When I was about eight years old, I sat in a pew at my local parish trying to keep my hyper-active mind focused on the old fellow in the billowing robes. As I faded in and out of wondering why he was wearing a dress to worrying about my 7’s-multiplication-table, some of the priest’s words suddenly caught my attention. He was talking about children! Kids, as many know, are generally extremely excited to hear about themselves. There is something about being constantly talked over and struggling to see over the kitchen counter that makes a kid quite desperate for attention. So naturally, I perked right up when I heard mention of my alien kind.
That spring Sunday, with my white-patent-leather shoes anxiously swinging inches above the ground, I got my first lesson on abortion. While I cannot remember much of what was said, I do remember asking my mom about it during the quick car-ride home. What she told me never left my heart— “because, Emster, some people do not know how special a child’s life is.” She left it there, silently encouraging me to form my own opinion on the matter.
I decided I was not satisfied with her answer.
So, I went home and with the help of my mom, wrote a letter to each of the Virginia State Senators. My handwriting, sprawled out on the flowery postcards, asked quite innocently if they knew how many babies were being killed (citing statistics that have since skyrocketed) and why they would allow this to go on. Two weeks later, I received two crisp replies in the mail. I was commended for my political activism at a young age, but I was also introduced to new words such as incest and rape. Much to my mom’s dismay, she had to explain all of this to me at the dinner table. Despite the tragic nature of rape and incest, I remember knowing in my gut—even with only a few years of life under my belt—that abortion was fundamentally wrong. That killing was wrong, regardless of the circumstances leading to the child’s conception.
Eventually, I would come to understand that the circumstance of a pregnancy still does not affect the “humanness” of the human inside a pregnant person. I would be able to explain (with more eloquence than my 8-year-old self could) why, although I empathize with and desire support for someone in a crisis pregnancy situation, their child should not be aborted due to its perceived inconvenience. Basic biology lessons would show me the true and indisputable humanity of a zygote. And finally, upon moving out of my privileged suburban situation, I came to know violence as the ink to human suffering. Recognizing the need for a pro-life culture beyond the life of the fetus, I finally found that culture within the Consistent Life Ethic.
My pro-life journey has been anything but a straight line. It can be more appropriately described as a little-one’s proud but crazy crayon maze. But ever since my experience with those rudimentary letters to Congress, my position on life has never wavered. These memories are the fuel to my pro-life fire, and the very reason I am writing for Rehumanize International today. I have come to identify with many causes since the second grade, but the pro-life cause remained with me since the beginning—shaping my Faith, my education, my passions, and my conversations. Yes, being pro-life means that I recognize the dignity of human life from the very moment of conception and therefore, the rights that life is logically entitled to. Yes, being pro-life means that I believe the fetus is a beautiful and living gift that demands protection. Yes, being pro-life means that I demand better for those facing uncertainty during pregnancy, that I wish to help all those who have been hurt by abortion. Yes, being pro-life means that I recognize the paradox of abortion—for the very moment you end fetal development is the very moment you recognize its inherent qualities of life and potential for growth.
For me, these are important convictions and discussions to have. But there is something more intangible about the pro-life movement that moves me forward. The energy it gives me. The love it allows me to have for every single human being I encounter. The impeccably focused path it has provided for my life. The feelings I get when I look back down Constitution Avenue and see thousands of my fellow brothers and sisters fighting for the lives I cried for when I was eight, and the millions of lives lost since then. That is what being pro-life means to me.