“Considering they were protesting what they call “the greatest human rights violation of our time,” the crowd that gathered on the National Mall Friday morning for the March for Life was oddly upbeat. Church and school groups who had traveled across the country to show their opposition to 45 years of legal abortion in America chatted and laughed, enjoying the mild January sunshine. Teens toting “Defend Life” signs snapped pictures of one another mid-jump, with the Capitol Building in the background.”
I haven’t been able to attend the March for a while, but I know exactly what that journalist means by “oddly upbeat.” I kept having these moments of self-awareness like “I’m here to protest something unspeakably sad… why am I smiling? Why are we singing? Why is this kind of a blast?” Shouldn’t the gathering of a hundred thousand people to protest what they believe to be the killing of sixty million innocent lives be the most depressed, the most downcast, the most mournful and bitter event ever?
Make no mistake, it is sad. Sadness doesn’t begin to describe it. Every time I mark this anniversary in a sermon, it’s been one I’ve procrastinated writing and working on. I procrastinate because it hurts to think about. Everything and everyone around it is sad. The pro-lifers keeping vigil outside the Planned Parenthood abortion mill are sad. The women walking into that building are sad. With some exceptions, the defenders of abortion defend it as sad, but, they say, necessary.
It is a structure of sadness, of fear, and it is a structure of lies from bottom to top. There’s the lie about what’s actually happening. A doctor from Planned Parenthood made a startlingly honest admission explaining why women shouldn’t see ultrasounds before the procedure: he said “abortion is a hard enough thing for any woman to decide without the torture of seeing the baby on an ultrasound screen.” Can you imagine any other medical intervention where your doctor tells you that you should remain ignorant, see less of the truth, in making a decision? So much for the sacrosanct medical principle of informed consent. He’s right, of course. It is much harder to choose abortion when you’ve seen a ultrasound. Most don’t. So there’s this amazing technological way to see the truth, to see the reality, and they’re saying for goodness’ sake don’t look at it or you won’t choose abortion. They are actively saying the decision should be made with less information rather than more. That's a little bit crazy.
Dr. Lacroix, in that same statement, also committed the single greatest pro-abortion faux pas: he used the word “baby.” Good for him. Maybe it was a slip of the tongue. Maybe he didn’t get the memo. But the two are connected. Defending abortion often involves strict manipulation of language. Of course it’s a baby. It’s perfectly correct to call it a fetus, too.. that’s the name of the stage of development the baby is in. We can even say that 'fetus' is more precise... but they're both equally accurate. We’ve always used the word 'baby' that way. Ever been invited to a fetus shower? Ever asked anyone if they knew whether their fetus was a boy or a girl? We’ve always defined ‘baby’ as including the unborn… why the sudden need to change our language? Even “pro-choice” is such an evasion. What choice? That term describes nothing. I'm pro-choice about ketchup on hot dogs, and millions of other things. This isn't a profound philosophical point or a devastating argument, I'm just asking if it suggests something. What does it mean when even the name of a position goes to such lengths to be vague and obscure?
These lies seep into every part of our lives together as a community of human beings. If you were born after 1973, you could have been legally destroyed in the womb. Most of us have never reflected how likely that was. It’s something like a one out of four or one out of five chance. Would you do something that was more than 20% likely to get you killed? We all started out that way.
This is where the deep lie comes in: it’s the idea that it’s all about whether you’re wanted. Whether the life situation ahead of you is worth living. Whether you’re a burden or a blessing. Your worth, says the culture of death, depends on external factors like these. Just being you… that’s not enough. Being you is not enough to make your life sacred and deserving of protection. If you were born after 1973, you aren’t alive because your life is sacred. You’re alive because you were allowed to be. This is an incredibly profound and impactful reality at the core of our culture.
And because we’ve given ourselves this option, we feel free to tell more lies, especially to women. I know the whole thing is presented as empowering to women, as giving them agency and choice. Those are good goals. That's a heart in the right place. But... if you want to think of abortion that way, it’s very important that you not actually ever listen to what the women involved have to say. Because - speaking not for all, but for the vast majority of cases - they don’t feel empowered and strong when they make this decision. When most mothers choose this, they’ve never felt more powerless. They’ve never felt more weak. They’ve never felt more completely that they had no options.
And the abortion boosters who claim the mantle of empowerment and choice are often - again, I'm not saying always, I'm saying often - the very ones telling her “you can’t do it, you won’t be okay, you need our solution, abortion is the only way to go or you won’t make it, you’re not ready, you’re not equipped, you can’t be a mother to this child.”
Contrast that with the pro-lifers who do sidewalk counseling outside the clinics. Many are astonished at how easy it is to make a difference, how many mothers change their minds after a quick conversation with a stranger! How is that possible? It turns out she needed so little. Just one person to encourage her. Just one person to tell her she had a choice. Just one person, even a stranger, to say “I believe in you… you are strong enough, you can do it.”
And that, dear friends, is why the March for Life is full of laughing, chattering, picture-snapping youngsters. Because to break out of that web of lies is so joyful and exhilarating. To be in a crowd of a few hundred thousand people who all believe that each others’ lives are sacred, that you have a right to live and exist and your life is worth living just because you’re you with no other reason needed… that truth floods the crowd with joy like the sun coming out after a long, long rain.
Those clouds have been overshadowing two full generations of Americans - so constantly that we forget they’re there, we forget that things could be different. But at the March for Life, they’re laughing and having a great time because they feel the warm light of the truth, and the truth is beautiful, and it’s incredibly good news. I hope you’ll receive it today, and join those marchers in spirit.
We don’t win this fight by winning a shouting match and demonizing our opponents. We win by convincing them of the same good news that fills us with joy and hope. Your life is sacred and good and your life is worth living, and worth protecting. You are sacred and good and your life is worth protecting if your parents don’t want you. You are sacred and good if you have a disability. Your are sacred and good if you’ve had an abortion. I’m so sorry for your pain. I’m so sorry that happened. It doesn’t make you less loved and valuable because - don't you see, this is the whole thing! - nothing can make you less loved and valuable.
That’s the truth we are so joyful to know. That’s why we march. That’s why we smile. That’s why we hope.