The Battle for the Culture of Life: on March for Life 2009

"He shocked us all when he stated something like, 'I am not proud of this, but when I was a resident student, if any minority woman came in with more than two children by the age of 22 (or 20), I automatically sterilized her'.

By Stephanie Mantey

Published in The Compass, March 2, 2009, vol. 4, issue 4

            “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, a speaker at the Students for Life of America conference declared to the many students gathered that day. 

It was the best of times: on January 20th, our nation took a significant turn as a new President, the first black president of the United States of America, was sworn in.

But it was also the worst of times: our new president is the strongest presidential advocate of the “pro-choice” movement that this nation has ever seen. 

As crowds, estimated to be higher than ever before swarmed Washington on the 35th annual March for Life, President Barack Obama addressed the nation and the marchers saying that he would continue to support a woman’s right to choose despite the pleads from the protestors. 

This was a devastating, albeit expected, speech from President Obama. However, even though the future of the pro-life movement looks daunting for supporters, the March for Life signaled the dawn of a new era.   The election of our new president is serving as a wake-up call to many Americans, especially the youth of our country.  We are finding that it is vital now more than ever to take a stand and fight for the rights of the unborn. 


The March

            If anyone has ever been to the March before, they will know what an experience it is for all those involved.  The hundreds of thousands of people that attended will most likely concur, but will add that this year, it was different.  Port-a-potties still lined the lawn between the Capitol and the Washington monument: remnants from the Inauguration.  It was evident that the time of change had arrived.  We’d hoped this change would start with the pro-life movement, and feelings of this hope permeated the air.The spirit of the marchers was palpable to everyone there. 

The day commenced with speakers, including the brother of Terri Schiavo, Catholic and Jewish leaders alike, African Americans, and more, all delivering the message that each life is precious and deserves protecting.  With that, the march began. 

            There were signs everywhere, rosaries, prayer cards, jugglers, and people giving testimonies.  Probably the most awesome part of the march was at the end, near the Capitol building, where people were giving their testimonies as part of the “Silent no more” campaign.  Women and men were coming up to the podium and telling their stories.  Their messages repeatedly emphasized that they regretted their abortions, their lost fatherhoods and their lost motherhoods.  Many of the women had regrets that drove them to abuse drugs and alcohol.  Many blocked out the memories, but being haunted by their consciences, unable to come to rest or escape depression for many years.  Quite a few suffered from infertility and miscarriages afterward.  Every single one of them said it was a very painful experience physically and emotionally, and they told us, one by one, the names of their aborted children.  In order to recover fully, many accepted Christ into their lives, and had to name their children.  They had to recognize that their aborted fetuses were their children, and they could not escape their grief until they accepted this fully.  They were forced to acknowledge the crime they had committed or participated in, and they said that they were hurt. Each ended their speech with “and that is why I am silent no more.

The Life-Prizes Ceremony and the Students for Life of America Conference

            The next night, after touring the National Mall, we gathered for the Life-Prizes event.  It sounded boring, but was far more rewarding than anyone anticipated.  Not only was the food amazing, but the people winning the prizes (which looked like the trophies from the Oscars) were also amazing.  Six wonderful people accepted, including two whom I recognized:  Jill Stanek and Lila Rose.  Jill, as a nurse, held a dying infant in her arms for 45 minutes after a botched abortion.  She then quit her job and became one of the strongest advocators for the unborn and born-alive infants in this country.  Lila Rose was a twenty-year-old girl who posed as a fifteen-year-old impregnated by her twenty-three-year-old boyfriend (legally, a case of statutory rape), and video-recorded her consultation with Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood told her to lie about her age and they wouldn’t report her, which is illegal.  She caught it all on video-tape, and ended up being interviewed by Fox News regarding this.  The videos, which were originally posted on YouTube were taken down after threats from Planned Parenthood.

            The day after  the Life-Prizes ceremony came the national conference for the Students for Life of America.  There were many amazing speakers and pro-life students from all over the country.  We were given the opportunity to listen to three speakers of choice.  Being a pre-health/pre-medical student, I made my first two choices: an OB/GYN speaking on medical ethics, and a breast cancer surgeon speaking on the link between abortion and breast-cancer.  The last speaker that I heard was by Feminists for Life of America. 

The first speech, was not only inspirational, but an eye-opener as well.  This OB/GYN had gone to medical school and done his residency before having a conversion.  He became a pro-life physician (which is very difficult to do if you are working in obstetrics and women’s health).  He eventually stopped prescribing contraceptives and opened his own clinic for low-income women.  He shocked us all when he stated something like, “I’m not proud of this, but when I was a resident student, if any minority woman came in with more than two children by the age of 22 (or 20), I automatically sterilized her. 

The second talk I went to was informative as well.  The M.D. discussed her reasoning behind the breast-cancer and abortion link, using many medical references.  She stated that the more full-term pregnancies a woman had (especially starting out at a younger age), the more she decreased her risk of breast cancer (due to development of cancer-resistant tissue). The more interrupted pregnancies she had, the more susceptible breast tissue she developed.

The last talk that I went to discussed how the pro-life movement needed to be sure that they understood the needs and resources of women.  It noted that there are often not adequate resources for pregnant women, especially on college campuses, and women are very often denied their right to choose life.  They are told that abortion would be the best option for them, or are referred to clinics without much counseling at all.  Sometimes, these women feel as though they have no choice but abortion.  We, as Catholics need to take this message to heart.  It is a point that will not only unite pro-life and pro-choice supporters, but draw support for people that need our help to make the right choice.  It is our obligation as Christians to help those in need, and before criticizing women for their decisions, we need to ensure that they have the resources to lovingly bring a baby into the world.  The speaker recommended that we become acquainted with our local crisis-pregnancy resource center (there are many good ones) and are able to refer people to places where they can get the help or pro-life counseling that they could not otherwise afford or find.

            My trip to Washington D.C. was a remarkable experience, but I hope that it will be more than just an experience.  It planted some seeds, and brought to light the weight of the issue in our society.  I highly recommend this experience to everyone that can go, and hope that together we can contribute to the era of change that President Obama promised: a change for the better, and a change for life.  God Bless.

Stephanie Mantey

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