American Life League’s fourth annual Pro-Life Memorial Day dawned on October 6 as we assembled in front of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. The chilly, overcast weather set a somber scene. “Equal justice under law” was chiseled into the façade of the marble temple behind us. “Justice,” I thought, “what irony! Where’s the justice for preborn children?” We were gathered there to honor the memory of those 49,640,776 innocent victims of distorted justice whose death sentences were signed under those marble columns on January 22, 1973.
A bitterness plagued me that morning as we set up the podium and signs. But as so often happens when frustration creeps into my pro-life work, God had other plans.
Pro-Life Memorial Day 2008 was emceed by Erik Whittington, director of ALL’s Rock for Life project. An all-star lineup of some of the American pro-life movement’s most outspoken leaders delivered unique messages of hope and remembrance—but more importantly, determination.
Soon after our event was underway, a group of about 20 high school-aged students who chanced upon us asked to join us and stood behind the podium with the rest of the group, holding signs. We also had a large captive audience of about 200 people waiting in line for the Supreme Court building to open.
Marie Hahnenberg, an ALL researcher, explained Planned Parenthood’s dominant role in promoting all forms of abortion and abortifacient birth control, which has likely caused millions of chemical abortions.
Kristan Hawkins, executive director of Students for Life of America, visibly pregnant with her first child, pointed to her son in the womb, explaining that the Supreme Court does not recognize him as a human being. Pointing back to the inscription on the Supreme Court building, she vowed to fight for the rights of the preborn.
Andrea Pearson, of Silent No More Awareness, recounted her heartbreakingly beautiful story of postabortion healing and her new quest to help other postabortive women. Rev. Pat Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition, just back from the Beijing Olympics, recounted his harrowing experience in China. He was escorted out of the country for protesting Communist China’s horrendous human rights record, particularly its religious persecution and coercive one-child policy, frequently implemented by forced abortion and sterilization (see “A ray of hope for China?” in the November-December 2008 issue).
Other speakers included Jimmy Nolan, president of Crossroads, which organizes pro-life walks across America, and Peter Shinn, president of Pro-Life Unity. Still, even with all of these inspirational, passionate people around me, I couldn’t shake the horrible feeling that we were fighting an impenetrable institution, embodied by that marble hall.
Speaking of China …
Then it happened. As Rev. Rob Schenck, president of Faith and Action, led us in prayer, a group of several well-dressed Chinese tourists in the long line waiting to enter the building motioned to us. In broken English, they excitedly told us they were a group of human rights lawyers visiting American supporters.
We had much in common, they said. They too were fighting abortion and were dedicated to freeing their countrymen from the scourge of the one-child policy. Give these guys a microphone, we decided. They chose a slender, distinguished-looking man who made these heartfelt remarks in Chinese:
Today we were planning to visit the Supreme Court as a group of human rights defenders from China. We found today’s event [PLMD] very significant, and it reminds us that actually China is the country with the largest abortion [rate in] the world.
One of my clients, Chen Guangcheng, is a blind legal activist who was sentenced to four years and three months for defending the victims of forced abortion in China. He was recognized by TIME magazine as one of the 50 [100, actually] most influential people in the world. Even for that, he could not change his fate, and he’s still serving his prison term right now in a Chinese prison.
On this issue, we want to really emphasize that the Chinese people, especially Chinese Christians—we are a united front; we are [in] global solidarity and [are] a coalition to defend for life together with you. God be with us! Thank you.
The speaker was Li Fangping. Afterward, his interpreter, Rev. Bob Fu, president of China Aid, explained that Li is an attorney famous in China for his legal battle against abortion. He has often been the target of government officials’ wrath and was once brutally beaten while en route to his client, Chen.
“Attorney Li, after he suffered for his defense work,” Rev. Fu told us, “was beaten on his way to court by Chinese government police. They used an iron stick. God protected his head, but he was full of bleeding.”
His companions shook their heads in agreement and sympathy. We were speechless for a moment; we held them in complete awe.
After taking many pictures and exchanging thank-yous, hugs and prayers, our newfound heroes finally said good-bye and continued on their way to the Supreme Court, but their brief stop had touched every person in attendance.
Surely, fighting the one-child policy must seem even more formidable than fighting abortion in the U. S. How do these activists stay so driven and passionate? China is ruled by a regime guilty of unspeakable atrocities; yet they are willing to risk their lives for her.
That chance encounter with those Chinese warriors for life and freedom was a profound validation of, and inspiration for, our work here in the U. S., and for a moment, I felt ashamed of my lack of faith. But soon, the shame turned to gratitude for the way God gently nudges us back in the right direction. Armed with the blessings of freedom of speech, religion and the press, the American pro-life movement has no excuse for despair or for failure.
Those who resist the Chinese government’s anti-life practices enjoy none of these freedoms, and still the battle for life in China rages. Pro-life activists in China risk imprisonment, torture or perhaps their very lives. But their suffering will one day bring victory. They seemed to never lose faith in that, so how can I?
I looked back at the Supreme Court building and instead of anger, I felt challenged:
“Equal justice under law.”
SIDEBAR: China’s champions of life, faith and freedom
Li Fangping, 34, is well known in China and abroad as one of the country’s leading defense attorneys for persecuted human rights activists, particularly Chen Guangcheng, sentenced to prison in 2006 for trying to file a class-action lawsuit for over 10,000 victims of forced abortion and sterilization in his province. A prominent British newspaper, the Guardian, recently profiled Li as one of China’s six leading “new freedom fighters.”
ChinaAid (www.ChinaAid.org, 432-689-6985 ) sponsored the recent visit of Li and other Chinese human rights attorneys to the U.S. Rev. Bob Fu founded ChinaAid in 2002 to aid persecuted Christians and promote religious freedom in
China. In 1996, he and his “illegally” pregnant wife, Heidi, fled China and were granted asylum in the U.S., to escape persecution and prevent the forced abortion of their baby. Below are excerpts from his interview with Celebrate Life.
Who are the members of the group visiting from China, and why were they here?
They are all human rights defenders. . . [for ] religious freedom… [and] freedom of assembly, as well as all other issues you mentioned [forced abortions and sterilizations, suppression of political speech, arbitrary land seizures, environmental abuses and the recent poisoning of thousands of babies by toxic infant milk powder].
They came to attend the Christian Lawyer Global Convocation in Washington, D.C. They wanted to exchange views and be encouraged by meeting fellow Christian lawyers from more than 100 countries.
Why did this group visit the Supreme Court?
Because they wanted to experience how justice is delivered from America’s highest court, while they themselves were prevented from going to China’s Supreme People’s Court, even though they are prominent lawyers.
Were they surprised to see our demonstration against abortion at the Supreme Court?
A very eye-opening experience. One lawyer commented that if this happened in China, each one of the demonstrators would have been arrested before they arrived there.
Has the situation in China regarding forced abortions and sterilizations improved any because of the negative publicity about Chen Guangcheng’s case?
One family planning official in Shandong province was fired because of him, but the policy and practice continues.
We greatly admire the courage of Chinese human rights attorneys, but this seems like an almost hopeless cause, since they usually lose their cases. What hope is there for genuine political and social reform in China?
For the short term, it may not produce any positive result, but… inch by inch, change will come, and in some areas such as religious freedom cases, many house [underground] churches are safer than ever because of the court challenge [filed] after the abuse occurred. These Christian attorneys felt this is a calling from God. The price paid by the attorneys [risking their safety] is worthwhile, because they know the Lord is pleased [by] doing justice with compassion.
—Stephanie Hopping, editor
Lijia Zhang, “China’s new freedom fighters,” The Guardian, July 6, 2008, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jul/06/china.hu manrights (accessed October 6, 2008).
The Associated Press, “China jails blind rights activist: self-taught lawyer arrested after recording complaints of forced abortions,” MSNBC, August 24, 2008, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14494352/ (accessed October 6, 2008).
Steven Ertelt, “Attorneys for China Forced Abortion Opponent Were Beaten Again,” LifeNews.com, January 4, 2007, http://www.lifenews.com/int150.html (accessed October 6, 2008).
John Jalsevac, “Three Christian Protesters in China Arrested Again, Then Deported to U.S.,” LifeSiteNews.com, August 8, 2008, http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2008/aug/08080804.ht ml (accessed October 6, 2008).
“The TIME 100: The People Who Shape Our World,” TIME, April 30, 2006, http://www.time.com/time/2006/time100/index.html (accessed October 6, 2008).