by Mary Eberstadt2 . 20 . 20

This essay is adapted from a speech delivered January 25, 2020, at the first annual meeting of The David Project, a new pro-life organization whose members represent every Ivy League campus.

Who are the true radicals of our time? Not sexual revolutionaries—ever since Obergefell, they have become as unremarkable as rainbow flags. Neither is the abortion-euthanasia juggernaut radical—not anymore, and not for a long time. Cheerleading for Roe and the rest, like other forms of vice-signaling, is endemic in polite society.

No: The authentic radicals today are those who reject these contemporary orthodoxies for an older, less mechanistic, more robust view of the human person. We live in a culture of diminution, in which the idea of humanity itself continues to shrink, and in which the circles of those we care for continue to implode. Given the challenges of addressing this culture, consider these six rules pro-lifers should use to blaze a way forward.

Rule #1: Whenever possible, attend the annual March on the Mall.

Sounds quotidian, doesn’t it? You likely checked that box this year, for the first or tenth time. Possibly, you wondered in private whether pro-lifers might do something better with our time. But not only should you go out of your way to appear again next year; you might also add annual attendance to your permanent to-do list.

First, nothing illustrates the difference between the pro-life position and the pro-abortion position more than the visual evidence of the March for Life. The activists who march on Washington demanding ever more abortion are a grim lot. The spectacle is sepulchral: Women, many of them past childbearing age, marching to annihilate pregnancies they will never know again. Leaving aside the moral point, these advocates possess a mercilessly picayune and crabbed anthropology—and it shows.

The March for Life, by contrast, is buoyant, full of camaraderie, and young. The pro-abortion media missed exactly this point in their coverage of the Covington Catholic story: Many thousands of high school students from all over the country attend the March for Life, year in and year out. The opposing marches feature few high school students or children—in part because the pro-abortion side deems children negotiable. Attending the March regularly underscores that contradiction between the pro-life and pro-death camps—and we will never know who might be swayed to the pro-life side on account of it.

Attending the March also witnesses in another way. A priest friend once told me about another priest who was in the habit of protesting outside an abortion factory in Maryland every Saturday morning. One weekend was bitter cold. Snow began falling. No one else showed up. The priest felt despondent. But he knelt in the snow for a while anyway, wondering why he wasn’t home and warm.

Only later did he learn that a young woman inside the abortion mill, waiting for her procedure, had looked out the window and seen him praying in the snow. And she had a moment of recognition and epiphany. She thought, that priest is kneeling in the snow, and he doesn’t even know me or what I’m carrying; if it means so much to him, a stranger, how can I go through with this? She left the building, and went on to have the baby—all because of his witness. Few such stories are recorded, but they are no less part of our human tapestry for that reason. Everyone at the March for Life is a potentially unsettling witness, a human sign of contradiction that can save lives.