Reflections on the March for Life -- Washington
Young Catholics and the Future of the Pro-Life Movement
by Cynthia Haehnel
“Prepare me Lord, Prepare me Lord, Prepare me for your word”.
This was the hymn of 1200 teens from St. Louis as they prepared to board their buses for the long 18-hour trip to Washington, DC, to witness for life and the unborn. Wearing their different color pro-life teen shirts with sayings from Pope John Paul II and Dr. Seuss, they sang with happy and upbeat voices.
It was evident they were uplifted after attending Mass celebrated by their new Auxiliary Bishop Edward Rice at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine in Belleville, Illinois. Another group of 500 teens over 30 miles away also sang as they boarded their buses from the cathedral basilica after attending Mass celebrated by Archbishop Robert Carlson. Together they numbered more than 1700 strong. They were hopeful hopeful that this would be one of the last years that the trip to DC for the annual March for Life would be necessary.
Saturday, January 22, 2011, marked the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. On Monday, January 24, 2011, hundreds of thousands of people, the majority of whom were born after 1973, packed the National Mall in DC to show their support for life. Among the thousands were the 1700 teens from St. Louis. The future of the pro-life movement stared at me from these sweet faces. They marched, sang, and prayed to our Blessed Mother. These teens gave hope to the future of our country and our Church. They were so willing to stand up and witness for their faith. They seemed to all know and understand God’s plan for those assembled.
Their willingness to learn about the issues did not stop once the March concluded at the Supreme Court building. Many of the teens spent the evening with Gianna Jessen, an abortion survivor who shared her story of true faith and perseverance with them. She inspired these young people to continue with the fight and reminded them of what we have all lost. Many attended Adoration and Benediction, always focused on Jesus Christ and the life he gave us.
Remember, these were teens that were not even born when abortion on demand became the law of the land. They have lived their entire lives with the so-called right to choose. But they do not accept it; they are unwilling to accept the evil it brings to their lives. They are willing to stand up for what is right and just. Archbishop Timothy Dolan said in a recent speech that “the defense of unborn life is the premier civil rights issue of our day” a message these young people seem to have already internalized and put into action.
During the long bus ride home to St. Louis, I told the group of teenagers of my own experiences while attending college and law school during the late ’70s and early ’80s, when it was unpopular and generally unheard of to be pro-life. To be pro-life at that time meant you were anti-woman. Abortion was considered solely a “women’s issue”. Men and women alike failed to realize that to be pro-life was the most pro-woman choice of all.
I told them how many in my generation bought into the whole “pro-choice = pro-woman” lie without much thought. I told them how we were willing to fight for the “right to control our own bodies”. Several of the teens on the bus asked me how a woman could so easily forget about her own child in her womb. How could we be so selfish? What about the little baby’s life?
What profound and honest questions. Indeed. How could we?
The young people of today are not so willing to accept whatever attitudes that society seems to hand them. They know that abortion is not just a “women’s issue”. These teens question they question the lie about “women’s rights” that so many women so blindly accepted. While it has taken the baby boomers years to understand and digest these realities, these young people get it now.
We should not worry about the future of the pro-life movement. It will remain in good hands for years to come. These young people may be able to accomplish what we did not. They will continue to pray, to march, to educate. They may succeed in convincing people that we could not. These young pro-lifers want everyone to understand the full meaning of the famous phrase from Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who, which so many of them wore emblazoned on their shirts at the 2011 March for Life:
“A person’s a person no matter how small”.
Cynthia Haehnel, a St. Louis mother and an attorney, is a member of the Women for Faith & Family Board of Directors. She accompanied the St. Louis delegation to the 2011 March for Life. (Photos were taken by participants in the March for Life, and are used with permission.)
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