The following speech was delivered by Zac Davis, former SFLI intern and President of Loyola Students for Life at their vigil for the 40th anniversary of Roe v Wade. Only a sophomore, Zac is part of the new generation of pro-lifers who will bring an end to abortion.
January 22, 1973.
On this day 40 years ago, abortion was legalized in the United States of America.
The number 40 holds significance in several regions of life. In Judaism, rain fell for 40 days and 40 nights and the people wandered in Exodus for 40 years. In Christianity, Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, and 40 days were said to have passed between Christ’s resurrection and ascension. In Islam, the prophet Muhammad was 40 years old when he first received revelation from the angel Gabriel, and the Quran states that a person is fully grown only when they are 40. This is consistent with secular thoughts today: people say “life begins at 40,” and just recently a film was released titled “This is 40,” which seems to define being middle-aged.
It takes 40 years for a new generation to rise up.
In the past 40 years, we’ve witnessed more than 50 million reported abortions. 50 million children torn from the womb, 50 million mothers pushed to the fear and anxiety of an unexpected pregnancy, who felt abortion was there best option. 50 million fewer fathers; 50 million fewer siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. 50 million fewer first days of school.
There are more than 50 million reasons to stand up for life, but I argue that we need only one.
We only need to focus on one friend or roommate or co-worker hurt by the tragedy that abortion brings. We only need one instance of the anxiety that a woman feels when she’s shocked by a pregnancy test. We only need to witness one birth of a child to see how beautiful our gift of creating life truly is.
So here we stand today.
Solemnly acknowledging the passing of 40 years since the legalization of abortion in the United States of America. The gravity of the situation leaves many questions to be answered.
This is our generation’s response:
“We are sick of the culture of death. We’re sick of seeing our peers suffer from more abortions. We’re sick of missing brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, nephews, Godsons and Goddaughters. We’re sick of seeing single moms struggling without any resources.
Together, we are screaming: ‘We are here. We have value; so do you and so does everyone else. Let’s treat each other as such.’”
As important and essential as they are, our first steps as the pro-life movement cannot be to sidewalk counsel in front of an abortion clinic, or to march on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Our first steps must be in the way we treat the very people close to us.
I believe much truth is found in declaring, “nothing you say to anyone matters, unless they know you love them first.” We cannot change minds and hearts exclusively, and we have a responsibility to make ourselves available to anyone should they ever seek help in dealing with a crisis pregnancy.
We cannot escape the last 40 years, but they do not shackle us. Abortion will end. We need only one reason to stand up for life, but we need far more than one person to do it.
There is a story from the desert mystics that teaches us an important lesson.
Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba, as far as I can I say my Little Office. I fast a little. I pray. I meditate. I live in peace and as far as I can. I purify my thoughts. What else am I to do?” Then the old man stood up, stretched his hands towards heaven and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire, and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”
We stand at this vigil with the flame from our candles as well as the flame within us. If we will it, we can become all flame; the flame that fuels the fire our cold culture of death so desperately requires. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Our movement needs each of our flames. We need the lawyers to fight in the courts, the people in the medical field to save lives, the mathematicians to provide statistical analysis on abortion, etc. etc. We must find ways to use the gifts and talents we have to save and better lives. But consistent through all gifts and all vocations, we find the call to love. Love is our most valuable weapon in this war on life.
Share with everyone you encounter the joy of the pro-life movement. We will and must take time to enter into solemn silence to remember the countless heartbreaks from abortion. But in-between those times we must take every opportunity we can to celebrate life.
The purpose of a vigil, at least taking the root of the word, is to keep watch. Tonight we keep watch and bear witness to the tragedy of the last 40 years. But we must move from watching to action. We cannot let the issue of abortion become an intellectual playground for debate. We must make this issue personal. We must do everything we can within the bounds of love to end this.
I conclude with the words from the second inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln: who also faced a nation who found itself severely polarized in regards to an issue of severe destruction to human dignity.
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
Thank you Zac for your inspiration and leadership at Loyola and with Students for Life of Illinois!