Grazie Pozo Christie
I was indifferent until I adopted a child and now I march.
Next week, the yearly March for Life will take place at our nation’s capital. Hundreds of thousands of tremendously dedicated people will march, probably in horribly frigid weather, and some from very far away. The media will politely avert their gaze, as will most of the cosmopolitan denizens of the city. They will feel vaguely sorry for the yokels and wingnuts who trudge through the snow with their silly homemade signs, their hearts full of the vain hope that they can somehow turn back time by praying hard enough. There will also be those who are angry at the sight of the marchers, and see in them a desire for the return of back alley butchers and the shaming of girls who got in a spot of trouble. I used to be one of those who felt sorry for the idiots who spent their money putting up signs along the Florida Turnpike saying things like: “Abortion stops a beating heart,” accompanied by an unpleasant depiction of an embryo. And then one day I was pushed off my horse and I became one of them. I think it happens like that for many people: years of puzzled distaste and then bingo! You’re out there too with your silly sign on the side of the road, cringing at rude finger gestures. There is a moment when passion becomes ignited, and you find yourself able to withstand indifference, hopelessness and hostility, even welcoming them. My passion came to me when I fell in love with my youngest daughter. My husband and I both have adopted siblings, and after having four biological children, we decided to adopt our fifth. We had so much to give, and we knew there were so many children in the world who lacked the most important thing of all: a mother and father to love them. Purely because of convenience and ease, we decided to adopt from China. A few months later I traveled there and met our daughter, Lourdes. She was abandoned on a dirty sidewalk at around three days old, and taken to an orphanage full of other little girls. I met her when she was 10 months old. I knew when I went there what my new daughter’s likely history was: in a country where only one child is allowed per family, she was probably an unexpected second pregnancy, or perhaps a first, disappointing female child. In a culture where only a son will make himself responsible for the welfare of his aging parents, having just a daughter is a tragedy. The result of the conjunction of the law and the culture is a deeply unwanted, unvalued baby. And a dangerous baby, sometimes. Perhaps her mother and father were heroes, who had braved the population police to give birth to her, at home, avoiding a forced abortion and a back-breaking fine. All these things I knew, going there, but they were only abstractions to me, things I had read in a brochure or an article. Then I fell in love. The downy softness of her hair against my cheek became thrilling to me, and the little white tooth that just broke through the gum was a priceless pearl in my eyes. Her giggles stopped my heart with joy, and her toddling steps charmed me. When she called me Mami for the first time I wept with happiness. This little bit of humanity, so deeply unwanted, discarded and worthless, I learned was infinitely beautiful, infinitely valuable. The process of learning this, the process of falling in love with my daughter, was the prettiest thing that has ever happened to me. Somehow, miraculously, she had come through unimaginable dangers and been given to me to cherish. Has anyone, ever, received such a priceless gift? It soon occurred to me with tremendous force that every child is like that: infinitely valuable and beautiful, no matter how unwanted and inconvenient. From that heart-stopping realization to making those signs and trudging in the snow in Washington it was just a short step. I looked around our country and realized that our culture had erected a temple to self-realization and sexual liberation, and therefore abortion has to be available, because unwanted children will continue to be conceived, no matter how many “free” contraceptives are provided. Nothing restricts personal liberty like a pregnancy and parenthood. As a doctor I can tell you that no scientist questions the fact that a zygote, embryo, fetus and infant are all human beings in different stages of development. Those who believe in unrestricted abortion license do not acknowledge the conflicting right of the little human being, who might be unwanted, but is just as valuable and beautiful as a wanted child. The theme of this year’s March for Life will be adoption. I think that is tremendously fitting. It is like mercy, in Shakespeare’s description: “It is twice blest; It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” There are millions of people here in the U.S. that have empty arms and overflowing hearts who wish to adopt. This may not be a compelling reason for a woman to bring an unwanted child to term. But the fact that one person’s inconvenient, unwanted child could easily become another’s priceless treasure might be a timely reminder of the infinite value of every human. That realization was enough to change me forever. Grazie Pozo Christie, MD, is a Cuban-American member of The Catholic Association Advisory Board. In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including our Board of Contributors. To read more columns like this, go to the opinion front page or follow us on twitter @USATopinion or Facebook.