Somewhere on the order of 59 million Americans have been deliberately and brutally murdered over the last forty-three years. The victims, who have been torn; burned; stabbed; choked; dismembered; and at times left to die, gasping for breath on sheets of cold metal or in refuse piles, are barely recognized by history. Their lives have been fleeting, and because we so often only see them indirectly at most, their passings have become an occasion for a ghoulish celebration of the march of Progress.

Every year, on the same day when the slaughter began, tens and now hundreds of thousands of Americans march peacefully in our nation’s capital to demand an end to the slaughter. In response to any equivalent mass-slaughter, undertaken at times with taxpayer money and always with the sovereign’s protection, a righteous people would be entirely justified in entering open rebellion. Yet the men and women, the boys and girls, the fathers and mothers, preachers and priests and rabbis, who march today march peacefully, their very nonviolence a rebuke to the bloodstained hands of the city in which they protest. They suffer frost and snow, chill and wind, scorn and screamed obscenities, at times even violence; and yet they march to end abortion on demand in our country.

Death mounted a mighty steed 43 years ago today and sent forth champions who would proclaim to the whole world that his work was a glory. It is not amazing that he found those champions; it is amazing that our nation, that once sent its young men to die on far-away battlefields to end the great crime of chattel slavery, that had a mere three decades before sent its best to fight two of the worst mass-murdering tyrannies men would ever know, embraced Death and his message this time. Today, the three likeliest candidates for the nomination to the Presidency by the world’s oldest political party proudly proclaim that no child will be safe in the womb should any of them become President. For this, they are feted and praised not only by Death’s merchants, but by the media who will mock today’s march when they are not suggesting that it is a sign of sexism and oppression, or ignoring it altogether. For this, they are indulged as if particularly thick children by the other party’s legislators, who treat human life as a trifle over which to haggle, but indirect subsidies to Fortune 100 companies a matter of titanic importance.

The march — that is, the men, women, and children who march — are a constant, silent witness that there is absolute truth, and one of those truths is that every, single human being has inherent dignity and rights by virtue of existing; another is that the murder of innocents is no way to vindicate the rights of half the species. While the rest of us enjoy central heat and hot coffee, tea, and cocoa, they will be lashed by winter’s amoral fury in the name of protesting mankind’s immoral enormity. They make themselves a visible sign of suffering and cheer in the name of those who will suffer far worse, outside of sight, in well-lit shadows that reek of disinfectants and of exposed human tissue. They chant, and they pray, and they hold signs and hands, and they call a nation lost to an embrace of Death to remember that Life is harder, paradoxically more frightening, and infinitely more rewarding and worthwhile. They call us to remember that as with every other moral crusade in our nation’s history — not least the war on slavery — women stand at its heart, for better than men, they know life at its most vulnerable intimately.

There is no moral arc to the universe, for ours is a fallen world, and until the Last Day, human beings will always devise new cruelties and find new targets for those cruelties. But there are absolute truths, and even though another dragon will always rise, each dragon can be slain. When Roe v. Wade was handed down, Americans broadly approved of the ruling; today, we are ambivalent and increasingly opposed, as science irrefutably shows what we have always intuitively known and what our great faiths have taught: that the littlest ones are humans, precious human beings, who deserve a shot at sunlight and fresh air just by virtue of existing.

Our modern peculiar institution will fall, as the generations that created and embraced it die away, as the generations raised with images of babies in the womb playing with their hands rise. We know this not because the false god History demands it — history demands only what humans make of it — but because the Almighty has given us the tools to fight the evils we create, and the power to succeed when we do.

Today and yesterday belong to the darkness.

Tomorrow belongs to the marchers.

The image is of the March for Life crowd shot of the beginning of the march in Washington, D.C., taken January 22, 2009. It is copyright Eric Martin and Rick Johnson, and is used pursuant to a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.