Reframing Perspectives on the March for Life - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Reframing Perspectives on the March for Life

Canadian essayist David Warren is a man with whom I seldom disagree. Imagine my surprise on reading his depressing assessment of the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Warren’s “Marching to Nowhere” starts strongly, with a withering reminder of when a Representative from my state wrapped herself in discretion without having first tried valor. Last week’s fumbling retreat from legislation dubbed the “Pain-Capable Act” by Rep. Renee Elmers and her caucus gave Warren reason enough to claim that the Republican Party consists of “gutless gnomes.” That’s a line I wish I’d written myself.

Having bagged and tagged fainthearted allies of the Right to Life movement, Warren then demolishes the annoyingly common assumption that there is still a “national debate” over abortion: “Perhaps a debate is possible over capital punishment,” he writes. “But you cannot debate about killing babies, who have committed no crimes. Either one grasps that this is invariably morally abhorrent, or one does not. That only three in five should be opposed to abortion — instead of five in five — is a national scandal.”

Those clarion-call sentences are followed by impassioned analysis of where we are on abortion and why. Warren is one of those people who can write philosophically without losing readers in the clouds. He uses parenthetical asides to keep himself grounded, like a professor who starts in on lecture mode but then remembers he’s at a coffee shop with friends, where baristas with names like Heather and Sophia eavesdrop on the regular customers just enough to crinkle their pretty eyes in his direction when he starts sounding like an egghead.

Whether Warren would take issue with that characterization I do not know, but I was galloping along with his essay until it dropped into a slough of despondency two thirds of the way home. If the American public actually were to hold a referendum on abortion, he writes, the witness of hundreds of thousands of people would count for nothing, because for two generations at the March for Life it has already counted for nothing (about which more in a minute). What Warren means is that since Roe v. Wade, we have lived as vassals to the whims of liberal judges, while the rot of lawlessness infects more than the U.S. Supreme Court. Moreover, he is not a man to be consoled by happy talk about falling abortion rates unless birth rates rise at the same time.

The problem with that morose analysis is that it’s exclusively political and social. While the pro-life movement has not yet become the moral recovery that Warren suggests is our only hope, it does also have a spiritual component.

I’d love to sit with Warren in the aforementioned coffee shop and say, “Cheer up, man! This year, for the first time, my parish sent two busloads of people to the March for Life. We’re old and young and middle-aged. We’re Anglo, Latino, African-American, Asian, and lord knows what all else. We met people gathered for the same event from every state in the Union east of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, while western cities hosted rallies of their own. Among the multitude with us in the District of Columbia were Christians of all denominations. People who could not physically be part of the March prayed for those of us who were there. While it’s true that we have not yet won legal protection for the unborn, to call the March for Life a failure is to miss its significance as an annual booster shot for hearts and minds in the pro-life movement. For all we know, the March also sparks enough repentance to spare our country the Sodom and Gomorrah treatment it probably deserves. And don’t forget your Tolkien! Remember that quote?”

When I picture the scene in my head, David Warren is chuckling, while baristas within earshot wonder whether one of them miscounted the number of espresso shots in my latte. Warren, it turns out, knows exactly what I’m talking about: “Actually I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic,” wrote J.R.R. Tolkien in one of his letters. Accordingly, “I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.” Tolkien also had his elf queen Galadriel speak movingly of fortitude throughout the “long defeat” in The Lord of the Rings.

With the reflexive reliance on literary crutches peculiar to seasoned English majors, I take that to mean that this side of heaven, it may never be possible to draw a plumb line from the annual March for Life to spasms of moral enlightenment that grant unexpected wisdom to judges and legislators, but neither should we in the pro-life movement yield to despair, or refuse to fight the good fight. Whether we win or lose in the marbled hallways where political power plays at being the only game in town, to stand up for defenseless human life is to succeed.

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