Seventeen years ago, seven men decreed that a group of Americans who have the legal right to inherit property, to sue for injuries, and to receive Social Security benefits do not have the right to live.
Seventeen years ago, they decided that although cessation of heartbeat and brain waves means life has ended, onset of heartbeat and brain waves does not mean life has begun.
They ruled that a woman's body extends to that tiny separate being that depends on her for sustenance and life.
And since that day 17 years ago, unheard, unseen, over 24 million of our children and our neighbors' children have ceased to exist.
How can we miss them? We never heard them cry, never watched them wriggle and wave in their bassinets, never shared their mothers' delight.
They never entered our kindergartens, wide-eyed and freshly scrubbed. They never played in our back yards with the other kids. They never complained about having to eat vegetables or teased the dog or left a bathtub ring.
So why, as I think about them, do I feel such a sense of pain and loss?
Those who spoke with authority assured us that the Roe vs. Wade decision would reduce child abuse. Yet in these past 17 years, instances of reported child abuse have escalated. Is it possible we actually have contributed to the number of incidents of child abuse by reducing the value of a child's life?
They said we had no right to punish women whose lives are endangered, whose children may be defective or who have become pregnant as the result of rape or incest. I don't want to punish anyone. But those reasons apply to only 3 percent of the abortions performed. What about the other 97%?
They said women have rights. But which women? Don't the little girls denied life today have rights as tomorrow's women?
I do not want to accuse. I do not want to argue or defend. I just hurt. I hurt for the mothers who deny their own flesh. I hurt for the guilt this causes them and for the denial of that guilt, which hardens them. I hurt because in denying guilt they are denying themselves healing.
I hurt for doctors, for what it does to them as they turn from delivering a baby to destroying one.
And the unborn? I hurt for them, too. Where does one go to mourn the unborn child? Where does one lay a wreath? They are not in graves, these 24 million.
I cannot throw myself in front of every woman entering an abortion clinic and beg her to reconsider. I cannot hold back the doctor's arm as s/he switches on the suction that will tear a living baby to pieces.
I can only grieve and dedicate myself to helping reverse the ruling that made all this possible.
"We Never Heard Them Cry," Virtue, October, 1990
As of this coming Saturday, it will have been 38 years.
Today I am thankful for babies.