On Friday, January 21, thousands of people gathered in Washington DC to demonstrate in favor of life. The freezing temperatures of -6º Celsius in the US capital and the high infection rates of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 did not dampen the spirits of thousands of young people from all over the country who gathered for the 49th edition of the March for Life. Catholic colleges and universities were represented with hundreds of students who traveled from different parts of the country to the capital to participate in this walk.
Since the "Roe v. Wade" decision
The idea for this March arose 49 years ago, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on January 22, 1973 in favor of decriminalizing abortion throughout the country in the case known as "Roe v. Wade". Under this law it is estimated that since that date close to 60 million innocent people have lost their lives. That is why January 22nd has been designated in the church in the United States as the "Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children". Around this date, ceremonies, vigils, masses, prayer and awareness days, as well as the very popular "9 Days for Life" novena are organized all over the country.
As every year, the January 21 march in the U.S. capital was preceded by a prayer vigil and Mass on January 20 at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. The liturgy was presided over by the Chairman of the Pro-Life Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Msgr. William E. Lori, Archbishop of Baltimore. Concelebrating with him were dozens of bishops and priests who accompanied the young people on this journey. Even with the health restrictions, nearly 5,000 people participated in the ceremony. In his homily, Msgr. Lori referred to the drama that women who have considered abortion go through: "For many of them, it seemed that their only option was to have an abortion, but deep down they knew that it was a tragic choice with serious permanent consequences. What is most needed in these situations is a witness of love and life!" That witness and concrete help they found in parishes, congregations and pro-life ministries.
In addition to the climate of joy, enthusiasm, prayer, tiredness and cold, this 49th March for Life was marked by the hope that it will be the last march at the national level. In the coming months, one of the cases that will be discussed by the nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court is the so-called "Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization" case. The justices' ruling on that case could reverse the abortion law at the national level, leaving it up to each state in the U.S. to decide whether or not to decriminalize abortion within their jurisdictions. Abortion would no longer be considered a "national, constitutional right". In this regard, Archbishop Lori stated: "If later this year the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, how should we prepare ourselves as Catholics? First, we must be a clear and unanimous voice to affirm that our society and laws can and should protect both women and their children. As a matter of fundamental justice, we must work to protect by law the life of the unborn, the most vulnerable and defenseless members of society."
A "pitched battle
Although the Catholic Church remains hopeful that the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling will be overturned, thereby ending "abortion rights nationwide," the battle against life is being and will be a pitched one. Just on January 22, President Joe Biden - who declares himself a Catholic and attends Sunday Mass - as well as Vice President Kamala Harris noted in a statement, "The constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly 50 years ago is under attack as never before. It is a right we believe should be codified in law. We are committed to defending it with every tool we have."
Different pro-abortion associations follow the same line. Jackson Women's Health Organization" case, the Supreme Court has received an unusual number of legal instruments called "Amici curiae" (a figure similar to a "disinterested advisor"). In these briefs, abortion advocates and organizations ask the justices to consider the series of laws that precede and establish "a woman's constitutional right to choose". This multi-front battle against life also includes desacralization.
On Thursday, January 20, while hundreds of young people were participating in the night vigil at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC, a self-proclaimed group called "Catholics for choice" projected beams of light on the façade of the Basilica with texts alluding to "abortion rights". This act provoked the anger of the Archbishop of Washington DC, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, who in a statement said: "On that day (January 20) the true voice of the Church was only inside the Shrine. There, people prayed and offered the Eucharist asking God to restore true reverence for every human life. Those who buffoonishly projected words on the outside of the church building demonstrated with these occurrences that they were indeed outside the Church and at night." Cardinal Gregory concludes sharply by quoting Jn 13:30 "As soon as Judas had taken the morsel, he went out. It was night.
On the other coast, Los Angeles
The pro-life march in Washington DC was not the only one throughout the weekend, as several demonstrations were held in different parts of the country, among them the one in Los Angeles, California, entitled "One Life LA". This event also included a walk for life in the streets of Los Angeles, which concluded at the Cathedral with the "Requiem Mass for the Unborn", presided over by the President of the North American Episcopal Conference, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles. José H. Gomez, Archbishop of Los Angeles.
In his address, Msgr. Gomez urged to work to build a society based on love: "We show that love by how we care for one another, especially how we care for the weakest and most vulnerable. OneLife LA reminds us of the beautiful truth that we are all God's children and that every life is sacred. We move forward with hope, in the spirit of OneLife LA to create a civilization of love that celebrates and protects the beauty and dignity of every human life."
Helping women and families
The day of prayer for life and the different events organized were an opportunity to publicize the different congregations and ministries that exist in the United States to help women and couples facing pregnancies under difficult situations. In recent decades and given the seriousness of abortion, numerous initiatives have emerged in the United States to offer all kinds of help to women and families going through these difficult situations. Among them are: the "Sisters for life" congregation whose mission is to help vulnerable pregnant women; the "Walking with moms in need" ministry; and Project Rachel, which provides care for those who have undergone abortion through a network of experts who offer counseling, retreats, support groups and specialized care.
As we await the ruling of the highest court in the United States, the bishops of this country invite all Catholics to fast and pray between January and June 2022: "Let us pray that this important ruling will be the end of Roe v. Wade. We cannot build a truly just society and remain unmoved by the impact that Roe v. Wade has had on the lives of more than 60 million innocent people. Let us pray, fast and work for the gift of every human life to be protected by law and embraced with love."