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Thoughts on a pro-life picket line

In the tough years ahead for the culture of life, compassionate witness is going to be ever more important.

Pro-life advocates kneel as they pray across the street from an abortion clinic in New York City Dec. 28, 2020, the feast of the Holy Innocents. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

One of Dr. LeRoy Carhart’s “Clinics for Abortion & Reproductive Excellence” – named to yield the Orwellian acronym CARE – is located about a mile away from my parish in Bethesda, Maryland. Earlier this year, 40 Days for Life prayed daily outside Carhart’s abortuary, which specializes in late-term “terminations.” Parishioners from a number of local churches participated in the 40 Days program, hoping to save some innocent lives and to help women in crisis pregnancies find genuine care.

Forty Days’ presence at the Carhart facility evidently did not sit well with some of the students at a nearby county-run high school. So a “pro-choice drive-by” of Carhart’s clinic was organized in mid-December: perhaps 15 cars, festooned with posters, circled the parking lot of the office complex in which Carhart conducts his abattoir. Participants in the drive-by may have been surprised that 40 Days for Life, on learning of the plans for this vehicular demonstration, invited pro-life people to conduct a rosary vigil on a sidewalk outside the parking lot, so that the “drive-by” couldn’t avoid people with a different point of view – people who were also marking the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, depicted as pregnant on St. Juan Diego’s miraculous tilma.

My wife and I participated in the rosary vigil, along with friends from our parish, other Catholics, and a stalwart if small contingent of Democrats for Life whose presence may have shocked the Carhart supporters. It was an instructive hour, giving me the opportunity to ponder the placards and posters displayed by the drive-by people, their slogans, and the chants of a man and a woman holding up a large banner – “Reproductive Rights = Human Rights” – amidst our rosary-praying group.

To begin with the last: it was striking that, while the 20 or so people in our group were relaxed and as cheerful as the circumstances permitted, the two banner holders were all angry, all the time. Both indulged in Che Guevara-style clenched fist salutes. Both kept hollering the inane slogan, “Keep your Bible off my body,” although it was not clear how that injunction applied to the male half of the team. (He later switched to “Keep your Bible off my Constitution,” a chant suggesting a sad ignorance of the reason-based natural law arguments against abortion.)

Then there was the content of that banner. Whatever else might be said about angry pro-abortion people (whose aggravations seem not to have been soothed by the prospect of the most radically pro-abortion administration in history), they don’t seem to have any sense of irony – or of Newspeak. For how can they claim to be defending “reproductive rights” when their entire enterprise is aimed at stopping reproduction, lethally?

As for the student-participants in the drive-by, their behavior did not reassure me that my tax dollars were being well-spent on their education, and in a county that prides itself on the alleged excellence of its state schools. More than a few of them flipped the finger at us (and thus at the icon of Our Lady of Guadalupe that one of our number carried). Others made a point of taking cellphone videos, perhaps imagining that their new friends in federal power would ship us off to Guantanamo come January 21. One car featured a crude, homemade poster declaring “Never Going Back!” and illustrated by the hoariest of “pro-choice” symbols: a coat hanger crossed out within a circle. Their high school, I surmised, did not acquaint its students with some relevant American history, i.e., Bernard Nathanson’s testimony that, in his days as a pre-Roe v. Wade pro-abortion activist, he and others exaggerated the number of “coat hanger” abortions by many orders of magnitude.

There was no opportunity to engage the drive-by folks. One would have liked to ask the students if they were taught in sophomore biology that the product of human conception is a human being with a unique genetic identity. Or whether they had ever discussed in class that first principle of justice, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, which tells us that innocent human life deserves legal protection in a just society. Or if they knew exactly what Dr. Carhart did in a late third-term abortion.

Reason rarely persuades angry people, alas. In the tough years ahead for the culture of life, compassionate witness is going to be ever more important: especially the witness of caring for women in crisis pregnancies, too often abandoned by the men who created their crises. No woman in America has to have an abortion; humane, life-affirming alternatives are available. Pro-life people must make those alternatives more visible in 2021.

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About George Weigel 405 Articles
George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. He is the author of over twenty books, including Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (1999), The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy (2010), and The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform. His most recent books are The Next Pope: The Office of Peter and a Church in Mission (2020), and Not Forgotten: Elegies for, and Reminiscences of, a Diverse Cast of Characters, Most of Them Admirable (Ignatius, 2021).


  1. These silent prayer groups outside abortuariums are in my mind the best form of Christian witness in our current culture of death. That is why the March for Life in Washington this year is of paramount importance. As an aside, Wilton Gregory should be asked not to preside at any of the Masses preceding the March since he was so instrumental in insuring Catholic support for a pro-abortion President.

  2. Even after 60 Million lost lives.It’s never enough for the howling hateful mob.Satan’s
    “shock” troops were never more apparent then at at the socialist/democrat convention in
    North Carolina in 2012.From the drunken Jenny Granholm screaming on stage to the mob waving their Abortion Now “Flashcards” and Banners.To the “Grand Finale”of the manic horde avowing There is NO God! As the Blue Balloons descended from girders above on this throng of Evil.

  3. I don’t think it matters much if young people are educated on the fact that human life begins at conception. They don’t care, they want what they want. And no public school can ever fix that.

  4. Thank you, George. If only the USCCB and Vatican leadership would have had the courage and conviction to condemn voting for pro-abortion candidates, we would not be facing the coming increased carnage.

  5. It is stunning to me that the left fails to see the falsehood in much of what they claim to stand for. They howl for ” freedom and rights” while advocating crudely for the death of abortion through the point of infanticide. News reports indicate they now want to refuse the covid vaccine to many of our elderly on the basis that they are “too white” as a group. Reverse racism clearly has their stamp of approval in many forums as they jabber about the non-existent concept of white privilege. They accuse the Right of “voter suppression” if they rightfully purge old voter rolls,and go to court to stop it, yet have no problem with stuffing ballot boxes and promoting other unregulated methods of voting aimed at “winning” in any manner they can, legal or illegal. They accuse the right of promoting violence when it fact it is ALWAYS their side that supports rioters, looters,violent protesters, attacks on police and American history, and the rights of criminals over that of ordinary citizens. Cancel culture can destroy your life in a nano-second on the basis of a strangers whim and an electronic post. Your life could be placed in danger by “doxxing” simply because you hold a conservative point of view.These violent behaviors ONLY come from the LEFT. Their lack of respect for other points of view, the rule of law, and their smug self-centeredness is beyond disgusting , and I would suggest, dangerous in any civilized society. “Catholics” ( and I use the term very loosely) who voted to support the damage this crew will now do to the country will have a lot to account for one day when they come to judgement.

  6. Thank you, George. If only the USCCB and Vatican leadership would have had the courage and conviction to condemn voting for pro-abortion candidates, we would not be facing the coming increased carnage.

  7. “Dr. LeRoy Carhart’s “Clinics for Abortion & Reproductive Excellence”
    It sounds like a eugenics clinic where the “non-excellent” get aborted.

  8. Now that the hideous, discourteous, orange-haired ogre from Queens will soon be sent packing to Florida, we can all take comfort that Joe Biden will ensure that abortion and late-term abortions will be protected in every state. And thank goodness, Xavier Becerra will haul all you rosary-wielding whacko protestors off to jail. Yes, Cardinal Tobin’s “man of character” is headed for the White House, and thanks to Cardinal Gregory, we will be able to stand in the communion line with the devout Catholic Joe Biden.

    I wonder who else might be pleased that Trump is gone and Biden/Harris have prevailed. Oh my goodness, Biden’s name isn’t even mentioned in this column. Hmmm? It’s all about Carhart, whom Biden vows to protect from those crazy pro-lifers. Convenient distraction, perhaps.

    One can pray the rosary all day and night, but the ballot makes a big difference.

  9. Do you think we’ll ever see the poster couple of the Catholic faith–Biden and Pelosi–praying like that? Why aren’t the Catholic leaders calling them out for their hypocrisy?

  10. Thank you for the thoughtful article about your personal experience, Mr. Weigel!
    It strikes me most that abortion promoters always emphasize the plight of the pregnant woman seeking to resolve her problem of an unwanted pregnancy, whereas pro-life folks always emphasize the plight of the unborn baby.
    We should address and provide solutions for both sides if we ever want to resolve this issue amicably.
    Hence for us to be effective, we have to provide acceptable, perhaps even attractive solutions to help the mother continue and go through with her pregnancy, and help with care for the baby once born to this world!
    Anyone open to create and organize support, nice housing and accommodations and work opportunities as well as medical care for mothers with unwanted pregnancies and later for their unwanted babies?
    It will not be easy but will go a long way to end abortions, and it is a real solution to a real problem. Just a thought.

    • Well said and points well made Dr. Daitiles. We have a great non profit called Care Net in the Santa Fe Albuquerque metro area that does just that. It is a good model for what you propose that should be a national Inter Faith initiative.

  11. Take up your cross and follow me! Hard words for Peter initially but words of love spoken by
    Jesus to invite him and us to eternity with him in Heaven. Not just to carry the cross but to mount the gibbet Of the cross as He done.
    An invitation to have Christ infuse our very soul so we can become what we became at our baptism, another Christ to go into the world to bring hope to a fallen world.

    Laity and especially our clergy have forgotten this call to discipleship which only ends when our life on earth ends.

    I am keenly aware of this every time I visit my father’s grave and I look up from his grave marker. On a large monument are the words that we cannot serve both God and mammon, we will love one and hate the other. These words give me the strength to bear true witness in my diaconal calling to the point everyday of mounting the gibbet of my cross given to me at my baptism to be next to Christ to be crucified with Him.

    God is truly testing each and every one of us to see if are with Him or against Him ! Continue speaking with gospel clarity and charity though darker days may be ahead, His mission has been entrusted to us.

  12. Promiscuity is the mother of abortion, since without it abortion would not be needed.
    Pro-abortion promoters are therefore promoters of promiscuity, and Abortion and contraception are their main means of correcting the natural results of promiscuity.
    If the Church vigorously fights Promiscuity and promotes Chastity, this will; go a long way to clarify the errors in the minds of pro-abortion Catholics and perhpas save many of their souls.

  13. Pregnancy is NOT a CRISIS, and characterizing it as such merely adds credence to taking the easy way out of the crisis with an politically and culturally condoned abortion. Women who become pregnant do so by engaging in sexual intercourse, a behavior biologically designed tor human reproduction. The crisis rests with exercising her freedom of to make a foolish choice.

    • Amen! These women libbers are being more dominated by men who take advantage of them in the bedroom and then go along their merry way leaving the “free and liberated woman” to deal with a pregnancy and the life-long emotional scars of an abortion……..IDIOTS!

      • Thanks Barb! Precisely!
        Dirty young and old men create an illusion of love and pleasure that allow them to have sex freely with women without any responsibility for the pregnancies that they create.
        When will liberated women wake up to see that they are just being used and fooled?

    • Aloysius,
      A number of women victimized by feticide clinics were compelled to go there by their boyfriends, traffickers, or their own families.
      Our local pregnancy help center had a 15 year old girl come in. She was being sold to men by her mother. Trafficked women are forced into feticide because pregnant women don’t make money for their traffickers.
      Virtually every homeless expectant mother who has been assisted at a local shelter here is dealing with addiction and abuse.
      I agree with you that women are being used and fooled but some are also being compelled. And it’s very hard to figure all that out through a haze of drugs and addiction.

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