I March for Life Because I’m Haunted by Jessica Jones
When I talk to a bright-eyed college student after giving one of my speeches, the thought will cross my mind: How can this person be used? Not for my own sake, of course. For Jessica’s.
When I meet with a pastor or politician, a businessman or housewife, a recent Mexican immigrant or elderly heiress — anyone at all, I want to put them to use, to harness them to the purpose that has haunted me since I was 17 years old. I want to get them working on behalf of Jessica Jones.
It’s a bit of a problem, I know. I struggle with it in prayer, and try to balance what has become my overriding mission with ordinary human life, with the needs of my wife and my seven thriving children. It’s wrong, just wrong, to put any one of them second to Jessica. Instead, I have tried to get them on board, and asked them to keep me accountable. It seems to be working, which is great because it lets me keep on working. For Jessica Jones, that is.
At this point you might have decided that I am a potentially lethal comic book nerd, and you’re only reading further out of fascinated horror. Sorry to disappoint you, but it’s only a grim coincidence that Marvel Comics chose the same name for one of its darkest heroines that I gave to my unborn daughter. Who was aborted. Against my will and against her mother’s. I’ve never read the comic book or watched the Netflix show.
I have told my Jessica’s brutally truncated story before, and I force myself to retell it many times a year, to hushed groups of people in church halls and Marriotts across America, to professors at Notre Dame and undergrads at Yale. For the full version, with all the little details that still break my heart to remember, see this column — which Students for Life of America used as the Introduction to their book Courageous: Students Abolishing Abortion in This Lifetime.
Put briefly and bluntly, my girlfriend and I had an unplanned pregnancy while we were both still in high school. I manned up, she mommed up, and we schemed how to keep the baby. I quit high school and joined the army. She wore baggy sweaters and took lots of vitamins. But then her father found out, and forced her to have an abortion. I got the call at Fort Benning, where I was in Basic Training. I begged my captain to call the police, to prosecute the people who killed our baby. I didn’t even know that abortion was legal.
I fed quarters into that payphone on the Army base and heard my girlfriend weep from the depths of her soul, so I said what I could to comfort her. I made a rash and quixotic vow: “I promise you, that even if no one else cares about abortion, and if it takes me the rest of my life, I will end abortion — for our daughter.” And I meant every word. As I wrote in National Review exactly a year ago, Jessica’s murder changed me at the core of my very being. I wanted to avenge it — but not in the crass sense of hunting down the men responsible. (The list is long, includes politicians, and even in my opinion some bishops.) No, I would beat their evil by fighting for good, for the very good thing that our culture and economy, our politics and media treated as trash. I became a “worker on behalf of the most embattled, most important cause on earth: the dignity of the human person.”
Without any guidance or knowledge, as a student who dropped out of high school from the bottom of his class, a full-bore atheist, I launched into pro-life activism, alongside a bunch of dyed-in-the-wool Christians. I made some hilarious missteps, made many good friends and several important enemies, and along the way discovered that God really existed, and that His name is Jesus.
I also came to see the vast reach and many fronts, the fetid depths and shining peaks of the war about Life. It runs from the clinics of Planned Parenthood to the killing fields of ISIS, but even extends to the fault-lines in our own hearts. We struggle here with principalities and powers, with super-brilliant, invisible entities. They are miserable and envious, and their sole goal is to convince us that the life God gave us on earth is so bleak and worthless that it’s gibberish to say it’s “sacred.” We should grab what pleasure we can before our bodies start to rot, and damn the fetuses, full speed ahead should they get in our way. When the fun starts to ebb, when our joints ache and Viagara stops working, we can call in the same doctors who freeze our embryos and abort our babies to offer the soothing needle at the End. And then we can spend eternity with those same Screwtapes who have guided our steps on earth. That’s the plan of the Prince of this World.
And we must fight him. We need to build ourselves up as spiritual soldiers, with study, fasting, and prayer. We are called to re-evangelize the culture, to teach lost souls to see the deep and abiding value of their lumpy, imperfect lives to a real and loving God. That’s the mission of my non-profit, Movie to Movement, which makes, seeks out, and promotes films with such a message. That’s the long game, and it needs to be played.
But you can’t win the war if you lose all the battles. And the battle that faces us now, as surely as it faced the abolitionists in 1860 and the civil rights marchers in 1950, is political and legal. To understand how I think we can win it, see “The Pro-Life Art of War.” We must confront the profoundly unjust laws that were imposed on our country by an ignorant elite of unelected judges, who trembled at the myth of overpopulation, ignored basic biology, and worried about “eugenics.”
We must get down into the grubby trenches of primaries and elections, and put into office candidates who will replace such ignorant judges and change those evil laws. We must treat people like my daughter Jessica Jones not as slaves or organ farms, but as fully human beings who get respect imposed by law. The spiritual reality of the sanctity of life must make an impact in the world of flesh and blood. I know that in my lifetime the wrecking balls will smash the blood-stained walls of every abortion clinic in America, and that groups like Planned Parenthood will someday be despised, as we now do the Ku Klux Klan and the Hitler Youth.
And that’s why I march for Jessica Jones.