Unlike my trip to the March for Life last year, I had only one day off for this year’s March. I managed to get there and back in 21 hours. Don’t try that with kids, colds, or bad weather.
I’m not a fan of the formal pre-March pep rally; I’m already pepped or I wouldn’t be there. Instead, I talked with a group from Canada that comes every year to stand along the parade route to cheer. They decline invitations to walk in the March, as near as I can tell; one of them told me “we’re here to thank you.” I went to the New Wave Feminists meetup outside the shuttered Air and Space Museum (government shutdown in progress), where I heard from two amazing, courageous women whose stories were new to me. I ran into Dr. George Harne of Northeast Catholic College in Warner, N.H., who was with NCC students at the March.
“Unique from Day One” was the theme of the 2019 March for Life.
Students for Life display at March for Life Expo 2019, Washington DC
Peacefully making point outside the Supreme Court
Students for Life greet marchers at the end of March for Life 2019, in front of Supreme Court building.
Marchers and counter-protesters stood side by side in front of the Supreme Court under the watchful eyes of local police.
A glimpse back at marchers heading up Capitol Hill, March for Life 2019, Washington DC
It was fun to see students having a blast with Washington’s modest snow cover. I saw this snowman on the National Mall, propping up a sign from Feminists for Life.
I was determined to get a photo of the March crowd coming up Capitol Hill, which is hard to do from within the crowd – quick turn, hold up the phone, snap a photo and hope for the best – so I figured I’d get out ahead of the March and take a photo from the middle of the road. Nope, said a nice policeman. So the blurry image in this post’s gallery, taken as I teetered on the edge of a curb, was the best I could do. To see the size of the March, I recommend EWTN’s television coverage, along with this time-lapse video from Students for Life.
I ventured into the world of Facebook Live to give an assignment to viewers not at the March: call or tweet or visit or write our federal representatives, who are solidly pro-abortion – the ones from New Hampshire, at any rate. Let them know there’s a March going on; invite them to check it out; let them know that you don’t want your tax dollars being used for abortion or to subsidize abortion providers; and above all, let them know that Roe isn’t “settled.”
The team at the national March for Life has invited people to post their own reasons for marching for life, using the hashtag #whywemarch. Check that out on Twitter and you’ll find some good material. Here’s my contribution, recorded in Concord just before the New Hampshire March for Life on January 12.
Why do I march? To let my elected officials close to home and in Washington know that debates over the right to life aren’t settled and aren’t over. We have work to do and we’ll keep at it.
The New Hampshire march took place under a beautiful blue sky on a 15° day. Afterward came the customary post-march gathering on South Main Street, where volunteers from Christ the King Parish had wonderful soups and sandwiches for everyone. Keynote speaker at the gathering was Neil Hubacker, whom I know through my work as a communications consultant with Cornerstone Action. I loved his theme of “Meeting the Unexplainable with the Unexpected,” illustrated by examples of New Hampshire people doing low-key things in pro-life ministry that are making a difference in people’s lives even if the headlines aren’t there. Encouraging stuff!
I ask my readers’ indulgence as I shamelessly swipe something from the latest update out of 40 Days for Life in Greenland, New Hampshire.
…I also got an update about the women from the Correctional Center who pray for our Greenland 40 Days for Life Efforts. The Godmother to one of the women forwarded my 40DFL email in which I mentioned the women and their prayer support of our local 40 DFL efforts. The women were very encouraged by the connection they have to something outside their walls-the 40 Days for Life Greenland vigil!
No one is beyond prayer, and no one is beyond joining in prayer.
Of course, the fellowship from the women in the correctional center means that someone talked to at least one of them about 40 Days for Life and its peaceful witness against abortion, and that person talked to others, and so on. It started with one person.
Might you be such a person? Are there people in your life who don’t yet know about 40 Days for Life? You never know whose heart may be ready to respond.
There’s still time to join in the fall campaign, which runs through Sunday, November 4. Learn more at 40daysforlife.com, and click on the green button that says “find a campaign” to find the one nearest you.
The next 40 Days for Life campaign begins on September 26 and ends on November 4. Learn more about the peaceful pro-life witness at 40daysforlife.com, where you can also look up your local campaign in order to sign up for vigil hours.
Kickoff rallies for the Manchester and Greenland, N.H. campaigns will take place at 2 p.m. on Sunday, September 23. Manchester’s rally will take place at Ste. Marie Church, and you can RSVP online. Greenland’s rally will be in the Greenland town offices parking lot; learn more on the Facebook event page.
New Hampshire Right to Life Banquet
The annual benefit banquet benefiting the New Hampshire Right to Life Committee will take place October 4, 2018 at the Executive Court in Manchester. See the NHRTL web site for details and ticket information. The featured speaker will be Sue Ann Browder.
St. Charles 5k Road Race
The 22nd annual St. Charles 5k race is coming up on Labor Day, September 3. Get details at the race web site and register today. Runners and walkers alike are welcome at this terrific event that benefits the work of St. Charles School, where the “Running Nuns” provide academic, social, emotional and behavioral services in a therapeutic setting for male and female students in grades K-8.
Primary Election Day: September 11, 2018
The primary election for New Hampshire federal, state and county offices is Tuesday, September 11. If you are eligible to vote in a primary (contact your town clerk with any questions about that), you can find a sample ballot now at your town hall or at the Secretary of State’s web site. Now’s the time to do your research on the candidates.
I wrote awhile ago about some 2018 New Hampshire House life-issue votes. If your state reps are running for re-election, you might be interested in how they voted on things like conscience rights for medical personnel (HB 1787; the motion was “inexpedient to legislate” so a Nay vote indicated support for the bill), and on abortion statistics (HB 471; the last motion on the bill was “inexpedient to legislate” so a Nay vote indicated support for the bill).
Second in a series of reports from the 2018 Pro-Life Women’s Conference. Part one is here.
My first look at the long list of speakers for the third annual Pro-Life Women’s Conference (PLWC) told me that there weren’t enough hours on the clock for me to be able to hear all of them. And then at the very first gathering – a Friday night dinner – the organizers threw an unscheduled speaker into the already-full program. I had never heard of her.
I thought Really? Sticking someone right after Serrin Foster? That’s just unkind. The longtime leader of Feminists for Life had keynoted the gathering with a challenging talk. She’s a tough act to follow.
I needn’t have been concerned. Savannah Marten could take care of herself.
Revolutionizing the Conversation
Conference emcee Abby Johnson introduced Marten, who’s the director of The Pregnancy Center of Greater Toledo (Ohio). “She is someone who is willing to build bridges. What Savannah has done has absolutely revolutionized the conversation about what it means to be pro-life.”
What she’s done is push past her comfort zone, into working relationships with unconventional allies. That theme was to come up again and again during the conference.
Savannah said that three days into her job as The Pregnancy Center’s director, she was asked by a community leader what the Center was doing about infant mortality. “I said ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’ I was mortified that I had been in the pro-life community for seven years and hadn’t heard one person talking about infant mortality.”
I later looked up figures from the Centers for Disease Control: in 2016, New Hampshire’s infant mortality rate was 3.7 (deaths per 1,000 live births). Nationwide, the rate was 5.9. In Savannah’s state, Ohio, the rate was 7.4. “In my state, the state of Ohio, we are 49th out of 50 for African-American babies dying before their first birthday.
“The pro-life community should be number one in the community showing up for this topic. My life motto is…’what table do I need to be at to be able to use my voice of influence?’ We find the tables we need to be sitting at in order to effectively advance this cause. Where tables do not exist, we build them, and we invite our community to those tables.”
This is when I started taking notes. I knew I was about to hear a story worth sharing.
“I knocked on every door”
She began to educate herself by reaching out to people already working with at-risk women. “I knocked on every door I possibly could in my community. I said ‘I’m not here to talk about abortion. I’m not here to talk about politics. I’m not here to talk to you about anything other than why black babies are not making it to their first birthdays in our community.’ And they invited me to the table.
“These are people who have even stood outside of my pregnancy center with signs in protest. Now all of a sudden they’re welcoming me to the table.”
Faith leaders with whom Savannah had never spoken before were critical to the conversation. “We began to interact with the African-American faith community. Our center had existed for 32 years, and not one predominantly African-American church had any sort of partnership [with us]. I simply said ‘walk me through your neighborhood and talk to me about what is going on in your neighborhood. Talk to me about the babies.’
“And suddenly they began to talk. They began to want to sit down and hear about what we were doing at the pregnancy center.” Over time, mutual trust and respect developed.
Working with a hospital
Savannah’s next step was to approach the major hospital in her area, on behalf of her pregnancy center. “[Hospital representatives] learned that women come to my pregnancy center, at five or six weeks gestation, and they are the number one women at risk for infant mortality and low birth weight. [Later in pregnancy] this hospital cannot even get them to show up for their appointments. Most of them show up at the emergency room and deliver their children there. And we wonder why [children] are not making it to their first birthday.”
Meeting after meeting followed, progress coming by inches. Eventually, a breakthrough: “the largest hospital in northwest Ohio…gave us access to their scheduler.”
Now, “every woman who comes in [to The Pregnancy Center] for an ultrasound leaves our facility with an OB/GYN appointment scheduled for them. If they leave our center and they wait another six weeks to call [the hospital for an appointment], they’re not going to get in.
“We cannot be satisfied with handing these women pamphlet after pamphlet, and referral after referral. Women who are in poverty, women who are in crisis, need more than referrals. They need a life raft. That’s what we’re committed to do.”
Anyone who has been involved in interagency collaborations knows that conflicts arise, some of them irreconcilable. Savannah was faced with one shortly after the scheduling breakthrough with the hospital. “The same week that this hospital gave us access to their scheduler, they signed a transfer agreement with our city’s last abortion facility. I was plagued with this question: do we back out from providing thousands of women health care, because a hospital didn’t make a church decision? Or do we live by our core principle that says we come to the table to effect change and influence those in our community?”
She made a decision that brought her criticism from some pro-life allies. I think her experience is instructive. “Among unpopular opinion, we chose to continue our partnership with this hospital. If the abortion facility is going to enter into a partnership and influence our hospital, then the pro-life community should be at that same table advocating [for] what women in our community need.”
And by the way, that hospital has just accepted Savannah Marten’s application for a board position.
“This is how we effect change. We go to the tables we’re not comfortable in, the tables we’re not invited to, the tables that cause us to think differently and look at things differently.”
“We need Esthers”
Savannah Marten is Christian, and she used a Biblical reference to challenge her listeners at the conference. “We need Esthers to arise. We need Esthers who will stand up and catch the ear of the men and women of influence in our community. But we haven’t done that. We hide in our little pro-life communities. There’s no excuse. There’s no reason for us to hide. Because I have been crucified with Christ, and no longer I who live but he who lives in me. You have nothing to be afraid of. We already have the victory. Be joyful. Stay hopeful. ”
(The PLWC is a non-sectarian gathering, but that doesn’t mean any speaker is bashful about expressing her beliefs.)
She spoke about a community leader, a big-time Democrat, whom she has come to know during her tenure at the Pregnancy Center of Greater Toledo. One day he said to her, “I am now proudly pro-life, because you’ve shown me what true pro-life looks like.”
Savannah Marten could have dismissed as a distraction that long-ago question about infant mortality. She could have discounted it because it came from someone not supportive of her Center’s work. Instead, she had enough humility to acknowledge that she had something to learn. She had the guts to walk up to people she didn’t know and say “please show me around.” She had the patience to work to gain trust from hospital representatives.
And now, she wants to see more of us going out and finding, or building, those tables where conversations can take place.