I always feel a sense of nostalgia whenever I cross the Potomac and enter the District. As a child, I remember being awestruck by the soaring monuments commemorating the leaders of yesterday and marveling at how their stone gazes seemed to watch us as we raced by, the journey to see my Pop Pop nearing its destination. Though I did not have the vocabulary to articulate what my soul felt in the spring air as the cherry blossoms bloomed, I would now describe it as the birthing of a lifelong desire for justice. At that time, I was oblivious to the March for Life, the annual rally opposing the Roe v Wade decision. The bronze-colored corona of the National Museum of African American History was decades from becoming the beacon of hope we presently enjoy on the national mall. The reality that a cornucopia of raging tensions of an entire nation routinely descended upon the capital city clothed in demonstration, deposition, or boisterous defiance escaped me. In retrospect, childhood nostalgia does not always record or recall history accurately.
Recently tens of thousands of students, professionals, clergy, activists, survivors, and citizens marched through Washington, exhibiting unified support for preborn children, mothers, and the right to life. Shifting culture and curbing abortion requires more than protests and landmark Supreme Court decisions. A commitment to human dignity demands a recognition of the convergence of life and justice issues and a willingness to address the circumstances that 75 percent of abortion-minded women claim are roadblocks to their desire to parent. Step by step, my feet propelling me down the pavement, the walk toward justice for the preborn is like a thread in one of my mother’s quilts that weaves and stitches its way throughout the entire blanket, creating a single, unsegmented garment.
In this cloak, what links different justice issues is a shared commitment to equal dignity for all human life, from the womb to the tomb. An incomplete view of justice that honors some but condemns certain lives to misery and harm should be intimately familiar to all of us. We only need to think about America’s reprehensible history of convict leasing, redlining, mass incarceration, and of course, the injustice of chattel slavery. Even within recent generations, that Black lives were forgotten and oppressed was a side issue — something that, maybe, we would get to later, after we solved our more pressing problems.
Ten years before Roe, in 1963, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, speaking from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, emphatically emphasized what he called the fierce urgency of now. He declared that the road from segregation to racial justice and brotherhood must not be a gradual evolution but a pursuit fueled by intentional unrelenting expedience. When we pursue justice, we assume responsibility for the forgotten, the downtrodden, the oppressed, and the weak. We elevate, uplift, defend, and restore those hurt or wounded by inequality, callousness, malice, and exploitation.
The just man or woman does as Jesus commanded, loving God with all their being and loving their neighbor as themselves (Matthew 27:37–39) with the full dignity of mercy, respect, and compassion. They not only seek to live in relationships characterized by fairness, generosity, and equity but understands the importance of rectifying that which is unfair, abusive, or oppressive in society. They realize that protecting and providing for vulnerable people must include even the most defenseless among us and their mothers. They refuse to shelve for later, those who deserved to be saved now. They lament not only the 60 million lives terminated who will never occupy these city streets but also their children whose hands they would hold as they walked across the pavement. Abortion will become unthinkable and unnecessary when the same brand of palpable urgency Dr. King evoked from the emancipator’s steps embody not only the thousands marching to the highest court, but all those from various walks of life who consider justice a worthy pursuit.