Every January, one of the largest demonstrations in support of human rights in history takes place in Washington D.C.: The March of Life. We often see the hashtag #WhyWeMarch float around online every January, but I can honestly say that I marched pretty blindly those first two years.
When I was eighteen, my mother revealed something to me that started my whole pro-life journey. Her parents sent her to America after college to make a better life for herself, and eventually, for her younger sisters. (This I knew.) The secrets unfolded when she told me that when she got pregnant at twenty-five out of wedlock, she was pressured to abort. She and her boyfriend at the time got in one argument about it because he mentioned abortion, and they never spoke to each other again. When she sought solace from her family, she found none. She mailed pictures of herself pregnant to them, and they mailed them back with X’s drawn on her stomach, or shredded.
Because of the situation with her family back home in the Philippines, her parents urged her to get an abortion, even threatening to disown her if she didn’t. They were ashamed and embarrassed by the pregnancy.
Why do I march? For oppressed women like my mom who are given ultimatums instead of support in their times of need. I often hear people ask “How could anyone choose abortion?” as if women who choose abortion are heartless monsters. In the case of my mom (and so many other women), it is because they feel coerced into having an abortion because of the deafening voices of their inner circle.
“Get an abortion or else...” is hardly a free choice.
Yet, in the darkest time of her life, she chose life. For me.
Her friends and my family members told me throughout my childhood, “You are the light of your mom’s life,” something I now fully understand. If a new child in a happy family is a light to their family, I can only imagine that the light shines ever brighter in the darkness.
People could have easily said that I would have a lifetime of suffering, being unwanted by my grandparents and father. I cannot deny that I have heard the argument more times than I care to count. This perpetuates deceptions that:
It is better for a child to die than to suffer.
It is justified to terminate unwanted people.
Why do I march? For the lower class of the “unwanted,” to whom society shows a hollow compassion. For children like me who were “emotionally aborted” by our fathers and endured a life of endless questioning, crippling self-doubt, and a volatile understanding of self-worth.
At age 21, I reached the fifth stage of grief: acceptance. I was finally beginning to let go of the hope that I would ever meet my biological father. Over the course of six months, I cried and sought healing for my “father wound.” The day before my twenty-second birthday, he re-entered our lives. To summarize, it was an emotional roller coaster with slow uphill climbs, abrupt and overwhelming drops, and a handful of upside downs. Fast forward to a few years later to when my biological father and I have a decent relationship. I began sharing my testimony around my home state of Louisiana in my pro-life youth education.
I knew a lot about my story of origin from my mom’s side, but I knew very little about my father’s. So I asked him, “Are you glad my mom didn’t abort me?” one day at breakfast. At which point, he began to cry. I felt foolish for thinking that asking questions like that one would be purely informational and not at all emotional.
“Of course I’m glad, sweetie. I did abort a child, though.” His next girlfriend got pregnant, too. He told her to get an abortion, and she listened. The only difference between this woman and my mom is my mom’s stubbornness.
Never did I expect my life to change so drastically at an IHOP.
My first pro-life instinct was to offer resources to my father. Silent No More Awareness. Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat. Websites, books, the works. It wasn’t until later when he brought me to the airport that I was able to process the information. I was flying home to Louisiana, and the plane was on the runway. Picture this: the plane is accelerating, we’re lifting off, and I begin to ugly cry, snot and everything. Worst time to be in the middle seat, am I right? (Forever thankful that no one asked me if I had flight anxiety or something.)
Why do I march? For the ⅓ of my generation that is lost to abortion, which I now know includes a sibling of mine.
I cried that day, spiraled into a depression, faced “survivor’s guilt,” and most of all, felt immeasurable unworthiness. Why should I have lived when she died? Why should I have a good life when I already had life itself? For the better part of a year, I could not cry, though. (Which is rare for me as I’ve been known to cry for, like, really good ice skating.) I remember my friends saying, “I’m worried about you,” and I would respond “You should be.”
I went to a Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat, where I wrote a letter to my sibling.
I know I never got to braid your hair or make you laugh, but I would have. I know I never got to pick on your boyfriend or hold you while you cried, but I would have.
I was shocked by the amount of healing I was in need of. Me. After all, this abortion happened 20+ years ago by a man who I’ve only known for two.
Why do I march? Why do I see consistently now? For everyone trapped in the oppressive cycle of abortion. I marched blindly for two years because I had no idea how far and wide abortion impacted me on a personal level. I can see clearly now because I know where I stand on the issue, and so I march with a comprehensive and consistent life ethic. Although I could have literally been taken by abortion, I know there were so many others involved in the process, and their stories are just as important as mine. I invite you to march and see clearly with me.
It is not enough to be compassionate, you must also act.
-Dalai Lama XIV
Consider the unwanted, the inconvenient, and the hurt, and grieve for them. Compassion should be all-encompassing, which means we must protect the unborn, love the woman, forgive the fathers, and remember the lost. When you recognize each of these equally valued individuals, you see that a pattern of violence affects more than just one innocent human.
Now, why do you march? Who do you see?