This is the fifth anniversary of this piece I wrote originally as a National Catholic Register editorial, but which has been republished yearly.
I’m sure you’ve seen us. We may have made you angry, or sad, or we may have made you turn quickly away and find something else to look at.
You may have seen us two days before Christmas outside the Planned Parenthood building. The old man with the rosary, the college kids in sweats, the sad-looking woman clutching brochures and an “I Regret My Abortion” sign — that was us.
Maybe you felt offended that we stuck abortion in your face as you rushed out to do last-minute shopping, cheered by Christmas songs on the radio. Well, we felt offended that the “clinic” was open that day. We wanted to enjoy ourselves, too.
Or maybe you heard one of us at a town meeting you attended at the school or the senior center. Maybe it was a savvy young woman lawyer that you heard voice the pro-life argument. Or maybe the voice of the pro-life movement you heard was a halting, nervous voice that got a little too angry or whose words got a little too tangled. In either case, that was us, too.
We may have made you uncomfortable that day. We’re sorry for that. But we’ll be there again at the next town meeting, too. And the next. And the next.
We won’t go away, and we won’t stop talking about abortion. We won’t stop saying, again and again, that this is wrong, and it has to stop.
America, you know more about the unborn than you ever have before. Life magazine used to sell out when they put an unborn baby on the cover. Now, we’ve seen National Geographic’s “In the Womb.” We have sonogram photos at the front of our baby books and we saw our children for the first time in utero, through a video monitor.
America, you know more than ever that abortion hurts women. Those of us who have had an abortion know the guilt at what was done and the anger at those who made it seem inevitable, who refused all help except the kind that kills. Those of us who have a friend who has had an abortion know it is a topic that we must never, ever discuss. It causes too much sadness, inflicts too much pain that can’t be relieved.
America, you know what abortion is, and we know you know. We won’t stand by and pretend with you that nothing is happening.
And we won’t go away, because we can’t make abortion go away from our own consciences. Abortion stings us. The sting is there when we see an empty playground and remember that 1 in 3 children in America dies by abortion. The sting is there when we read of successful surgery saving unborn children in the womb, and remember that babies don’t survive the most common surgery in the womb.
Is abortion necessary for women’s rights? Ask the teens impregnated by older men and brought to the “clinic” by them, too. Is it a matter of choice? Ask the women who wanted to have their babies but were badgered and pressured and tricked and even forced to kill instead.
But doesn’t abortion help women? Ask the ones who died on the operating table — or the ones who say they wish they died because the depression is too much to bear.
What would America be like without abortion? We can’t even imagine. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey gets a glimpse of what Bedford Falls would be like if he hadn’t been born, but then he returns to a world where that tragedy never happened.
We won’t get to return to the world we could have had.
Did we abort a statesman who would have changed the course of this country? Did we abort the musician who would have taken that art — and our emotions with it — to new heights? What cures, stories, jokes, athletic feats or technological innovations did we abort? What great actor is missing from our movies, what great teachers will never inspire our kids at school?
No, America, we won’t go away, no matter how much you want us to or how much we want to go.
We want to think we would have told the slave-sellers, “No way. Not here. I will use every legal means to stop you.” We like to think we wouldn’t have sat still in World War II Germany as the trains rumbled by. We wish we could have sat with Rosa Parks or prayed with Ruby Bridges on the way to school.
But we can’t do any of that. What we can do is remind you, America, in season and out of season, of the words you were founded on: “All men are endowed by their Creator with the right to life.”
So you’ll see us shivering in the cold again this January for the March for Life. And you’ll see us next January, and the January after that, and the January after that, until we wear you down at last and there’s no more reason to march.
And if we die before you change, America, we’ll be able to stand before God and say, “I defended the defenseless. I stood for the weak. My brothers and sisters couldn’t cry ‘Stop,’ so I cried it for them. And I refused to go away.”
Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., where he teaches in the Journalism and Mass Communications department and edits the college’s Catholic identity speech digest, The Gregorian.