could we see the end.
When we approached the Senate office buildings before the final turn onto 1st Street we nipped out of the crowd to go meet our newly elected, and staunchly pro-life, Senator Patrick Toomey. After some confusion we finally found his office in the basement of the Dirksen building, only to be told that he was speaking to a group of pro-life Marchers on the ninth floor of the neighboring building! We managed to arrive right before he finished, and were privileged to shake his hand as he made his way through the crowd. Isaac looked particularly pleased as Senator Toomey paused to take a picture with the kids.

Heading back outdoors we were able to jump back in to the end of the March for Life. There was a band with bagpipers playing as we rejoined the crowd. In front of the Supreme Court building there was a confusion in the movement of the march, and we worked our way toward the Capitol building, increasingly aware that we needed to meet our bus in just under an hour. The sidewalks around the Capitol were mostly clear and we were able to make our way rather quickly to the other side, heading for the National Air and Space Museum where our bus would pick us up at 5pm. Now that we had some breathing room and realized that there was still some time, we paused by the frozen reflecting pool for a couple of final photos. (Go here for an album of all of my photos from the day.)

Over all, the day was cold, crowded, somewhat confusing at times, and filled with images of deep concern for this most despicable of practices. Erin, Isaac and I have agreed that there is much for us to pray about, and we don't want to be pro-life only one day a year. What will come of this for our family, only God knows.

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