The Rocky Mountain March for Life was held Jan. 21, Martin Luther King Day. After a rally on the sidewalk in front of Planned Parenthood, participants marched in a eucharistic procession to Corpus Christi Church for Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael Sheridan. (Photo by Peter Fecteau)
(Editor’s Note: Below is the text of the keynote address delivered by Julie Bailey at the Rocky Mountain March for Life on Jan. 21. Bailey is director of the Diocese of Colorado Springs’ Respect Life Apostolate.)
“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.”
On this day, when we remember the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we recall that, in his work to promote civil rights for Black Americans, he was inspired by these words from the Declaration of Independence. He saw these words for what they were: a great dream, a dream worth fighting for.
While his focus may have been more on the first part — “that all men are created equal” — today I propose that much of what Dr. King said and taught will help to defend the sanctity of human life. The second part of this sentence from the Declaration of Independence, the part that reads, “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” is foundational to our cause. Because, in essence, the most fundamental of all civil rights is the right to life, and that civil right begins in the womb.
We hear a lot about injustice in our world today, but really, what could be more unjust than the denial of life to the most vulnerable? The unborn, the disabled, the aged, the sick are having their most basic right, the right to life, assaulted at every turn in our relativistic and utilitarian society. Abortion, medical aid in dying, and euthanasia are all offenses against the right to life, but all we hear from our culture is the mantra of choice — that it’s legal, so it must be okay. Yet, as Dr. King said, “never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”
We hear from our culture, “don’t like abortion, don’t have one” and “no one is telling you that you should request physician-assisted suicide, but you can’t tell me I can’t.” “You can’t tell me what to do, it’s none of your business!” But what people ignore when they say these things is something Dr. King understood completely and wrote about in his letter from a Birmingham jail. He wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” And, “Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly”.
So please, don’t let anyone tell you that abortion, and other assaults on the dignity of life, aren’t your business. They are deeply, profoundly your business. They are our business. God has put us here, in this place, at this time, for his purposes. And I believe one of his sacred purposes, which should be our purpose, is to fight the culture of darkness and death with everything we have.
Do we fight that darkness with anger, hatred, and vitriol? No, in fact, Dr. King nailed it when he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And so, we must fight that darkness with love, with mercy, with compassion. We must be the light in this dark world.
Is it going to be easy? Nope! It’s going to be hard. It would be a lot easier to just lay low, keep quiet, and stay out of the way. But I propose that what happens to us if we refuse to fight is, we fade away, we lose our joy, we lose our focus. As Dr. King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Will we be judged, mocked, ridiculed if we engage in this fight? Probably. In fact, society may judge you a fool for doing things that we’re doing today: standing in the cold, praying, marching. But, as Dr. King said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
You may have already experienced ridicule for standing up for life. You may have had people accuse you of getting in the way of progress for asserting the value of every human life; as if the meaning of progress is more, and more effective methods of ridding society of those who don’t or can’t make so-called meaningful contributions — those who don’t matter. But that’s a twisted sense of progress. Dr. King saw that real human progress meant greater justice, not the injustice of stripping people of their God-given rights. But he also knew that real progress, demands human effort. He said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable . . . Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”
We have seen some progress in our pro-life cause over the last several years. We have a president who has actively supported life honoring policies, and who has appointed two Supreme Court Justices who may bring us closer to dismantling the devastating 1973 decisions of Roe vs. Wade and Doe vs. Bolton. We have seen numbers of abortions in our country decreasing, abortion clinics closing, and abortion workers leaving the industry. We have seen babies and families saved from the tragedy of abortion through the witness of 40 Days for Life prayer warriors and sidewalk advocates.
But we have also experienced disappointments, such as the failure to defund Planned Parenthood and pass the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. But, as Dr. King reminded us over 50 years ago, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
So, in closing, I encourage you to, as Paul wrote to the Romans: “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom 5:3-5)