"I wouldn't have even considered abortion if it weren't legal."
A woman was speaking about her own experience in front of the Supreme Court on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the decision that made abortion legal in the United States. The rally was organized by a group called Silent No More. And as the young people who, on Jan. 22, flooded the nation's capital for March for Life, coming from North Dakota, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Florida, and all over the Northeast, got back on their buses to head home, her testimony echoed.
This year, for the first time in my two decades of going to the march, I witnessed an altercation of sorts. A small number of pro-abortion activists stopped the crowd in its tracks, not wanting it to advance.
After warnings to disperse from police officers, the abortion activists were arrested and the people with the permit marched onward as they do each year.
But roadblocks from those who support abortion weren't the only obstacles facing the pro-life cause. In the run-up to the march, a Republican congresswoman insisted that voting on a bill that would seek to restrict late-term abortions would hurt the GOP with millennial voters, a much-sought-after constituency.
First of all, protecting the most vulnerable should be a nonpartisan, human rights priority. But on this particular issue, there aren't even matters of prudence to give politicians pause. A just-released Marist poll found that 84 percent of Americans think banning abortions after three months is a good idea -- including seven in 10 people who describe themselves as "pro-choice." Too bad the GOP representative didn't stand on the stage of the March and see what I did: a sea of millennials and people even younger, wanting life, love and something more than the culture of death we have grown used to and even nourished.
As I watched the scene on the steps of the Supreme Court, I thought of what Carl Anderson, author of multiple books on the theme of building a civilization of love, called later that day the "tyrannical impulse" of abortion activists. That impulse reaches its logical endpoint when the government impedes on freedom of conscience, as it has with health-care regulations spawned from the Affordable Care Act.
This ongoing and growing campaign to mandate obedience to radical values threatens people's livelihoods and callings, with crushing fines for noncompliance. And it will worsen the situations of the people some of these ministries serve.
Once the march was able to move forward to the court building, a "Save the Storks" sign appeared. That's the name of a group that raises money for ultrasound technology. The Knights of Columbus, too, of which Anderson is the head, has put some 500 ultrasounds in pro-life women's health clinics in recent years.
As I write, a young woman named Sade Patterson is being celebrated by the annual Students for Life conference. She and her pro-life group on her college campus, like others around the country, are working to make their campuses more hospitable to life.
"Motherhood is one of the most important and beautiful gifts," Patterson, a student at the University of New Mexico, tells me. "I am surprised at how natural it is to step into this journey," she says. "I had so many doubts and fears, but every day is a new lesson. Yes, it is hard to be a mother, a full-time student, work and still have time for things I love to do, but it is also empowering to know that I am capable and strong enough to do this."
Her voice shows the way to a different kind of culture. No woman should ever feel alone. That's what motivates so many of the people on the frontlines of lifesaving throughout the country. They see the human face of a woman facing an unexpected pregnancy, and they introduce them to the human face of the child within them. They offer love and support.
Ann Koehl, a nurse who runs a women's care center in Indiana, told me during a recent visit how, when an abortion-minded woman walks through the doors of her clinic, she listens and lets the woman make clear her needs, and she works to meet them. That's her agenda -- "the woman's agenda" -- loving her, letting her know she's there as a support for diapers and mentoring, whatever she needs to make life go on.
These are just snapshots of the human face of the pro-life movement. One that politicians clearly need to encounter more because there is beauty to be found there, one that government can aid, not impede.