The Difference Two Days Makes

As Washington D.C. geared up (or in my case, hunkered down) in preparation for the unprecedented influx of people expected to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama today, a telling paradox came to light.
Officials estimate at least 1.5 million people are in town for the historic swearing-in of our nation’s first black president. Security is tight, with some 25,000 police officers on duty, all bridges into the city shut down to motor traffic, and enforced attendance cutoffs once parade routes reach capacity. The enterprising people of the D.C. metropolitan area capitalized on booked-solid hotels by renting out their homes for thousands of dollars a night to visitors with cash in hand. To be blunt, this city has never seen anything like what is unfolding today.
Absent from all this anticipation is the fact that just two days later, another group of people will be arriving in D.C. They won’t have money to spend on hotels, let alone privately rented accommodations, so many of them will get what sleep they can aboard charter buses, stay with friends, or sprawl out with sleeping bags on the hard concrete floor in the basement of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. They are here for a far more important purpose than even this historic election, and in fact many (if not all) of them live in fear of how this 44th American president might worsen the crisis they are coming to protest.
But their numbers will be comparatively small. A hundred, perhaps two hundred thousand will arrive, and even this head count will be underreported by the local media. There will be no celebratory galas, no lavish dinners or black-tie affairs. Metro won’t offer free passes to ease the confusion of first-time subway-riders who will pack into its trains.
And yet they come, because this Thursday marks the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized the murder of the unborn in the womb, and to do nothing about such a horror is not within their ability to accept.
The contrast between these two national events couldn’t be more stark. What is most frightening, perhaps, is that nearly ten times the number of people coming to protest abortion as the law of the land in America will be celebrating a president who has promised (whether or not he follows through) to expand abortion “rights” beyond those allowed by any of his predecessors.
I disagree strongly with many of the views of our new president, but I appreciate the historic occasion his election represents. It is a shame that this moment of national pride in overcoming past wrongs is tainted with such surrender to the same vile aspect of our nature that made slavery, segregation, and racism possible in the first place. Too few are asking the essential question: How can we see the election of this president as true progress, when as a people we have merely traded one tradition of civil-rights abuse for another that’s even worse?
The irony of the inaugural attendance numbers runs deep. One and a half million people? If that figure sounds familiar, maybe it is because it is most often associated with the average number of innocents killed by abortion every year in this country. Washington, D.C. has been flooded with individuals from all walks of life, from every ethnicity and background, from every class and income level — and in them we can see an authentic representation of the hidden blood on our hands. One point five million attendees; 1.5 million souls.
I’ve written in the past about my belief that the March for Life fails as a political statement. My belief hasn’t changed, but I’ve begun to think that perhaps in contrast to this inauguration, the March may be more important than ever.
Our new president has given his supporters advice that we defenders of the unborn should follow. Savvy politician that he is, he has recognized that the desire to be a part of something so important should not be limited to those who are able to come to Washington on Tuesday. In a recent video posting on YouTube, the Washington Post reports, President-elect Obama
issued a low-key call to transform Inauguration Day from an elite Washington-based celebration of the transition of power in a democracy into a nationwide festival that individuals can participate in through new media technologies and hosting parties of their own, wherever they may be.

If it sounds a bit like the Obama campaign writ large, that’s because it is — and, as such, it illustrates how the techniques of an unusually interactive campaign may be marshaled not only on behalf of a political agenda but on behalf of changing American civic culture in the years ahead.
The pro-life movement should take note. For 36 years, we’ve employed the same strategies, beat the same drum, walked the same pavement. For 36 years, we’ve been either ridiculed or ignored. We’ve never managed to garner enough numbers for the March to shut down Washington, though our numbers have been impressive. We need to organize, we need to innovate, and we need to make ourselves heard. We are empowered by technology, energized by youth, and committed to our cause. If we can’t win elections, then we must hold those who have won the elections accountable.
More importantly, we must get the truth to as many people as possible, no matter what their beliefs: Abortion is not a religious issue, it is a human-rights issue. It doesn’t take eyes of faith to see the humanity of a child in the womb. We may be outnumbered, but we have the truth.

By

Steve Skojec serves as the Director of Community Relations for a professional association. He is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he earned a BA in Communications and Theology. His passions include writing, photography, social media, and an avid appreciation of science fiction. Steve lives in Northern Virginia with his wife Jamie and their five children.

  • Ben

    “Abortion is not a religious issue, it is a human-rights issue.”

    For Catholics, all human rights issues are inherently religious. We do ourselves no favors by trying to appeal to those who do not understand by saying that issues like abortion, euthanasia are simply “human-rights issues.” Skojec shows that he does not understand anything beyond mere moralism in constructing his argument this way.

  • D.B.

    It isn’t just a matter of Catholic doctrine, it is the Universal law that applies irregardless of what religion you hold. We cannot allow the Pro-life movement to be marginalized to a mere pet issue of religious Americans…this means we have to argue the Pro-life case on multiple fronts.

  • Will

    I am a Catholic, but I would welcome cooperation from Protestants, Jews and even Agnostics of good will, provided they are opposed to abortion. Since I am not a theologian, I am not worried about the theology of other people and their religions. If they are opposed to abortion, then that is good enough for me. We are at war with evil and we need all the allies we can get, be they Catholic or some other religion.

    At a Right to Life March, I don’t just talk to Catholics; Everybody who cares about this most critical issue is welcome.

  • Jeannine

    I will be in Washington on Thursday. To me, the March for Life feels especially significant this year. I want to be a witness that we are not going away. I don’t see a reason to stop the March, but Steve is right that we all need to do MORE!

    My own state’s junior senator, Bob Casey, still says he is pro-life. He campaigned for our new President and is, according to this morning’s paper, close to him. Pennsylvanians out there, hold Casey’s feet to the fire! Call, write, e-mail him, and urge him ceaselessly to live up to his pro-life principles! And IF he doesn’t–campaign against him! Don’t let him get away with it!

    Let’s also campaign against FOCA. I’ve heard that it has little chance of passing. Let’s make it NO CHANCE!

    The abortion issue is not settled, and I’m not going away. Not while 1.5 million little ones die each year.

  • Steve Skojec

    Ben,

    Tell me – does it require the eyes of faith to recognize that an unborn child is a human being, or is this truth ascertainable by reason (and science)?

    Our faith emphasizes the sanctity of life, but we can arrive at the conclusion that the unborn do have life, and are therefore worthy of protection, without ever needing theology to get there.

    It’s a common mistake to see this as a religious issue. I’ve done it as well. It is particularly important to recognize it is not a matter of faith so those who are most adamantly pro-abortion – many of whom consider themselves devoted to reason and opposed to religion – can still be reached. Throwing a quote from the bible or the catechism at such a person will do more harm than good in winning them over. It’s far more useful to find common ground and go from there.

  • Ann

    The goal is start to get everyone to see the unborn baby as a baby, not a clump that can just be disposed of. For example, that new 30 second video from CatholicVote.com was very good, the one they are going to play today, talking about how Obama didn’t have much of a “future” in the womb either, but look at him now.

  • Will

    Religion and Morality certainly overlap, but certain issues can have common ground among all religions, such as abortion or slavery. We find common ground with people of all faiths [or even no religion] in trying to abolish these evils. We adhere to our own religion, but we don’t presume to try to “correct” our Protestant or Jewish brothers because they do not adhere to our Catholic Principles. This does not mean that we believe “all religions are equal” because they are not, I believe that Catholicism is the most perfect religion, but given my own imperfections [and they are many], I am hesitant to try to “correct” people of other religions. I like to think that we can best influence them by our example. If we work together with people of other religions on issues such as Abortion, and try to set a good example, I personally do not worry about trying to “correct” or “convert” them.

  • Lisa

    I side walk counsel at an abortion mill, and one time a rough looking young man who supposedly worked there came out and was talking to a man who had a graphic sign. He was telling the man that he liked gore, etc. I think the young man was actually sent out to try and start an argument with the man, who started to talk and somewhat argue with him about God. I went over and talked to the young man for a bit and it really disarmed him when I said “You don’t have to believe in God at all to see that abortion is totally against natural law. You have to admit that that (pointing at the graphic picture) is the most unnatural thing on earth for a mother to do to her own child.” To which he shrugged his shoulders and nodded his head.

  • Ben

    Steve,

    Using the natural law argument or trying to hide behind science and reason just to make it palatable to pro-choicers is a fool’s errand. They won’t be any more convinced because they’re not buying it in the first place. And if you’re depending on “reason” and “science,” those can be re-defined by your opponents and thrown right back at you. So can any “human rights” argument (just look at the issues of euthanasia, handicapped people, etc.).

    People like you who compartmentalize are the same as the Enlightenment groups who assigned religion a private place in society. Last I heard, God didn’t have a “private” place in society. And we are created in the image and likeness of God. And that’s the argument to make, not some malleable nostrum around “human rights.”

  • Mark

    “Tell me – does it require the eyes of faith to recognize that an unborn child is a human being, or is this truth ascertainable by reason (and science)?” – Written by Steve Skojec

    While it’s true that the majority of Scientists agree that life begins at conception, they also agree that abortion should be legal. I have learned through my many conversations regarding abortion that we need two different approaches, one for those who believe in God and one for those who do not.

    If the person you are dealing with believes in God and tries to rationalize the legalization of abortion, I have found it useful to stay on topic and not let them play shell games with their rhetoric ie. “health of the mother” “rape and incest” “teenage mothers” etc…

    For the believer can not argue with the following logic :
    – If God exists, then He is the Creator of all and the author of life.
    – If God is the Creator of all life, then life begins at conception.
    – If life begins at conception, then any intentional premeditated termination of that life would be murder.

    For the atheist or agnostic American, I have found the following helpful :
    – The Declaration of Independence states:
    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

  • Will

    Note to Ben: I am not so much concerned about what people believe, but what they do. If an Agnostic of good will was opposed to abortion and worked against abortion for ANY reason, I would consider that person as an ally. Is this being someone who “compartmentalizes?” So what? The main thing is to do the right thing and oppose abortion irrespective of arguments over the rationale for it. I sometimes wonder if some Pro-Life people are more concerned with being “theologically correct” than the actual outcome of banning abortion?

  • LV

    “Abortion is not a religious issue, it is a human-rights issue.”

    For Catholics, all human rights issues are inherently religious.

    Ben, this is precisely the argument of the pro-choice movement.

    They put it forth in an attempt–an extremely successful attempt thus far, it should be noted–to marginalize and discredit the pro-life movement.

    By emphasizing the religious aspect of Catholic (and Evangelical) pro-lifers, they seek to portray the pro-life movement as a theocratic imposition–and thus, fundamentally illegitimate in the public square.

    That claim of illegitimacy is unacceptable, to be sure–but it’s a different fight, and one that the pro-life movement as a whole doesn’t need to pick.

  • Luke 18:1-8

    1Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

    4″For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, 5yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ ”

    6And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

  • Greg

    The annual March for Life is a wonderful tradition, but in my view there is not enough organizational effort made to really bring out the masses that are needed to send a message in Washington. We need a national publicity campaign, plans, goals and fund raisers. To really acheive the level of participation that could be attained, we should begin organizing NOW for a massive turn out in 2010.

  • william p. murphy

    for 36 years women have been legally murdering their babies under the guise of “the freedom to choose”.

    the natural choice is life. yet women continue to choose to kill the child in the womb.

    all issues debated at election time are null and void should the right to life be denied anyone.

    without life there is no hope, no new era of responsibility,
    nothing!!

    I would be curious as to the economic impact of the legal murder of 50 million American babies.
    After all, 52 percent of our catholic electorate voted the economy as a top issue.

  • Mary
  • Ray

    History is full of irony.

    Unintended or not, some action taken by president Obama may result in the beginning of a decisive return to the legal protection to the unborn.

    Let us pray.

  • Brian

    Hi Steve,

    I am increasingly convinced that science and reason are not enough to convince most pro-aborts that life in the womb is human and deserving of protection. You are right that we have the truth and that the truth is objective; however, human beings rarely are. We certainly have the capacity to be objective, but with our intellects darkened and appetites disordered by sin I beleive that the effort needed to arrive at such truth (and then to protect it)–if it is to occur on a nationwide basis–is something that must be enabled primarily by grace. I think we can see that this is true primarily because the vast majority of those who are pro-life are also people of faith. That said, the scientific evidence is so clear. The unborn are human beings, and its a fact which is there for all to see. So why, then, do so many people refuse to see it, and why are those who do see it so disproportionately religious? The reason is that it takes grace and the conviction of the Holy Spirit to see and accept the truth about anything–but especially those things (like the right to life) which are such an affront to the selfish sensibilities of human beings. Truth itself is a form of grace, but sadly the truth alone seems sufficient to convince only a very few (regarding the pro-life debate) who are not already enlightened by the presence of the Holy Spirit. This indicates to me that religious conversion is needed before any lasting and substantive headway can be made.

    Great article by the way!

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