On Saturday, May 4, New York City’s Time Square, the so-called crossroads of the world, was the vibrant scene for the mighty witness of defenders of unborn life at “Alive from New York.”
The idea was conceived by Focus on the Family, in response to the nation’s horror over the legislation of up-to-birth abortion and infanticide in several states and especially in New York, with the passage in January of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Reproductive Health Act. Americans reeled in disgust as Cuomo ordered America’s Freedom Tower lit up pink to celebrate abortion, even as the remains of some of the victims of 9-11, born and unborn, still lay beneath the ground.
Why not come, then, to the center of it all, Times Square, where the glaring marquee screens mesmerize tourists and passersby with all sorts of garish advertising. Why not use those screens to display something beautiful: a live, 4D ultrasound of a child in the third trimester of life? A baby, alive!
Of course, this vision would not come about without opposition. The Times Square billboard owners denied the space to organizers. Undaunted, Focus on the Family, and joining them the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, arranged to transport to NYC giant digital screens and invited a powerful line-up of national prolife leaders to appear and lead crowds up to the big moment.
Though the weather had been wet and dreary, by the 3 o’clock start time the sun had come out, the sky was blue and the temperature rose into the warm seventies. Co-hosts and Jeanne Mancini welcomed the crowd of thousands — with thousands more watching on livestream.
Three separate jumbotrons and viewing areas were set up in congested Times Square. The first included the stage, and the other two were further uptown in pedestrian islands. Nothing would dampen the spirits of those gathered, not the noisy chanting and drumming of the 75 or so pro-abortion protestors gathered on the sidewalk across from the stage (and kept across the street by a line of NYC police). Not even a fake “terrorism” scare, which occurred after the police made the protestors move on. Right after they paraded noisily past those of us at the second area, and right when the live ultrasound was beginning to show, we got yelled at to “move, move, move!” because a “suspicious” bag had been left unattended. (An eyewitness later told me he’d seen two of the protestors try to cross the street into the first viewing area with a black bag, but the police prevented them. I guess they managed better by us).
Really, inciting fear of a bomb on a crowded street in NYC — but we are the “haters”? The crowd, including many with toddlers and babies, had to climb over barriers from the pedestrian island into the busy street. That second screen had to be prematurely shut down, the area cordoned off, but we moved on peacefully, helping each other to safety.
And then something wonderful happened. We couldn’t see a screen, but we could hear. We heard a joyous cheer, starting from the back and swelling up to the front — and realized it was because we were also hearing, in glorious amplification, the preborn baby’s heartbeat.
Bear with me here: that “heartbeat” moment made me think of Dr. Seuss’ "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." The Grinch is amazed that he hears joyful noise coming from the Whos, even after he “stole” everything he thought made Christmas real for them. There were a lot of grinches who tried to steal the real impact of Alive from New York: the Times Square billboard owners; the protestors with their Seuss-like noisemakers and twisted, angry visages; and the major media who, as with the March for Life, ignored this huge prolife gathering (with some notable exceptions, like Fox News and New York’s WPIX 11). But nothing could spoil the joy and solidarity of the crowds.
Why? Well, it was explained by the final, surprise, speaker Abby Johnson. She was the mother who was behind the curtains having a live ultrasound of her baby, due in just a few weeks! Johnson is the force behind the movie "Unplanned" and the organization "And Then There Were None," which helps abortion workers leave the industry, as Johnson herself did. They leave, she said because they are burned out: “promoting death is exhausting.”
“But I have never heard,” she said, “someone who works in a pregnancy center say ‘I am so tired of helping women choose life.’ Because life is empowering! Life is energizing. And there is joy unlike you have ever felt when you start proclaiming life.”
That joy was declared from Times Square, proof that, as Johnson proclaimed: "Life is winning!"
Maria McFadden Maffucci is the editor of the Human Life Review, humanlifereview.com, a quarterly journal devoted to the defense of human life, founded in 1974 by her father, James P. McFadden, Associate Publisher of National Review. She is President of the Human Life Foundation, based in midtown Manhattan, which publishes the Review and supports pregnancy resource centers. Mrs. Maffucci’s articles and editorials have appeared in the Human Life Review, First Things, National Review Online, National Review, Verily, and Crux. A Holy Cross graduate with a BA in Philosophy, she is married to Robert E. Maffucci, and the mother of three children. Her interests include exploring opportunities for individuals with special needs. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.