By Abigail Wilkinsonr, M.A. student
Studying human rights, I sometimes find myself having to battle a sense of discouragement at the abuses against human dignity that seem to proliferate in contemporary society. Whether reading in a textbook about 1990s Rwanda or scanning the headlines of the morning Wall Street Journal, it takes little effort to locate instances of human suffering. Even as courageous men and women work relentlessly to protect human rights, violations continue to abound.
But this year at the March for Life in Washington, DC, I was challenged particularly by the spirit of my fellow protestors: a spirit of joy. Washington is no stranger to protests and so many of them are marked by bitterness and anger. The March for Life, however, poses a striking contrast. The streets of our nation’s capital overflowed with mothers pushing infant twins in strollers, with elderly couples arm-in-arm, with groups of students singing exuberantly. The crowd was as diverse as it was abundant: I witnessed Native Americans in traditional dress, college students from Europe and South America, and smiling religious sisters who chimed into our conversations. Oftentimes, the pro-life movement is depicted in the media as a homogenous group of sour-faced and straight-laced white men. But the men and women that I saw on the National Mall last week had little in common besides a commitment to affirming that life is valuable and in need of protection—from conception until natural death. As I walked out of class and into the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception last week, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of pilgrims who were crowded into its corners and side chapels, having come from across the country to bear witness that, as the poet Max Ehrmann wrote, “with all its sham and drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.”
The 2020 March for Life was an important reminder that we advocate to protect human rights, not to win a political battle or to make ourselves feel accomplished, but because we are motivated by a vision of human flourishing. There are a lot of frightening things in this world and for a lot of women, seeing two lines on that pregnancy test is one of them. But the story doesn’t have to end there. There were so many miracles present at last week’s March, from children who had been born alive despite attempted abortions to abortionists who have come to acknowledge and embrace the sanctity of the human person. The darkness doesn’t win out in the end, these miracles remind us, but only bears witness to the light—and that is exactly why we continue the fight for the dignity of human life.