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What Pro-Life Really Means

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

"All life is worthy of dignity and respect."

Inside St. Patrick's Cathedral, the Sisters of Life, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and others prayed for the protection of all human life. It was the 49th anniversary of the Supreme Court's grave Roe v. Wade decision, which ushered in a regime of "unfettered access to abortion," Cardinal Dolan said. Dolan also talked about two police officers who were shot the night before in New York City. The man who shot them was in the same hospital as the officers (both of whom would later die), being treated by a team of doctors. Because it's not the doctors' call to decide who lives and who dies, who is worthy of care and who isn't, each patient receives the care they need.


At least that's how medicine is supposed to work.

Outside the cathedral, people were yelling and swearing. A pro-choice gathering made a commotion. Some of the organizers and participants regularly protest prayer vigils and Masses for life in New York City.

But if Roe is overturned by the Supreme Court, abortion in New York will not end -- it's probably going to increase. Already the current governor has implored pregnant women in Texas, where a heartbeat bill has been in effect since September, to travel to the Empire State for their abortions.

The Vigil for Life at St. Patrick's was also the regular Saturday night Mass in anticipation of Sunday. So, while the people who were there because of the Roe anniversary stayed for an hour of prayer after, it was other Mass-goers, many of them presumably tourists, who wound up accosted after Mass with expletives from the abortion supporters. It's one thing to harass the people who by now know what they are getting into by praying for life on the hostile streets of New York. It's another for unassuming Sunday Mass congregants to see what abortion extremism looks like. It's basically what pro-abortion politics is, unvarnished. The professionals use words like choice and health care. These folks projected "God loves abortion" on the cathedral in bright colors.


The day before, Marist poll numbers commissioned by the Knights of Columbus found that 71% of Americans support legal limits on abortion. I don't think most Americans even know that you can get abortion pills in the mail under the Biden administration -- 63% of those polled oppose that policy. We are not actually an extremist nation when it comes to abortion. And the more people see the extremism, the more I pray that abortion will be seen as the human-rights travesty of our time that it is, one that touches so many aspects of human life, making people miserable and our society more violent, pitting mother against child -- the most fundamental relationship there is -- and letting men off the hook. Abortion is not good for women and the children who are killed by it, but it is a boon for men who want to selfishly use women -- and girls -- for their own gratification.

On the night before the March for Life in Washington, D.C., at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, there was an annual Mass. Unbeknownst to those of us praying inside, a much more professional group calling themselves Catholic projected pro-abortion language on the outside of the Basilica. A reporter who was outside tweeted a photo, or most of us wouldn't have known about it. That was a desecration beyond what the angry God-loves-abortion people were doing. None of them have told me they are Catholic. But for people who use the faith to make God in their own political image, that's an offense against God and His great gift of life, an offense that hurts and confuses -- and ultimately kills.


All life is "sacred and fragile," Cardinal Dolan said. "All life is God's alone, to give and to take." At the D.C. Mass, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore talked about so many of the ministries of the Catholic Church that serve women -- including women who have had abortions. And he challenged everyone present and listening to step up to the plate and support Walking With Moms in Need, an initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To combat the evil of abortion, we need more and more people showing what pro-life means: love for women and children, not violence. We need a culture where the alternatives to abortion are ubiquitous. This can be done. It must be. And we might just find some common ground along the way.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author of the new book "A Year With the Mystics: Visionary Wisdom for Daily Living." She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan's pro-life commission in New York. She can be contacted at

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