The March for Life in Washington, D.C., may be fully behind us now, but advocating for life isn’t confined to a chunk of hours once a year during an event in just one location.

Advocating for life isn’t a run-of-the-mill matter.

Pro-lifers are sometimes characterized as extremists. Well, matters of life and death inherently inspire extreme reactions, both positive and negative.

My own experience with abortion is certainly extreme. When I was a teenager, I was coerced into having one. I had been planning to keep my baby, and I even had names picked out, and my first prenatal care appointment scheduled. But no one in my life at that time supported my choice to parent my child. I was alone.

As a result, I succumbed to the insistence of those around me and an abortion appointment was arranged. On a freezing day in January 1989, I ran out of that northeast Philadelphia abortion clinic in an attempt to save my baby’s life, only to face stronger, more insidious (i.e., extreme) pressure to have an abortion.

Two days later, I returned to that cold clinic and submitted to the horrific procedure.

After that, I sank into a deep depression. Within weeks of my abortion, I attempted suicide. I failed. After a month-long hospital stay I emerged a staunch advocate for abortion. (I had to try to justify my own complicity in the death of my child.) I even volunteered as a clinic escort and took a full-time job at a first-trimester abortion clinic.

For years I tried to believe the lines repeated by others: Abortion is no big deal! Abortion is just a simple medical procedure! Abortion is just a choice! An acorn is not an oak tree! (This last one was part of the pre-abortion counseling routine should a weepy woman exhibit feelings of ambivalence toward the impending doom that awaited her growing baby. "You know, an acorn has all of the potential to grow into a mighty oak tree, but it is not an oak tree.")

Those who do not hesitate to label pro-life advocates extremists also scoff at our dedication to standing outside abortion facilities to offer mothers practical assistance. The same people also poke fun at our disregard for our personal comfort when we travel each winter to the nation's capital (this year during a record-breaking blizzard, of course) to mark the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. On Jan. 22, 1973, the ruling made abortion-on-demand legal across all 50 states. Yet we won't stop fighting for the reinstatement of full legal protection for pre-born humans.

I marvel at those who continue to support abortion while joyfully sharing ultrasound photos of their own unborn children, or comforting a dear friend who suffered a miscarriage. The cognitive dissonance is staggering.

It was precisely this psychic discomfort that led me to attempt to reconcile my own long-held (yet unexamined) pro-abortion choice beliefs. That's when I learned of a surrogate mother who was offered payment of her contract in full to abort the baby she was carrying because tests indicated the child would be born with Down syndrome. And she DID. She accepted thousands of dollars to end the life of the very child she'd been hired to gestate on behalf of others. 

That very day, I became pro-life. 

I am pro-life for the inconvenient, the ill-timed, the unexpected, the elderly, the medically vulnerable, the infirm, the disabled and the condemned. I won't be quiet about it. While there must be compassion, care and charity, there can be no subtlety when trying to save a mother, a father, a family, a baby from the tragedy that is abortion.

Being pro-life means being a daily presence outside abortion facilities, and peacefully, calmly offering women and families practical assistance and nonviolent alternatives to abortion. Being pro-life is acknowledging the pain that post-abortive women feel, and reaching out to them with help and resources for healing.

Being pro-life is organizing a baby-bottle fundraiser for a maternity shelter, donating to a local pregnancy resource center or life-affirming medical clinic, and spending time educating people about the indisputable scientific facts of fetal development and the inherent dangers of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. Being pro-life is knowing that a poor prenatal diagnosis does not have to end in abortion. It means explaining the benefits of perinatal hospice. 

To outsiders, it can look like we are pro-life extremists who gather once a year so we can join our far-flung friends to march in the country's largest celebration of life. But the sobering reality is we are a coalition of mourners united in our shared grief for the millions of lives lost to abortion. Our sacred goal is to end this barbaric practice.

Being pro-life is rejoicing in the gift of life in all of its messy, imperfect, unexpected beauty.

Jewels Green is a mother, writer, public speaker and advocate for the right to life from conception to natural death. She is featured in the documentary film "40" and the new book We Choose Life: Authentic Stories, Movements of Hope.

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