April 26, 2004,
WASHINGTON, D.C. "I wish Barbara Bush had had choice available to her." That was a snippet of an ongoing conversation and it was characteristic of more than one overhead Sunday night on an Amtrak train from Washington, D.C., to New York City. The train was filled with March for Women's Lives participants.
And that was characteristic of the whole weekend. At a pre-march rally on Saturday night at the D.C. Armory by RFK Stadium, California congresswoman Maxine Waters told George W. Bush to "go to hell." Going to hell with him, said Waters, should be John Ashcroft, Don Rumsfeld, and Condi Rice. In a brief, non-impromptu speech, that's what a member of the United States Congress chose to say. (You'll be amused or horrified to know she was introduced as "the future president of the United States.")
Of course, there were plenty of relatively hum-drum placards and t-shirts, etc., around the nation's capital this weekend: "It's Your Choice...Not Theirs," "Stop Bush's War on Women," and the like. But you couldn't avoid the obvious: At the official march kickoff rally Saturday night, the most frequently used word was the f-word and I don't mean "feminist." There was a crass, angry framework to the whole march weekend, in fact. President Bush hates women, for sure. And, mercy be on any woman in the line of sight of John Ashcroft (that would be, for the record, every American woman). Abortionist George Tiller actually referred to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Ashcroft as "the four horsemen of the apocalypse" which, I guess, makes eternal damnation all the more fitting. The war being waged is against women; as one attendee put it: "Pro-life is to Christianity as al Qaeda is to Islam."
What was desperately lacking at the March for Women's Lives was any sense of perspective.
The most colorful signs were of the "Get Bush Off My Bush" variety. That's one thing on young girls' tank tops, but one of my Amtrak companions in her middle age was longing for one, too. It's a crowd that needs some growing up.
And healing. Quietly gathering around the march were women and men and college students organized under a group called Silent No More, which works with families suffering from abortion. Their permit request was denied after an effective effort from the supposedly freedom-loving sisters who organized the "March for Women's Lives." (Said Georgette Forney, president of NOEL, one of the groups that makes up the Silent No More coalition (the other being Priests for Life), "It's ironic that they are marching to protect women's right to choose and at the same time working to deny us our right to talk about the pain abortion caused us. We are the faces of the choice they promote.") So, Silent No More adjusted plans, remapped their routes, and had a little prayer chain around the march under another group's permit. No pictures of aborted fetuses from them. No yelling. No hating. They held signs that said "Women Deserve Better," "I Regret Lost Fatherhood," and "I Regret My Abortion." One sign was simply a happy face that said, "I Am Pro-life."
One of the women gathered with Silent No More, Lynn Hurley, told me that she had had an abortion in 1971 when she was in college. She knows the pain of abortion and says, "I hurt for the [women marching] who hurt, who have been through abortions themselves. They're probably in denial." She said, "I'm hoping women might see our signs and be touched by them."
Though the "pro-choice" caricature of a pro-lifer is of a hater killers of abortionists, oppressors of women that elitist conventional wisdom (which was very much part of the march on Sunday) ought to be reconsidered. One close look at what went on both on and around the Mall this weekend would be a healthy baby step in that direction.