Friday, January 30, 2015

Thoughts from the Walk for Life

A week ago I attended the Walk for Life in San Francisco, together with my beautiful wife--who also happens to be eight months pregnant, which was quite fitting for the event--and my sister-in-law and five nieces and nephews--well, six, counting the one in utero, since my sister-in-law is also pregnant. Despite what our breathless 24-hour news cycle might suggest to us, it is actually possible to discuss something that happened more than a day ago. Allow me to share a few thoughts and reflections from the event.

50,000 people gathered in the City to stand up for the sanctity of life. Fifty thousand. I've never seen that many people outside of a football stadium. They filled the square in front of the civic center. They stretched down Market Street for miles as they walked, carrying signs, praying together, or simply adding their presence as a visible witness. A sea of humanity pleading that we show a little humanity to the weakest of humanity.

We arrived a little late and missed part of the rally and speakers. One speaker that I did hear was a woman who had started the process to have a chemical abortion but then changed her mind; the doctors and nurses were able to stop the process and save the baby. The woman brought her young one on stage, along with one of the nurses, and implored people to tell others that in cases such as hers it's still not too late, that you can still save your baby's life.

Some of my favorite moments were when I caught people glancing at my wife's baby belly and smiling.

Most of the people we passed on the sidewalks took no notice of the throng filing past them. Some looked on with bemused expressions, taking pictures with their phones, as though we were all on unicycles: "Huh, would you look at that?" Some had come to protest our protest, holding signs of their own and/or shouting slogans.

A group of people with signs saying, "Abort all the babies, kill all the children, save the planet." I'm not sure to what extent these people were just jerk-faces trying to get under our skin or were environmentalists that had taken the idea that human beings are a threat to the planet to the near logical extreme. I say "near" extreme because the very end of that thought process would involve the suicide of the person holding that idea. Of course I'm not advocating this and I don't wish death upon these people; I'm simply pointing out their inconsistencies.

Some passers-by would shout at us, "Read a book!" I'm not sure what that was supposed to refer to, or why it was directed at us, but that exhortation definitely should have been passed on to some of the other people shouting at us.

A common refrain was, "A fetus is not a baby!" To these people I would recommend either Merriam-Webster's English Dictionary or Lewis and Short's Latin Dictionary, both of which will define "fetus" as "unborn baby." The term "fetus" does not denote a separate species like frog or gazelle; it is merely a different stage of development of the human person, more denoting a change in address than anything as substantial as the difference between rights-bearing and non-rights-bearing person. You might as well shout, "A toddler is not a baby!" Well, yes, but he's still human.

One woman I heard conversing with another said, "Is an egg a chicken? Then a fetus is not a baby. It's not a baby until 20 weeks." To this woman I would recommend any biology book. At all. Anywhere. At the very least she can learn the difference between a fertilized and an unfertilized egg, and how a fertilized egg has a much more active future than its counterpart. A fertilized egg is a chicken (assuming it's a chicken egg), albeit a very small chicken. I don't know why on Earth this woman picked 20 weeks as the magic change-into-a-baby point. Because it's halfway through pregnancy? Because it's near viability for the child? But well before that, the child has a beating heart, an active nervous system, and the specifically human genetic structure that will cause the child to develop from an embryo to a fetus to an infant to a toddler to an adolescent to a teen to an adult to a middle-aged adult to an elderly adult. The whole package is there from the beginning. It just needs time to unwrap itself.

One fellow had gotten hold of a megaphone and said: "We don't all hold your religious views. These Catholics, they don't even believe in birth control. They think a sperm is a baby." To this gent I recommend the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which will inform him that the Catholic Church follows science, philosophy, and plain common sense in saying that an individual human life begins at conception, when the sperm and egg combine to form a new entity with a unique genetic code, which, if allowed to, will develop through all the above-named stages of life. The Catholic Church's objection to artificial birth control is not based in a belief that the sperm is a tiny person (though that was a commonly held scientific position at one time).

This notion of "We don't hold your religious views, so don't impose them on us" deserves a column-length response. But briefly: the assumption here is that opposition to abortion is contingent upon the acceptance of certain religious or revealed truths inaccessible to reason or to the non-believer. But this is, of course, false, as Atheists for Life and Pro-Life Humanists can attest. They show that a strong case for the immorality and illegality of abortion can be made without any reference to God or divine revelation.

Events like the Walk for Life are growing each year, both in the number of places in which they take place and the number of people attending. Opinion polls show Americans are increasingly pro-life, in favor of laws far more restrictive of abortion than politicians seem to want to vote for, which is odd in a representative democracy. Many people were wearing shirts saying, "I survived Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade won't survive me." God grant that comes true.


  1. Isn't it fantastic that your wife is able to tell her story to others.

    And an absolute tragedy that Savita Halappanavar can't.

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.