From last week's issue of The Catholic Key:
‘Sobering’ yet ‘joyful’ film documents March for Life
By John Heuertz
Special to the Key
"Thine eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Thy book were all written the days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them." (Ps. 139:16)
On January 22, 2009 a crowd reliably estimated at about 272,000 people of every age, race, creed and color converged peacefully in Washington to plead with our nation's government for the lives of millions of innocent, defenseless Americans who will be killed because they're unwanted.
The 36th annual "March For Life" - the American pro-life movement's signature event - was the biggest in the event's 36-year history, with a turnout roughly equal to the population of New Orleans, St. Paul or Buffalo.
But it was described as "thousands" by the Associated Press, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and scores of other newspapers and broadcast outlets.
This characteristic dishonesty has a pedigree almost as long as that of the march itself. But apart from the serious damage that self-censorship does to the First Amendment, refusing to listen to people who buy one's product might have an economic consequence too.
The New York Times - which announced a first-quarter, $74.5 million net operating loss on April 21, its worst quarter by far since 1987 - didn't cover the story at all.
"Life is the great civil rights issue of our day," says local media impresario Jack Cashill, who was there. "America's mainstream media consciously suppresses this cause."
But also on April 21, the feature-length film "Thine Eyes" was premiered at the historic Rio Theater in Overland Park to a near-capacity crowd - a film record of this year's march that shows beyond any doubt the depth, breadth and strength of America's pro-life movement.
"I've been to the march so many times, and seeing such massive crowds with no representation year after year finally got on my last nerve," says Steve Sanborn, the film's executive producer.
Sanborn recruited Cashill, and the two recruited Hollywood actress and veteran pro-life activist Jennifer O’Neill to narrate the script that Cashill wrote and Michael Wunsch's Outpost Productions shot in six-camera, high-definition video.
"We're very involved with pro-life issues and we were glad to provide support for this important film," says Eben Fowler, Director of Broadcast Operations for the Bott Radio Network, a Kansas City-based Christian network with 81 signals nationwide.
"Thine Eyes" is a series of heart-tugging vignettes. Orthodox Jewish rabbis exhort passersby from a platform to keep fighting for life. Nearby, one shyly smiles while holding a sign: NY RABBIS FOR LIFE. He indicates his wife, also smiling and very shy, and her sign: JEWISH WOMEN FOR LIFE.
A black minister cries out with godlike passion against the slaughter of his own people, while an on-screen graphic offers a grim statistic: black women outnumber white women in having abortions three to one.
Father Sam Waters, a Catholic priest from Philadelphia, attended the march in the early 1980s. "The movie really captures what goes on," he said at the premiere. "It's a rather intense day."
"Unfortunately, there's so much cooperation you don't go away mad."
Perhaps most marchers were American Catholics, but the film also shows Lutherans For Life, Anglicans For Life, and pro-life groups from Germany, Italy, France, Mexico and Canada, among many others.
An estimated 75 percent of all marchers were under 25, including 130 students from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan.
A Benedictine student explains his presence: "to defend personhood, because all persons are created in the image and likeness of God." Hip-hop teenagers from Atlanta explain they're there because "we love babies." Others explain similar motivations in many languages.
"The best part of this film is the kids talking," says Kansans For Life Executive Director Mary Kay Culp, whose organization helped sponsor it.
"It encourages you. It made me tear up a couple of times."
Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn screened the film and hopes all Catholic adults will view it. “But it is also perfectly appropriate for high school or even middle school students,” he said. “It tells a simple but profound story which has been largely pushed to the side by the commercial press: how hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children make a challenging spiritual pilgrimage to our nation’s capitol - year after year - out of love for human life, and come back home more committed than ever to change our country.”
Bishop Finn said the film “is politically conscious without being partisan. It is factual without being preachy. It is sobering but very joyful. . . This high quality video presents in a refreshing way the serious business of people of faith living the Gospel of life.”
Every state restricted abortion access and 47 states banned abortion completely before the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which has led to an estimated 50 million deaths since 1973.
"If you see this movie and it doesn't move you, there something wrong with you inside," says Mitch Kessler of Kansas City.
Sanborn, who describes himself as "just a coordinator at best," says that "Many have struggled to understand what the March For Life is about. This film captures its value."
Several local showings of “Thine Eyes” are being scheduled. More information about "Thine Eyes" as well as ordering information is available at thineeyes.org.