By Joleigh Little Bass
This year I saw the March for Life through different eyes – those of my ten-year-old daughter.
For the first eight years of her life, she didn’t know what abortion was. I wanted her childhood to be as carefree and magical as possible.
But in her eighth summer of life, the Charlie Gard case happened, and became (inadvertently) a topic of conversation between my husband and me. My daughter zoned in immediately and demanded to know who Charlie was and what was going on.
So I told her, in the awkward and stilting way a mom explains (choking back tears) to her second grader, that despite his parents’ heroic efforts, their child, with a special need, was being killed precisely because he had a special need.
It’s hard enough to say that to a typical eight-year-old. Imagine saying it to your eight-year-old who, herself, has special needs.
The result was one I couldn’t have predicted. It lit a fire in her already passionate little heart.
Since that conversation, she has developed into quite the pro-life advocate. She has attended legislative days where she led the Pledge of Allegiance, and told her story to state senators. She has attended camps and state conferences and National Right to Life Conventions and local and regional meetings. Sometimes she plays like a child should. But other times she zeroes in on the topic and shares her insights – many of which are remarkably powerful considering her age.
And so it was that I decided it was time for her to attend the largest gathering of pro-life people in the world. Airline tickets were purchased, bags were packed, and conversations were had about appropriate behavior and the solemn significance of the occasion. Before we knew it, we were off.
Somewhere in our travels (probably when her Nana picked us up at the airport) we got the news. The President of the United States would attend the March for Life… in person!
For someone (me) who has attended countless marches and heard grainy speaker phone addresses from the White House all the way through live video feeds, this news was mind boggling. The security that would be needed was monumental. A metro stop had to be shut down because it was too close to the stage. And yet President Trump came.
My friend and I and our five kids (ages 10 to 17) were winding our way through the largest accumulation of people I have ever navigated–me clinging with my mama grip to the hand of my beautiful girl–when that unmistakable voice started to ring out over the National Mall.
The reality hit me in that moment. The leader of the free world took time out of his day to be with us. Not just in spirit, but in the flesh. Ever the stoic maternal influence, I choked out to my daughter, “Honey, that is the President of the United States talking right now.”
He stood on the stage with pro-life leaders, including our own Carol Tobias, president of NRLC. What we heard, I am convinced, were words from his heart, delivered to an enthusiastic and welcoming crowd of hundreds of thousands of us who had gathered to listen.
Everything he said rang with the authority of his office and the authenticity of the truth.
But what brought stinging tears to my eyes was his repeated mention of adoption. Because, you see, adoption has given me the greatest gifts in my life – the girl holding my hand in that massive crowd, and her little sister back home in Wisconsin.
From two different continents, after years of living in institutions, adoption made these girls daughters, granddaughters, nieces and sisters. Adoption gave them a family (and a pretty amazing extended family in the right-to-life movement) but it also gave me the pieces of my heart that were missing.
Adoption made them – and me – whole.
As pro-lifers we have always championed adoption, but until you have lived it – the beautiful parts, the hard parts, the sleepless nights, the adjustments, the aching straining growth that takes you from total strangers to the closest of companions – you cannot fully appreciate the tragic beauty that is adoption.
To have the President stand before us and exhort the pro-life movement with these words was incredible.
“You stand for life each and every day. You provide housing, education, jobs, and medical care to the women that you serve. You find loving families for children in need of a forever home. You host baby showers for expecting moms. You make – you just make it your life’s mission to help spread God’s grace.”
To hear him specifically mention adoption – and not just once – reminded me of the gravity of what we do in this movement. We encourage women in unplanned pregnancies to choose life, which takes a level of courage many of us will never be called upon to exercise.
And, in situations where those women cannot parent their children, we ask them to make the greatest sacrifice anyone can ever make – to choose a plan that places their child forever in the arms of another family. As the mama to two girls whose birth mothers made that choice, I cannot even imagine that pain.
From the bottom of my mama heart, thank you Mr. President, for caring about life enough to join us last Friday.
Thank you for letting my daughter experience that moment in history.
Thank you for speaking truth to all who listened, both in Washington, DC and around the nation.
And thank you, most of all, for addressing adoption. While it is far from a perfect solution, it is one that gives the gift of life and hope to so many children and families.
Joleigh Little Bass works as a Field Representative for Wisconsin Right to Life and serves as a member of the National Right to Life Board of Directors. Most importantly, she is blessed to be the mama of ten-year old Clara and seven-year-old Annelise.