The Life Legal Defense Foundation held its Annual Benefit on September 27, 2014. The Crystal Ballroom of the Marines’ Memorial Club in San Francisco supplied the venue—and provided all the old S.F. charm that the attendees could hope for.
This was decidedly a special occasion because it marked Life Legal’s 25th anniversary. Besides enjoying the Crystal Ballroom, the live piano music, the wonderful food, and the fine wines, those in attendance had a chance to reflect on all that Life Legal had accomplished for the pro-life movement—and especially for the free speech rights of street-level pro-life activists. Some of the achievements of the past year were also highlighted:
• The Life Legal Guardians program offers a new means to resist the insistent bias in favor of death that has infected contemporary medical practice, going beyond living wills in order to save subscribers from unethical end-of-life practices, and especially from “euthanasia” or forced death.
• Life Legal has continued to submit influential amicus briefs in the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. This year, Life Legal’s contributions have helped to win victories against the Obama administration’s HHS mandate (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby) and against the expansion of bubble and buffer zones that limit pro-life free speech around abortion mills (McCullen v. Coakley).
• Life Legal has pursued abortion practitioners and establishments whose standards endanger the lives not only of children in the womb but also of their mothers—and has done so with a view toward putting these “legalized” back-alley profiteers out of business. The New Woman All Women abortion mill in Birmingham, Alabama, was just the beginning.
• Most of all, Life Legal has carried on its defense of pro-life protesters and sidewalk counselors who actually save lives from abortion every day of the year. This year, Life Legal has had to put extra effort into this part of its mission because of systematic and illegal harassment of pro-lifers by police in Jackson, Mississippi.
The evening was not merely a celebration of Life Legal’s accomplishments. Rather, attendees had the chance to profit from the insights of a different sort of speaker—the well-known author Andy Andrews, who spoke on the topic “Making the Most of Life.”
Andy stepped down from the lectern and proved himself as fit and active a speaker as Life Legal had ever seen, being careful to indicate that he did not give speeches or make presentations but instead engaged in conversation with the audience. A lot of Andy’s conversation on this occasion proceeded from his successful short book, How Do You Kill 11 Million People?—which addresses the historical puzzle of how the Nazi movement was able to kill 11 million Jews and other so-called “undesirables” between 1933 and 1945. The application of this historical example to the pro-life struggle is obvious—but Andy moved beyond the obvious when he conversed with the assembled pro-lifers.
You can learn the short answer to the book’s title question just by reading a review on Amazon. And the answer goes at least as far back as Dostoyevsky. You kill millions of people by lying—by actively suppressing the truth. And a society allows millions of people to be killed by tolerating the suppression of the truth. Again, the application of these standards to the pro-life struggle is too obvious to require elaboration.
But the short answer wasn’t the only answer Andy offered during his conversation. “I’m not a public speaker,” he said at one point. “I’m a noticer”—referring to two of his other highly successful books: The Noticer and The Noticer Returns. Andy is indeed a noticer—and he noticed a lot of things that pro-lifers would do well to notice, too.
Andy told of how his adolescent son came home with the question: “What is abortion?” When Andy explained that abortion meant killing a child—or an “embryo,” or a “fetus,” since changing the words didn’t change the reality—in the womb, his son was flabbergasted that such a deed was actually practiced and that there were people who would go to a lot of trouble to defend it. Andy expressed the opinion that his son’s would be a typical reaction—and implied that, if the truth about abortion were not suppressed, there would be very little conflict over the issue.
The question then arose: how do we as pro-lifers overcome the forces that have suppressed these truths? In this context, Andy was refreshing in his humility. Yes, he is a successful author and an advisor to all kinds of enterprises, from non-profits to professional sports teams. But he emphasized that he was not telling Life Legal how to manage its own mission. “You’ve been doing this for 25 years,” he said. “To stay in the struggle that long, you must be doing something right.” However, he offered the observations that a confrontational arena does not always serve the pro-life movement best, and that anything worth saying was worth saying with a smile.
Andy reemphasized the power of prayer with a story related to the fight against the Nazis. In May of 1940, more than 300,000 British soldiers—the great bulk of the British army—had been driven by Hitler’s blitzkrieg to the edge of the sea in the small French town of Dunkirk. At this point, the German Army, bolstered by crack troops of the Waffen SS, had the allies clearly overmatched—and trapped. The enemy threatened to crush with absolute finality the power of the British people to resist Nazi expansion in Europe and around the world. King George VI issued the call for a National Day of Prayer.
Inexplicably, the German advance halted. And the Germans remained in place, oddly passive, through the following days. When the Day of Prayer arrived on the 26th, the churches in Britain were filled to overflowing. The night of the Day of Prayer, a growing flotilla of civilian watercraft began a desperate attempt to rescue the men stranded at Dunkirk. The vulnerability of these tugboats and fishing boats to the Luftwaffe rendered the scene almost comical. But people continued to pray their hearts out—and Hitler never gave the order to attack. A total of 338,226 were rescued in small batches, day after day. The Nazis did nothing. And the British Army lived to fight another day.
With that inspiring example before them, supporters of Life Legal were moved to rededicate themselves to prayer and action, no matter what the apparent odds.
For that inspiration alone, and for all his other scintillating insights, we owe Andy Andrews a debt of thanks.