Among the thousands of participants who attended the rally were young children such as these who braved the cold for a good cause.
PHOTO BY NAN STEWART
THE ALARM went off at 5:00
a.m. and I thought to
myself, It’s much too early. It
was cold outside and still
dark when I pulled into the
church parking lot an hour later. Quietly,
I boarded bus #227, the comfortable
coach that would transport me
safely to the other side of the fence.
It is a fence I had been uneasily sitting
on most of my adult life. This vantage
point, I used to reason, allowed me
to see both sides of the abortion issue.
When indecision caused pangs of guilt
that reared their sharp, painful prods,
I assuaged the feeling by acknowledging
that, while abortion would never be
right for me personally, I nobly would
not inflict my personal beliefs on others.
It is at this point that I must confess,
and thank God alone, that I have never
been tested on my conviction with an
“untimely” or “unhealthy” pregnancy.
I pray that I would have stood firmly by
my belief. If, God forbid, I faltered, I
pray that someone would have stepped
forward, helping me to navigate safely
the dark and scary waters of such a
I have heard it said that God never
gives you more than you can handle.
So, at 42 years of age, I got the kind of
test that is apparently appropriate for a
wimp like me.
A Minor Miracle?
On a Sunday morning after Mass, I
approached a member of our church
community who was organizing the
trip to D.C. for the March for Life.
Unfortunately, I already had plans for
that Monday—the day of the March.
Otherwise, I would have considered
going, I told myself. Unable to attend,
I decided to show my support with a
small—and safe—donation of money.
“No,” he said, “the March is on Tuesday
and there is still room on the bus.
Why don’t you come?” In the quiet
that followed, I heard the whisper of
God that Isaiah described. Yes, Allison,
why don’t you go?
“Tuesday, you say?” I replied, genuinely
surprised. “I’ll have to check my
Now I happen to know that it was
divine providence that I attended. I am
sure of this because I came home and
immediately checked the date on my
calendar. Because I am the mother of
two little boys, a rainbow of red ink,
blue marker and yellow highlighter
covered my Gregorian game plan. But
the only conflict I encountered was
the one in my conscience. Two days
away, a perfectly white square stared
blankly back at me from the refrigerator
door. Surely, this qualified as a
I admit to being both anxious and excited
as I boarded the bus. When I was
a child growing up in the 1970s, protests
conjured up images of embroidered
bell-bottoms, hand-knit ponchos
and long-haired men and women sitting
in a circle and singing “Kumbayah.”
As a teen in the 1980s, I remembered
that the anti-abortion movement included clinic bombings and sniper
shootings. Where did I fit in?
It turns out there’s plenty of room.
On January 22, 2008, I climbed aboard
a half-filled charter bus in Radford, Virginia,
clad in L.L. Bean boots and yoga
pants and carrying a monogrammed
canvas bag that contained flare-legged
Levi’s (they’re back in style, you know).
My destination? Washington, D.C.
When we arrived there five hours
later, the sky was colored a heavy, steel
gray and filled with precipitation,
seemingly reflecting the weight of the
task ahead. The air was colder than
forecast and we armed ourselves for
battle in layers of cotton, wool and
fleece, offering up all inconveniences to
“Make note of our bus,” someone
said, pointing to the handwritten sign
that distinguished us from others. “St.
Jude,” it proudly proclaimed, the patron
saint of lost causes. Off we went.
Our nation’s capital enveloped me:
magnificent white-columned buildings
surrounded by sleek modern architecture,
expansive grass lawns outlined in
crude rope fencing, and sweet, innocent
children laughing and holding signs
larger than themselves: “Defend Life,”
the signs said, pointing the way.
I have been to D.C. many times, but
for some reason it felt as if I was in a foreign
country, sojourners’ soil. Classical
Roman architecture loomed large with
massive white fluted colonnades and
rows of symmetrically arched windows
stacked one on top of another, immediately
calling to mind ancient Rome.
In a pensive mood, I imagined what our
Capitol might look like one or two
thousand years from now. I pictured the
Colosseum, a place of bloody gladiator
battles, where Christians were thought
to be thrown to the lions and torn limb
What would remain of our culture,
The March itself circled the Capitol
building, passing by Senate offices and
the Library of Congress and culminating
at the steps of the Supreme Court
of the United States. This was the end
of the road, the pinnacle of justice as
defined by humans. Within these walls,
laws are determined, declared and upheld
by the most powerful and advanced
civilization in the world today.
We paused at the bottom of the wide,
white staircase that was dotted with
police officers in dark uniforms (“peace”
officers, as my son used to say before he
could pronounce it). It was not the
police, but the words carved in stone at
the top of the building that stopped me:
“Equal Justice Under Law.”
A small, silent voice spoke from
somewhere deep inside of me. Not for
all, the voice said, endearing itself to me
It was in that moment that I connected
with something weak and vulnerable,
eternally voiceless, faceless and
nameless that reached out and grasped
my finger, pulling me firmly to the
other side of the fence.
I read the words again and sensed the
presence of something larger.
“Equal Justice Under Law.”
These were more than words etched
in stone by human hands. This was
truth—inalienable rights endowed by
As we left the city, I couldn’t help but
feel sad and disappointed. Our efforts
seemed as small, weak and unnamed as
the babies themselves. I knew that as a
society we were capable of more, of
better, if only we could wake up and see
it. My muscles twitched with the desire
It was five p.m. and we were poised
to cross the Potomac and return to our
lives. I thought of the statistics I had
heard earlier that day and I said to
myself, It’s much too late.
Simultaneously, the sun broke
through the clouds for the first time
that day, saturating the sky above and
the river below in streams of gleaming
gold. I followed the rays to the right and
witnessed the Washington Monument
pointing heavenward. It was there that
I found the hope for which I was longing:
a sign of God’s promise, a symbol
of God’s unending mercy. It was there
that a brilliant rainbow shone for all to