January marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and the annual March for Life, so it’s a natural time to promote respect for life from conception to natural end. But what does it mean to “respect life”? What does it mean to be “pro-life”? Of course it means being against abortion, assisted suicide, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning, and any other practice that is an affront to the dignity of the human person. But being pro-life isn’t mainly about being against things. Being pro-life means being for something. It means loving God’s gift of life, and acting on that love. Here are 34 pro-life activities you and your family can do! *
1. Give life. Consider adoption or foster care — or contribute to a fund to help foster or adoptive parents. Reece’s Rainbow (ReecesRainbow.org) helps parents pay for adoptions of kids with special needs.
2. Spiritually adopt a baby in danger of abortion. For nine months, say this prayer written by Fulton Sheen: “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you very much. I beg you to spare the life of the unborn baby that I have spiritually adopted, who is in danger of abortion.”
3. Give routinely. When you shop for your family, get in the habit of picking up one extra item — a box of spaghetti, a bag of diapers, a few onesies or socks — and donate it to a local food pantry, crisis pregnancy center,or shelter.
4. Participate in 40 Days for Life. Check out 40DaysForLife.com to join in this hugely successful pro-life effort. Missed day one? No problem! Better late than never.
5. Join a group. Call your parish’s pro-life committee and ask where they need the most help. If there is no such group, ask your pastor if you can start one.
6. Spread the word. With your pastor’s permission, leave pro-life pamphlets or CDs in the church vestibule, or add posters or displays of fetal development where anyone can see them.
7. Love all human life. Make a special effort to be warm and genial to people who make you feel uncomfortable: the physically or mentally disabled, the old, the somewhat weird, the slightly smelly, the obviously lonely. Five minutes of friendly conversation might be a rare luxury for them.
8. Educate yourselves and others. Kids can educate their teachers and classmates. Need to write a history paper? Highlight the pro-life views of historical figures like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
9. Be an encourager. Give an encouraging smile to the young parents struggling with a howling kid at the back of the church. Whisper, “Hang in there, it gets easier!”
10. Stand up and speak out. Make plans to attend this year’s March for Life in Washington, DC, (MarchForLife.org) or participate in some other public demonstration of your faith. Kids love to make signs, and all Catholics should have the experience of being Catholic in public at some point in their lives.
11. Pray more. One Friday a month, quietly say a Rosary outside your local Planned Parenthood or abortion clinic.
12. Keep it kind. If you picket or protest, remember that you are showing the face of Christ to the world. Never be confrontational, rude, loud, or condemning. Remember, the woman heading into a clinic often feels like she has no choice. She is a victim, too.
13. Share your baby. If you are lucky enough to have one, share your beautiful baby! The world is not so hard that people don’t love to see babies. If you can, take a moment from your busy day to pause and let people admire your littlest one.
14. Use beautiful images. Whenever you can, use beautiful photos of living unborn babies, rather than gruesome photos of aborted babies.
15. Lend a hand to moms. Make a meal or two for a new mom. Have the kids make a “Welcome Baby” card too.
16. Be good to your own family. When Blessed Mother Teresa received her Nobel Peace Prize, someone asked her what we could do to promote world peace. She answered, “Go home and love your family.” The same is true for the pro-life cause: Pro-life work begins at home.
17. Be good to your family in public! You don’t have to be a happy, smiley, shiny family all the time, but don’t give the impression that your children are terrible burdens you wish you could shed. Especially if you have a large or boisterous family, remind the world that children are a joy.
18. Visit a nursing home. Some residents never get any visitors, and they would be delighted to hear your kids recite a poem, read a book aloud, sing “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” or just sit and chat for a little while.
19. Be positive. Don’t always be wringing your hands, howling in outrage, or mourning the evil in the world. Highlight the positive: adult stem-cell therapy that actually cures people, breakthroughs in prenatal corrective surgery, and stories of generosity and heroism.
20. Love all people. No matter what your politics, speak of other people in terms that show you recognize their dignity as children of God. It’s easy to be respectful of people with whom we agree; being truly pro-life means upholding the dignity of all life, including people you don’t really like.
21. Don’t forget about men. Remember that men suffer from abortion, too, and have no legal say in the decision to abort. Pray to St. Joseph for the men in your life; understand that men also grieve and suffer through life and death matters and need support.
22. Make a statement. A positive pro-life bumper sticker or t-shirt might be just the message someone needs to see one day.
23. Reach out to your leaders. Write letters to your state representatives. Keep them brief and very clear; ask specific questions and request answers.
24. Do your homework. Make sure teens and adults are fully informed about why the Church opposes euthanasia, abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, etc. You never know when you might be called upon to defend your point of view, so make sure you really understand it.
25. Give your time to the dying. Volunteer at a hospice or become an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion to bring the blessed sacrament to shut-ins and the dying.
26. Pray to the saints. The patrons of the pro-life movement are a good place to start: St. Gianna Molla, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. Faustina, St. Joseph, and St. Elizabeth.
27. Pray for the conversion of abortion workers. And find ways to support people who want to leave the industry. Check out Abby Johnson’s ministry, And Then There Were None (ATTWN.org).
28. Be better. Proponents of abortion, euthanasia, and embryonic stem-cell research do their best to dehumanize their helpless victims in order to make it more palatable to harm them. Do better. Never dehumanize the people you oppose, with words or in your heart. Pray for them instead.
29. Stay informed. Keep up-to-date on pro-life news with Jill Stanek (JillStanek.com), Lila Rose (LiveAction.org), Feminists for Life (FeministsForLife.org), LifeSiteNews (LifeSiteNews.com), and National Right to Life (NRTLC.org).
30. Vote responsibly. If there are off-cycle or local elections where you live, take your kids with you to vote, and let them know that being pro-life affects your choice.
31. Support pro-life doctors. They probably have made a financial sacrifice by choosing not to prescribe contraception or perform or refer for abortion, sterilization, or euthanasia, so give them your business! Try this resource to find a provider in your area: OneMoreSoul.com/nfp-directory.
32. Follow Church teaching. Reject the use of artificial contraception utterly and fearlessly, as the Church calls us to. Being open to life is at the heart of respecting life.
33. Be gentle and loving. When you speak about women who’ve had abortions, remember that many people have pasts they regret — and they may be listening. Cruel and harsh words can do terrible harm. See Rachel’s Vineyard (RachelsVineyard.org) if someone you know needs support after an abortion.
Overwhelmed by all of this activity? Don’t be. Nobody does all of these things. Gather your family together and choose just a few things that you can do together. And remember one final activity …
34. Hope. It’s very easy to become discouraged when you think of the battle to come. But no matter what laws are passed, or what the latest polls show, place your trust in God. We are not fighting this war alone.
Now, get out there and make the most of the March for Life and the opportunity to spread respect for life!
*This article originally ran in Catholic Digest magazine as ways to observe October’s Respect Life month. It has been slightly modified to fit January and the March for Life.