Sunday, January 26, 2003

Pushing life

Facing the greatest moral issue of our generation

Bob Martina stands on a Clifton sidewalk three mornings a week from 7:30 to 10. But he's not pushing drugs. Quite the opposite. He's pushing life.

Although he might look like he's loitering, Mr. Martina is protesting - hoping and praying he can save a life by changing one mind of one woman who is on her way into an abortion clinic.

He was out there in the toe-numbing 12-degree cold on Wednesday morning, the 30th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

"I let them know there is free medical help if they wish,'' he says. But after eight years of passing out prayers and pamphlets, he has learned that success stories are as rare as miracles. "If numbers matter to you, you wouldn't do this.''

His wife, Ginny, has another way of looking at it: "Mother Teresa said we're not called to be successful, we're called to be faithful.''

Mr. Martina says he used to be fueled by anger, but now he runs mainly on faith, saving his disgust for the unconcerned citizens who have no opinion, who say we can't judge because exterminating human life is just a personal decision.

He has a special scorn for Christians in pulpits who waffle and wimp out, saying abortion is a private "choice.''

"If Christians would have fought as hard as liberals did, we would not have abortion today,'' he says.

Mae Breadon is another Cincinnati "sidewalk saint'' of the pro-life crusade. She started protesting in 1977, and has been leading prayer vigils and demonstrations ever since. Now 80, she has been jailed three times, including a 16-day stretch in Buffalo, N.Y.

On the second Saturday of each month, she leads a prayer march of up to 200 pro-lifers to the abortion clinic in Clifton.

"I started out by promising God that I would do everything I could to get rid of this,'' she says. And she aims to keep that promise.

Bob Martina and Mae Breadon are warriors in the spiritual battle against abortion. But they don't fit the media stereotype. "Everyone I have known are prayerful people who are just out to save babies,'' Mrs. Breadon said. "I don't believe in killing anything.''

I used to wonder why anyone would bother protesting abortion. The nation is hopelessly divided. Abortion is enshrined as an en-titlement - another sacred liberty stapled onto the Bill of Rights.

But that was before I had my own children, and saw their tiny hands on the ultrasound, and looked at abortion through the wide-angle lens, not just through my own myopic self-interest.

Now I can't figure out how anyone could NOT be passionate about it. It's the greatest moral issue of our time. And finally, it looks like the good guys are winning.

Polls show that people who call themselves "pro-life'' are steadily increasing, especially among people under age 30, while the pro-abortion crowd is steadily shrinking. Abortions are declining as more teens embrace abstinence, and more pregnant women see ultrasound snapshots of the toes and fingers of their unborn child and realize a tiny beating heart is not a "lump of tissue.''

A Gallup poll that has tracked opinions on abortion since 1975 shows that the number of people who think it should be legal under any circumstances peaked at 34 percent in 1992.

Maybe someday abortion on demand will look like another dead carp washed up by the high tide of low morals in the Me Generation.

"You have to be hopeful,'' Mrs. Breadon says. "Sometimes it's hard. But we know that because God always wins, we will win in the end.''

E-mail or call 768-8301.

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