Facebook’s On This Day feature served up a blast from the past today. I wrote a certain post five years ago, on International Women’s Day, a month before starting this blog, This was before I went freelance, and at that time I was working for New Hampshire’s Cornerstone Action.
I had just spent a day at the State House monitoring some life-issue votes. There were a lot of “Trust Women” stickers being sported by women who didn’t trust me. The tone at the State House hasn’t changed appreciably since then, through changes in party majorities.
By the way, by the time that 2012 session was over, New Hampshire had a partial-birth abortion ban. It wasn’t easy, and it required an override of John Lynch’s veto. Nevertheless, it was done.
The hallways in the state house were lined on Wednesday with people sporting stickers emblazoned with the slogans “Trust Women” and “Stop the War on Women.” Such exhortations give me pause, inasmuch as I’m a woman, and none of my sticker-clad fellow citizens seemed inclined to trust me.
Imagine, if you will, a band of citizens bearing stickers saying “Trust Men.” Passersby would immediately think “trust men to do what?” The men wearing such stickers would be laughed out of the state house. Women wearing such stickers would have my pity, along with my fervent hope that some serious consciousness-raising would take place before the next election.
So back to trusting women. Many of Wednesday’s citizens bearing the “Trust Women” message also held signs for NARAL Pro-Choice NH and Planned Parenthood. Aha. Now I get it: the stickers are telling elected officials to trust the women who support so-called pro-choice policies. Other women are not invited to the trustfest….
I was called a neanderthal this morning at the state house by someone who saw that I was not there to support the bogus “Trust Women” campaign. I was asked “how can you call yourself a woman?” I’ve spent 30 years in the thick of civic engagement, and it takes more than being outnumbered & verbally abused to make me go away. Still, it’s telling that a fellow citizen can look at me and see not a woman or a neighbor but a neanderthal. Civility, anyone?
“Some look upon birth as an accident, life as a necessary evil and death as resignation to the inevitable. The prospect can become so clouded by selfishness, statistics and pride that a womb giving life is turned into a tomb of death. There are others whose concepts of life become so narrow, their future so hopeless and their present so unbearable, that the only solution to their problem is the extinction of that life completely. And then there are many who live in a kind of nether world—the darkness of inferiority—of uselessness, of despair without a thought of God, love or what is to come. They live within a circle of their own thoughts, selfish desires and self-hatred. If only all those living in these painful, frustrating attitudes would realize how much they are loved by God, how they have a place in His plans, how He watches over them, cares for them and desires they be with Him in His Kingdom. Surely the realization of being created, supported, loved and cared for from conception, through life and in death would secure freedom to the unborn, give courage to the destitute and confidence to the hopeless.”
Note that the March for Life, scheduled a year in advance, was pushed to January 27 by the Washington authorities who issue permits, in order for the March not to interfere with post-inauguration details including cleanup. Now the “Women’s March”, newly-organized, is scheduled for the day after the inauguration. Go figure.
If you’ve been mulling over attending the March for Life or one of its state-level equivalents, this new event should be one more nudge. The right to life needs to be asserted at an event where it’s not merely one thing in a long list of concerns. It’s basic. Roe v. Wade needs to be challenged from the pro-life side, not celebrated by anyone. Respect for women begins with respecting their very right to life from the moment of conception, without regard to age or health or condition of dependency. The policymakers in D.C., including the man who will be the new president on January 27, need to hear that distinctive message.
People are welcome and needed at the March for Life in Washington as well as regional marches (in New Hampshire, that’s January 14, 2017), whether or not they come with religious convictions, and no matter who’s in the lead politically.
Those who are part of life-affirming churches have an enhanced responsibility to undertake peaceful public witness for life at those events.
I’ve been doing some research on the late Mildred Jefferson, a lion of the pro-life movement. Her papers are held by the Schlesinger Library of the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard. I found in there a handwritten draft of a 2003 message to pastors about the importance of public witness at marches for life. I don’t know if the message ever made its way into distribution, but something she wrote in the draft struck me as memorable.
…I will never believe that the loving-kind church communities that have supported the pro-life movement for so long can be any less charitable than the AIDS-walkers, hunger marchers or any others of those who support the hundreds of marches that go on now.
To Dr. Jefferson, charity meant commitment.
What kind of public commitment will the pro-life movement demonstrate in January?
Donald Trump is president-elect. All of New Hampshire’s Members of Congress and U.S. Senators next term will be pro-abortion women. In a contest between two men who have voted repeatedly to send public money to abortion providers, the New Hampshire governor’s race went to the candidate with one fewer PP contract nod to his credit.
No whining. There’s work to be done.
Politicians are deciding which policies they want to push hardest in their first days and months in office. The first hundred days set the tone for the rest of the term.
The politicians have to wait until they’re formally sworn in. Voters don’t. For us, the first hundred days start now.
Since culture precedes politics:
Spend time with family. Don’t let politics steal your joy.
Spend time with friends with a sense of humor.
Pray if you are so inclined, and include regular time for prayer in community. Literally put this on your calendar now, before the November and December holidays crowd everything out. Pray for civil recognition of the innate right to life of each human being. Pray for discernment. Pray in thanksgiving. Pray for elected officials. Pray to keep the long view in mind.
If you’re already volunteering or working for a pro-life agency or project, re-commit for 2017 – and tell others about your work.
Put the Governor’s office on speed-dial (603-271-2121). Chris Sununu will be sworn in as governor January 5.
Go to your town clerk’s office and become an independent voter. Make your involvement with political parties situational and tactical. A party with a pro-life platform does not necessarily have a full slate of pro-life candidates.
Swear off donations to political parties. Donate to individual campaigns or pro-life PACs instead. If a party solicits your support, ask politely if they can guarantee that your money will never be used to elect a pro-abortion politician. (That’s a trick question.)
When politicians say “women’s health” when they mean “funding abortion providers”, call them out. Every. Single. Time.
U.S. Senators and Members of Congress take office January 3. On that day, email or write Carol Shea-Porter, Ann Kuster, Jeanne Shaheen, and Maggie Hassan with your good wishes. Identify yourself as a pro-life New Hampshire voter.
The week of January 22 (anniversary of Roe v. Wade), go to your federal representatives’ local offices and introduce yourself to the staff. Deliver a short, upbeat pro-life message.
Send President Trump a pro-life message on Inauguration Day via email or phone.
Personally invite someone you know to join you when you attend a hearing or a rally or when you stop by a politician’s office.
Tell your own story. You have one: caring for a fragile loved one, experiencing a challenging pregnancy, witnessing on the sidewalk, living with a disabling condition, any number of things. Share what you know. Get comfortable doing that. Then be willing to tell your story to legislators and policymakers.
Commit to public witness.
Be part of New Hampshire’s march for life on January 14. Watch nhrtl.org for more details. There will be events that day beginning as early as 9 a.m. If you can do only one thing, go for the midday march that begins at the State House. Bring your kids, and bundle up.
Attend the March for Life in Washington on January 27. If you can’t afford the trip, donate a dollar or two to someone who’s going, as a token of solidarity and encouragement.
If your health care provider isn’t standing up for the right to life for each human being regardless of age, health, or condition of dependency, find another provider for 2017. Let the old one know why you’re leaving.
If you’re upset about any aspect of this election or someone’s reaction to it, get over it. Every moment spent in recrimination is a moment wasted.
Be charitable, decisive, and relentless.
In political terms, be pro-life like it’s your job – because it is.
Fourteen days remain in this season’s 40 Days for Life campaign, with vigils continuing 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. through Sunday, November 6. The New Hampshire campaigns in Manchester and Greenland are still welcoming new participants who sign the 40DFL Statement of Peace, submit it to the local campaign leader, and commit to time in prayer and peaceful witness outside Planned Parenthood in Manchester or the Lovering Center in Greenland.
The Manchester campaign will close with a candlelight prayer vigil at 5 p.m., Sunday, November 6, in the public right-of-way outside of Planned Parenthood at 24 Pennacook Street. Candles and light refreshments will be provided. Watch for updates on the campaign’s Facebook page.
The Greenland campaign will have a final rally at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 6. More details will be announced in the coming days on the campaign’s 40DFL page.
Just a thought:
40 Days for Life ends two days before Election Day. Every hour you spend at a 40 DFL vigil is an hour you won’t be getting political phone calls, greeting door-to-door campaigners, and subjecting yourself to less-than-edifying social media posts.
Catherine has said, “The worst thing we can do [when meeting abortion workers] is be confrontational, antagonistic. I think the best thing we can do is smile, say hello – just be that peaceful, kind, loving presence they need.” This from a former worker at an abortion facility, who knows what a sidewalk looks like in the hands of people being antagonistic.
Surprise: it wasn’t the truth in bloody pictures that changed her heart, or Abby’s. It was the truth in relationships. Patience, love, grace, and time were relevant, urgently so.
I need those reminders. Anyone who’s heard me testify at the State House (as has been my custom for the better part of 30 years, God help me) knows that patience is not my strong suit. Dang, some of those political types are dense. No names, please.
And yet…”You know what changed my mind? Grace.”
How did I pick one that out of this morning’s torrent of mostly-forgettable tweets? No matter. Twitter’s existence has been justified for another day. Carry on.