I wore stockings under my jeans under my sweatpants to the March for Life in Washington, D.C., last Friday. Some said the weather fit the occasion: This march doesn’t belong in July. People should come out on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, they said, and people should come in the cold.
A speaker on the National Mall labeled ours a “culture of death,” and said that through abortion we’ve eliminated from our nation enough children to equal the population of England. My friends and I marched behind our enormous sign chanting. “We are the pro-life generation.” Others carried signs that said, “I regret my abortion.” On Capitol Hill we met protesters whose signs commanded, “Abortion on demand and without apology.”
I tried remembering that women who choose to have abortions have faces of their own. Among those protesting the march I saw more young men than women. Who lived behind the faces? Who had they touched? What had they done?
I learned about pregnancy every day in eighth grade social studies. While we studied the Jazz Age and Gettysburg battles my peers and I also experienced an observational education about the human gestation period. The pregnant girl sat in front of me. I didn’t know her story. She was probably 14. We watched her baby grow.
Nothing seems a more obvious investment in loneliness than abortion. Loneliness, that term coined by Shakespeare in an age of rising individualism, has marked my generation deep in the heart. This girl’s intense desire for relationship should have manifested itself in eighth grade do-you-like-me-too check-the-box love notes. Given time, she might have worn her desire full-bloom in a white dress at an altar, then brought children into a two-parented house, warm in winter, full of storybooks. Even given other circumstances, she chose to keep the child.
I felt unsure of what to say to girls, my peers, who carried their babies to term in the high school’s public eye. Half of me quaked at the prospect of condoning the girl’s apparent promiscuity by affirming the life within her. The other half said, “Life comes into the world. A new face. At least she’s keeping the baby.”
As I elbowed my way through Friday’s crowd, trying to get to the bathroom in the Smithsonian, I thought of other faces behind peers’ high school pregnancies. I thought of my ambivalence in facing them. Back then my heart used to feel like an egg out of its shell: part white, part yellow. I wished someone would bring along a whisk and beat them together into one solid color, into one solid answer. Life.
Who will teach the broken little girls what a family should look like? Won’t someone make the little girls of my lonely generation a loaf of bread, let them in from the cold, gain trust enough to hear their tales, and offer the kind of healing that comes in a stable family unit?
Washington, D.C., felt like a big-armed family on Friday. Even as I elbowed by I was met with kind eyes on every side. I wonder if individual faces will have even more effect on abortion than a crowd can. Loneliness happens person by person. So does the fight for life.