This past Friday marked the 48th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in America. This coming Friday marks the 48th annual March for Life, a rally that upholds the sanctity of human life from conception through natural death and protests the tragedy of abortion. While the March for Life is traditionally a large-scale event held in Washington, D.C., due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year it will consist only of a small group of leaders in the pro-life movement, with the rest of the country invited to participate virtually in the national rally.
Over the past few months, the McGrath Institute for Church Life’s Office of Life and Human Dignity has been hosting a series of webinars entitled “Conversations that Matter.” The goal of this series is to spark authentic dialogue that deepens our commitment to our fellow sisters and brothers without the polarization and vitriol that currently characterize these conversations. This semester’s focus is the “Intersection of Justice and Pregnancy.” These particular webinars are structured to widen the scope of understanding about the work of the pro-life movement, societal structures that impact women, and supporting women who are in crisis. In learning more about these topics, we hope that conversations will move beyond the categories of pro-life and pro-choice to empathy and creativity in support of both moms and their unborn children.
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It seems trivial to say that we are living in strange times. Yet, the triviality does not change the reality. Structures, institutions, and patterns of life once thought permanent and stable have been radically altered by the pandemic; moreover, we have been made aware that the “normal” life so many of us desire to return to is one of pervasive discrimination and tragic injustice for many, especially our Black brothers and sisters. The murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and others cry out for justice and call us to action.
When I first started brainstorming how to teach the topic of human dignity to my eleventh-grade Morality class, I was eager but intimidated. Covering the topic of abortion was a must, but when I sat down to think about how I could cover the topic in a nuanced and compassionate, yet firmly pro-life manner, I was stumped. Many questions flooded my mind: ‘How do I take a firmly pro-life stance, while also expressing compassion for women who have suffered abortions?’ ‘How do I present the pro-life standpoint in a way that is transformative but not preachy?’ ‘How do I help my students see that all people have a right to life, even when that life involves suffering?’