Marching toward a different future

This year’s March for Life, the 49th, will be different.

Sign at 2021 March for Life/ Claudette Jerez/CNA

The annual March for Life in Washington began in 1974 — and it’s hard to think of a more admirable or consistent public witness to the dignity of the human person being given for so many years by so many people of all races, religions, and social classes. The March has taken place in fair weather and foul. Senior public officials have addressed it; others have assiduously (or contemptuously) ignored it.

Over the past decade, the March has grown larger and younger — facts ignored in the anorexic press coverage of what is usually Washington’s largest gathering of citizen-activists. The March for Life is fun, serious, pious and a bit chaotic. For those who participate, it’s a powerful booster shot, re-energizing the marchers and their supporters for another year’s work of building a culture of life in the United States.

This year’s March for Life, the 49th, will be different.

At the end of its current term, presumably in late June 2022, the Supreme Court will hand down its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The Dobbs case gives the Court its best opportunity in decades to reverse the mistake it made in the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, and then re-affirmed in the misbegotten (indeed bizarre) 1992 decision, Casey v. Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania. That mistake — discovering a “right to abortion” somewhere in the interstices of the United States Constitution — has been a festering wound in the American body politic for almost a half-century.

It led to the violent termination of tens of millions of lives that might have been creatively lived, even as it distorted our politics and debased our public debate. Roe and Casey have coarsened our society, as Dred Scott (1858) and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) did when the Court affirmed, respectively, the constitutionality of chattel slavery and racially segregated public facilities. Roe and Casey also wounded the Court itself, forcing it to make judgments on matters manifestly not within its competence and eroding the collegiality that should characterize the deliberations of the nation’s supreme legal tribunal.

Roe and Casey were mistakes: grave, lethal mistakes with no foundation in serious jurisprudence. Correcting those mistakes by consigning Roe and Casey to the dustbin of history will enhance, not diminish, the Court’s institutional integrity and credibility. Claims to the contrary come from those who know or suspect (but cannot admit) that they’ve lost the constitutional argument — and who now resort to bullying.

So the 50th March for Life, in January 2023, should take place in a post-Roe v. Wade America: which, to borrow from the Bard, is “a consummation devoutly to be wished.” A post-Roe America, however, will be a country that needs the March for Life as much as ever, and perhaps even more.

A post-Roe America will be one in which the pro-life movement must work with state legislators to provide legal protection to unborn children. That means an America in which 51 debates are going on, not just one. And while there will be broad similarities among those 51 different debates, there will also be nuances to be considered, prudential judgments to be made, and legislative strategies devised to meet local situations. A post-Roe America, in other words, will be an America in which the debate over the right-to-life from conception until natural death will be far more complex.

A post-Roe America will be one in which the pro-life movement must expand its already extensive efforts to offer life-affirming and healing services to women in crisis pregnancies. This will require a more effective pro-life communications strategy, making the available alternatives to abortion better known and thus even more accessible. That no one has to have an abortion in these United States has long been the truth of the matter; communicating that truth must be a pro-life priority in a post-Roe/post-Casey America.

Then there is the work of cultural conversion. The abortion license is a by-product of the notion that some life — “useless” or “defective” or “inconvenient” — is unworthy of cultural cherishing and legal protection. In the 1920s, distinguished German legal and medical scholars called this Lebens unwertesleben [“Life unworthy of life”]. The origins of that grotesque idea lay in the bogus “science” of eugenics. And while eugenic considerations are never invoked today (publicly, at least), it would be delusional to imagine that variations on this wicked theme are not subtly in play in the United States.

So there will be a March for Life in 2023 — and, I hope, for many years after, as the work of converting the culture continues.


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About George Weigel 428 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), Not Forgotten: Elegies for, and Reminiscences of, a Diverse Cast of Characters, Most of Them Admirable (Ignatius, 2021), and To Sanctify the World: The Vital Legacy of Vatican II (Basic Books, 2022).

15 Comments

  1. “The abortion license is a by-product of the notion that some life — “useless” or “defective” or “inconvenient”…”

    Far from it! these days those pre born victims are worth billions the abortion mills are alone worth millions but the products derived from harvesting the pre born organs, mainly vaccines, but other therapeutics too is worth billions

    Without it all we would not have had the life saving abortion derived vax so yes…new meaning to the pro life march indeed

  2. The annual March indeed serves to booster and bolster members of the movement. We are usually single solitary lonely figures, less visible than the homeless who’ve unseasonably sprouted this last winter, propagating like proverbial cliches.

    We are usually single solitary soldiers in the trenches of sidewalks, across the street, legislated out of clinics in our population centers, full of parents full of plans for no offspring.

    We are usually lonely, solitary, few. Spat upon, fumed against, sputtered, mumbled, shouted, fingered, angered.

    One lonely woman headed toward, then cried and turned to me from the door of the clinic when a man came out opposite toward her, pushing a dolly holding containers bearing a sign of hazard: ‘Medical Waste.’ Boostered, bolstered, saved, finding a friend.

  3. George Weigel offers us a viable roadmap for change from a death dealing culture to one that respects and honors human life.
    Life Unworthy of Life authored by legal scholar Karl Binding Psychiatrist Alfred Hoche addressed the issue of life from the perspective of unnecessary suffering, precisely the rationale of ethicist Peter Singer. Nazi philosopher Alfred Rosenberg adopted the book’s thesis to initiate cleansing of undesirables beginning with gypsies, homosexuals, the mentally handicapped expanded once the Final Solution began to include Jews, Communists with a political [and the financial expense on the German economy for their care] as well as eugenics ideology to cleanse the Germanic nation of inferior elements.
    Weigel correctly associates some motives to abortion in the US.
    Although, the difference here is largely cosmetic. Human life has become devalued not because of ideology, political or scientific eugenics. Evidence tells us whether life emits from one’s loins, blood worship, familial relationship were motivations for Germans to have children. For the perfect blond Teuton prolifically. That’s changed in veritable kind within a secular culture that has no sacrosanct vision of the human person, veritably a commodity for desired use, and added the clincher, the Catholic Church falls into that category of disaffection. Catholics in Congress advance abortion right as a blessing for liberty, bishops murmur weakly, many agree, Eucharist coherence a thoughtful idea for further deliberation. Catholics breed like rabbits came for the mouth of a Roman Pontiff. The same man who holds esteem for notorious abortionists. Added is the forked tongue messaging that tells of the loveliness of bearing children that effectively anesthetizes the conscience.
    Our difference is a far more dangerous, soul deadening perception of humanness. A preposterous idea that man is simply a bundle of cells. If Weigel’ worthy dream is to be realized in the Nation [and the world] there must occur a spiritual conversion beginning with the Church. With the theological development and propagation of the truth that man is made in God’s image, that anthropology finds its centering in the humanness of Christ.

  4. The State comes into existence originating in the bare needs of life and continuing in existence for the sake of a good life. And therefore, if the earlier forms of society are natural, so is the state, for it is the end of them, and the nature of a thing is its end.
    — Aristotle in Politics

    Aristotle’s conception of the state as a natural organism, coming into existence as the natural development of man as a political animal, is enlightening when seen in the light of what modern science now knows about the development of biological organisms.

    There are trivial mutations that may or may not enhance the ability of an organism to survive, and there are mutations in the genetic information that directs the very development of the organism as it assumes its basic body plan; these latter mutations are almost always fatal to the organism.

    We would do well to consider then what it is that is essential to the fundamental body plan of the state, and distinguish that from those things the alteration of which is relatively trivial.

    The question of whether or not the sale of liquor on Sundays should be legal, or what speed limits should be, would fall into the “relatively trivial” category. The state claiming for itself the authority to legalize the murder of innocent humanity is a mutation in that genetic information that directs the very development of the organism. This mutation, besides being fatal to millions of innocent human beings, was quickly fatal to the organism known as Nazi Germany.

    Roe v Wade was essentially such a mutation in that it pretended to legalize the murder of what science knows to be biological human beings. Regardless of any notions of personhood or ensoulment, that is the scientific fact.

    That the issue just won’t go away testifies to the fact that Roe altered the very body plan of the state. Just what is the purpose of the state? Does the state come into existence so that humanity may live well as Aristotle thought? Or does it come into existence to decide who it is that is worthy of life?

    The Nuremberg Trials established that the state has no authority whatsoever to legalize the murder of innocent humanity; it condemned the murder of biological humanity, as many victims of the Nazi regime were not “legal persons” under Nazi law. Either that or the Nuremberg Trials established that every biological human being is a legal person. It was one or the other because defendants at the Nuremberg trials, who demonstrated that they had done nothing illegal under Nazi law, were hanged anyway. (It is telling that Nuremberg Trial prosecutors treated “legal” abortion as a crime against humanity.)

    Nazi law wasn’t law at all. Neither is Roe v Wade, which will very likely bring about the demise of the organism known as the United States of America if it isn’t soon corrected. It was a mutation that altered the very development of the state’s basic body plan, the prior form of which was to enhance the life of biological humanity, not to legalize its destruction or to decide which of us are worthy of life.

    • Human life is a mosaic of interpenetration of relationships.I believe no one and nothing in the universe is useless. The divine duty of co-creation with the Supreme Being demands that humanity fits every element of the created world into the the universal grid of existence- as a duty not as a privy judge.

  5. The Walk for Life is a good big picture of the Pro-Life movement. Its concern is clearly limited and best called Walk for Birth, Walk Against Abortion, or Walk for the Unborn.

    • You do know that the March is specifically timed because the “Roe v Wade” decision was issued on Jan 22, 1973, right?

      And you do know that if you are killed in the womb, it’s hard to do much else afterwards, right?

      And you do know that your remark is nonsensical, even slanderous?

      • The unborn are a very convenient group to organize around because they don’t make any demands of you and they’re not morally complicated – unlike those in prison, those with addictions, or those trapped in poverty. You can love the unborn and advocate for them without substantially challenging your own wealth, power, privilege, without reimagining social structures, apologizing, or making reparations to anyone. They are, in short, the perfect people to love if you want to claim you love Jesus but actually dislike people who breathe.

        • I’ll be sure to pass that on to my three children, all of whom are adopted. Needless to say, as you are obviously far smarter and enlightened than I am, our children have never made any demands on us, never been challenging, are completely devoid of complexity, and have been perfect in every possible way. We’ve never had to make any sort of sacrifices for them.

          And, needless to say, we dislike them.

          (I do hope you aren’t as challenged by sarcasm as you are by facts.)

        • My Sharona! Since you know everything about us pro-lifers — even our motivations, our aspirations and our fears (since we’re all alike, of course) — tell me this.

          What am I thinking now?

        • This “Sharona” comment is absurd coming from someone who has no problem with the killing of the unborn. I notice you are the same commenter, with the name Rapscallion, who posted the same nonsense in the comment sections of National Review.

  6. The so-called “Pro-Life” movement in the U.S. Catholic Church is deeply pathological and problematic, as do most – not all – of the so-called “pro-lifers”. Its catholicity is highly inadequate and questionable as it does not follow and take up the Social Teachings of the Church or the biblical mandate like for example in Matthew 25 and Acts 2 which call for Catholics’ social and political engagement in the full web of life and not solely focus on one and call it pre-eminent and stop there. Beyond semantics, it is notable that at most it is only “Pro-Birth” or “anti-abortion” in its focus on fighting for the “unborn” only while generally neglecting to stand for the “born” in the full spectrum of life – including the matrix of life itself – who are threatened with premature death by death-dealing forces, for example: “undead” (those facing capital punishment or euthanasia); “unhoused” (homeless); “unfed” (hungry); “uninsured/uncared” (because of dysfunctional health care system); “undocumented/unwelcome” (because of broken immigration system); “uncapable” (poor because of economic inequity); and the “unsustainable” (our planetary home ravaged by ecological devastation).

    • “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and …
      And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.”

      The pro-life Catholic wholeheartedly agrees.

    • Oswald, what you’re saying makes absolutely no sense.

      So I cannot be opposed to some 40 to 70 million children being intentionally killed around the world each year because a couple of dozen adults are executed in America?

      Shall I stop taking Vitamin D because I’m not taking C and E and phosphorus and zinc and molybdenum and folic acid and Vitamin K and riboflavin and…?

      Well, you get the idea.

      The fact that homelessness is bad doesn’t make abortion good, does it?

  7. For Oswald, but also Sharona and Jeda…

    Oswald affirms those: “’undead’ (those facing capital punishment or euthanasia); ‘unhoused’ (homeless); ‘unfed’ (hungry); ‘uninsured/uncared’ (because of dysfunctional health care system); ‘undocumented/unwelcome’ (because of broken immigration system); ‘uncapable’ (poor because of economic inequity); and the ‘unsustainable’ (our planetary home ravaged by ecological devastation).”

    The substance of the Catholic Social Teaching (CST) is that it includes both moral absolutes against direct sins of COMMISSION (direct killing of the innocent) and prudential judgment dealing with, yes, indirect sins of OMISSION like those implied in the litany listed above.

    So, how to affirm both, but without appealing to a facile “seamless garment” that too often sets the latter against the former? And, so then, what to do about the latter without, for example, necessarily defaulting to the Administrative State?

    A good start to remember that the entire Catholic Social Teaching (CST) is CENTERED on the “transcendent dignity of the human person,” each one without exception. Rather than any ideology.

    In these hardened times the real “seamless garment” seems to be the web that links direct [!] abortion/euthanasia then to the full range of indirect negligence requiring real debate about the means [!] of solution. Such spirited and necessary dialogue being, itself, among the elements of the CST: i.e., informed Conscience AND Faithful Citizenship, plus Solidarity AND Subsidiarity.

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