The annual March for Life plays a foundational role in the Church's work to promote human dignity at all stages of development, said a member of the U.S. bishops' pro-life office.
Deirdre McQuade, assistant director of policy and communication for the U.S. Bishops' Pro-Life Secretariat, told CNA that while numerous contemporary issues deal with human life and dignity, abortion is a “fundamental chop at the root of life.”
Coming together “for mutual encouragement” at the annual March for Life and other pro-life demonstrations is essential in building solidarity and showing that “the pro-life movement is strong, youthful,” she stated.
“Many, many good people have pro-life convictions, but feel isolated,” she said, explaining that “if we don't come together, we don't know” how many other people hold these views.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of pro-life demonstrators flood the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to participate in the March for Life, held on or near Jan. 22, the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision that allowed abortion to be legalized throughout the U.S.
McQuade said that her own participation in the March For Life as a high school student helped her to realize how large the pro-life movement is.
“I was always pro-life,” she said, but attending the national demonstration helped her realize as a teenager “that this was the foundational civil rights movement of our age.”
The march is also a statement to the nation about the reality of abortion and its impact on human rights, she continued.
“Human dignity is not something that we can add to or subtract from,” she stressed, and when society bases human rights on age or state of development, “we're practicing mass discrimination.”
“If anyone has a right to life, all have a right to life.”
Furthermore, the March for Life has a distinctive “witness value” for women who have suffered from past abortions, McQuade said.
“We're standing in solidarity with those women,” she explained, “saying we hope one day no one has to go through what you had to go through.”
The pro-life movement is “working towards the day in which no one feels like they have to have an abortion,” she said.
While protesting Roe v. Wade and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton, is an important part of creating a “culture of life,” McQuade acknowledged, there is more work that needs to be done.
The U.S. Catholic bishops having been working “across a variety of offices” in “issues throughout the life span,” she said, but their work is threatened by “oppressive” laws promoting abortion and stifling religious freedom throughout the country.
“In this administration and in this time, sadly we're more in a mode of defense rather than actively moving to protect more lives,” she commented.
The bishops' conference is currently focusing on two proposed laws to protect vulnerable unborn lives.
The Healthcare Conscience Rights Act “protects two populations in a very necessary way,” McQuade said. It secures the conscience rights of health care workers who are threatened with losing their jobs if they do not perform or participate in abortions.
It also offers protection to “Catholic and other business owners” who face penalties for following their conscience by offering “good insurance” plans that exclude contraception, sterilization and some early abortion drugs.
In addition, the bishops are supporting the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act, McQuade said, explaining that the legislation would solidify “into law a longstanding federal policy” that prevents taxpayer funding of abortions for domestic programs.
The Affordable Care Act effectively bypasses longstanding restrictions on federal funding of abortion, and “a fix is necessary,” she stated, urging that this is an “absolutely essential piece of legislation.”
“There is a direct relationship between the state funding of abortion and the number of abortions,” she noted. “If someone considered themselves pro-choice but didn't want more (abortions), they should support the No Taxpayer Funding For Abortion Act.”
“It can have a systemic effect on protecting human lives.”