A celebratory march for life in a post-Roe setting

Members of Hui Maluha (Guardians of Life), a Students for Life group based at Damien Memorial School (photo courtesy Dann Ebina)

By Patrick Downes
Catholic Herald of Hawaii

It could be called a kinder and gentler march for life, out of the hostile shadow of the Supreme Court decision that provoked the annual protest. Roe v. Wade is gone, overturned by the same court last year. But the status of abortion availability in Hawaii remains the same. So work remains.

“Our purpose is to rejoice and celebrate, to mark the 50th anniversary of the March for Life,” in the first such commemoration of the post-Roe era, said Valerie Streff, co-organizer of the march with her husband, Deacon Gary Streff, in an address to an estimated 500 gathered in the rotunda of the Hawaii State Capitol on the afternoon of January 20.

It lacked the usual kiosks promoting pro-life organizations and activities. “We’ll save that for another time,” said Streff. Instead, there was a single stage with religious music groups.

“We want our music, our voices, to sing out loud for all legislators and all people in this space,” she said.

“We are here to convert hearts and minds to believe in the preciousness of life, the sacredness of life,” she said, not to hear rhetoric or debate, but “to rejoice as we sing out loud.” and praise the Lord because without our Creator none of this would happen.”

Streff and her husband, co-directors of the diocese’s Respect Life office, promised to receive more information about new programs to help women after pregnancy in the future.

Keynote speaker Bishop Larry Silva also proposed changing the approach to ending abortion.

Without speaking notes, the bishop said that while he was “very pleased” with the Supreme Court’s inversion, the state of Hawaii was not expected to ban abortion.

“Not yet. Not at this moment,” he said.

“But we are here because we are people of hope,” he said.

His proposal to reduce the number of abortions in a state where it’s legal: “Dry up the abortion market.”

“Even if abortion remained legal, if no one got one, that would be wonderful,” he said.

He admitted his solution — eliminating extramarital sex — would be “very unpopular.”

But not unprecedented.

“I grew up in a time when you only had sex in the context of marriage because that’s where you could bond, not be afraid to have that kid and raise that kid in the family. ”

Clockwise, members of Hui Maluha (Guardians of Life), a group of Students for Life, students at St Elizabeth School in Aiea take part in the March for Life around the state capital. (Photo courtesy of Dann Ebina)

Today, of course, it’s very different, he said. “We have an over-sexualized culture.”

“Some people think if you don’t have sex you’ll die,” he said happily. “I’ve never met anyone who died because they didn’t have sex.”

“Now we have to say sex is beautiful, it’s a gift from God. Without sex, nobody would be here today,” said Bishop Silva. “But it is a gift that we must use according to God’s plan.”

“We need to advocate for more inclusive chastity education,” he said. “But this is a long fight and an uphill battle.”

“Sex is a very strong, powerful force. That is quite natural,” said the bishop. “But we have to learn to deal with it, to make it part of the goodness of our sexual being.”

“So I think if we commit to this chastity education, we’re going to dry up the abortion market,” he said. “There will be fewer unwanted pregnancies and more pregnancies in the context of family and marriage, where children can be nurtured and wanted and loved.”

“So we have a lot, a lot to do,” said Bishop Silva.

“We thank God for the Supreme Court decision. This is certainly a great victory, but it is far from the end of the road,” concluded the bishop. “We still have many miles to go before we reach that goal of total respect for the life that God has given each of us.”

Teacher and singer Shanita Akana acted as a lively presenter for the 3pm-6pm event. Participants split into two groups, the main group listening to the music and conversations in the center of the Capitol, and those holding signs along Beretania Street.

At 5 p.m., the group marched around the Capitol holding signs and pinwheels depicting abortion victims. The most common sign was a green and white poster with a positive message in large bold: “LOVE LIFE, CHOOSE LIFE”.

At least one Catholic school, St. Elizabeth in Aiea, sent students. About a dozen Catholic priests attended, about 15 nuns and a generous number of Knights Columbus. Music was provided by the Basic Christian Community and other groups.

The March for Life was the second part of a three part celebration of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which was sponsored by the diocese’s Respect Life Office.

The first part was a Mass and Holy Hour of Adoration with Bishop Silva on January 19 at the Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa. Part three is the Jan. 19-27 novena “9 Days for Life,” designed by the United States Catholic Bishops’ Conference to pray for the protection of human life. See 9DaysForLife.com.

The Respect Life Office seeks to convert hearts and minds on a wide range of life issues, including abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, capital punishment and artificial contraception, and continues to support post-abortion healing, chastity education and ethical vaccines.