By Joleigh Little, Teens for Life Coordinator, Wisconsin Right to Life
January 22 has been the most emotional day of the year for me since I was 14 and found out what abortion is and what it does to tiny, innocent people.
On my first January 22, as a newly minted advocate for unborn children (in 1985), I wore a black armband to school to protest the Roe v. Wade decision. It was a scary statement to make in a public school and I fully realized that I would have to explain my odd accessory to peers who disagreed with me. But it was important, and so I did it.
I remember being so honestly certain that this problem – this lack of understanding that life must be protected at all stages – would be corrected within a few years, that I threw myself into right-to-life work, knowing that it would be a short-term calling. (Did I mention that I was young and blissfully naïve?)
I figured we’d slay the abortion dragon and by my early 20s I’d be on the path to building a family, this horror properly behind us. I imagined myself telling a houseful of beautiful children (in every skin tone imaginable) about abortion, much the way I told them about slavery – as an evil that had been righted.
Thirty-one years later I’m still pouring myself into this cause – still hoping, praying and working toward a day when all life is respected, valued and protected in law. I didn’t start a family in my 20s or even my 30s. I was too focused on eradicating abortion and euthanasia, figuring there would be plenty of time for family once the problem was fixed. In fact, I was downright spinsterly, living happily with two dogs and working 80+ hours a week, when I realized that I probably shouldn’t wait any longer to get going on that whole parenting thing.
To make a long story short, my vivacious, hilarious, engaging and passionate little girl came home from Bulgaria in May of 2012 and has kept me hopping ever since.
Now, as a mom, January 22nd has taken on new and even richer meaning.
Where, for years, I was devastated by the vast numbers of lives lost – of the toll a loss of that magnitude has on a nation – now I view every single abortion through one lens. “That could have been my daughter.” She was conceived in a country where, at one time, abortions outnumbered live births, to a mom who was young and had zero resources at her disposal and with a special need significant enough that, had it been diagnosed via ultrasound, it could have resulted in her death.
When I think about how different my life and so many other lives would be without her funny little self, I weep from a whole new perspective. Every life lost is just as valuable as Clara’s. Every child aborted leaves behind the same gaping hole in humanity. Just trying to imagine it leaves me in a puddle.
This January 22nd I was planning to be in Washington, D.C., surrounded by hundreds of thousands of others who share my passion. I would also spend the weekend sitting in a National Right to Life board meeting with a room full of the people I respect most in this world, deciding policy for an organization that has been a part of my life for more than 30 years.
But there has been a change in my plans, long in the making. Instead of journeying to our nation’s capital, Clara and I, along with my sister-in-law, will be rising hours before dawn to get on an airplane and fly halfway across the world to a country whose abortion history is even more heinous than our own. To make a scared little girl who is currently an orphan into a daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece and American citizen.
Once again, January 22nd will have more meaning than most other days of the year, but this time for a different reason. And as we bustle out the door into sub-freezing temperatures, loaded down with bags and fueled by nervous anticipation, I will carry with me more than clothing, orphanage gifts and toys to keep my girls occupied for two weeks in a hotel room.
I will carry with me the memory of millions and millions of lives that have been lost to abortion, both here and around the world. I will carry with me the knowledge that both of my girls are gifts that, for various reasons, almost didn’t happen. Both of my daughters are unique, precious treasures – treasures that so easily could have been lost at any point in their perilous journeys first into my heart and finally into my arms.
I will spend this coming weekend while my friends and colleagues are marching, meeting and planning, hopping from flight to flight in foreign airports and consoling a tiny, beautiful girl whose life has already seen too much trauma. We will be with her as she says good-bye to the caregivers who have taken her from lost and frightened waif and helped her become the plucky, funny little soul that she is today. I will cry, too, because I will miss these precious people who I had the rare opportunity to spend a week getting to know over Thanksgiving at a camp sponsored by our adoption agency.
And I will be painfully aware as I watch Annelise begin the transition from her homeland to ours, and from a large orphanage to a small cottage in the woods, that she is one of the lucky ones. One who survived incredible odds, as did her big sister — as do all the children who are blessed to be born,–especially in circumstances where their existence isn’t met with joy.
All lives matter. American lives, Bulgarian lives, Asian lives, black, white, beautifully coffee and cream colored lives. Rich lives, poor lives, young lives, old lives. Lives that are “planned” and anticipated, and lives that begin and are then met with terror and disbelief. Every single child carries within him or herself, from the very moment of conception, the power to change the world and the need to be loved.
A fellow single adoptive mama friend of mine recently got a t-shirt that says “Love crosses oceans.” On Friday, January 22nd, my love will do that literally. And as I go, I would so greatly covet your prayers not only for my family, but for all of the children whose lives are in danger in our country and around the world. I want to challenge you to ask what boundaries your love can and should cross to save lives.
Love crosses oceans to bring children home to families. It also crosses school hallways to talk to the pregnant girl who fears for her future if she carries her baby to term. It crosses streets to talk with abortion-minded women who might choose life if only someone offers them hope.
Love crosses town to volunteer at a pregnancy center or attend a local right-to-life chapter meeting. Love crosses states to lobby on behalf of pro-life legislation.
And love crosses the nation by car, bus and airplane to march in the frigid cold to commemorate a deadly anniversary.
Editor’s note. This appears in the January digital edition of National Right to Life News. Like all of the exciting content, it can be accessed at www.nrlc.org/uploads/NRLNews/NRLNewsJan2016.pdf. Please forward to your social media contacts