As with the annual March for Life in the U.S., the mainstream media is missing a big story concerning this month’s World Youth Day (WYD) in Madrid. Through ignorance, disinterest, and sometimes hostility, its coverage often fails to recognize what is truly newsworthy and significant. For example, a few mainstream articles noted the rising proportion of young people participating in the March for Life in Washington in recent years, and recent stories about World Youth Day routinely report that a million or more youthful pilgrims are expected in Madrid. However, what is not emphasized, or even understood, is these events are important signals of what is to come.
What can we expect in the future from a million inspired young people, who travel from afar to WYD seeking identity, solidarity, and mission?
Pro-life commitment and activism (among other things).
Extensive pro-life offerings during WYD will encourage the youthful pilgrims to carry the pro-life message wherever they go.
Indeed, Spain itself needs the help of pro-lifers to reverse alarming increases of abortion over the last ten years. From 1998-2008, Spain had the largest increase in the number of abortions of 27 European countries. This represents an increase of 115%. Over an 18 year period, the rate of abortion grew from 8.57% of pregnancies ending in abortion in 1990 to 18.28% in 2008. With over 1.3 million abortions since 1980, it is the leading cause of mortality in Spain.
To make matters worse, in July 2010 a new law took effect in Spain that further liberalizes abortion. Under the previous law, abortion was a criminal offense except under certain circumstances. However, one exception, for psychological reasons, became a popular loophole, accounting for the ever-increasing numbers of abortions in Spain.
The new “Organic Law of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Voluntary Interruption of Pregnancy” provides unlimited abortion up to 14 weeks gestation. It grants 16- and 17-year-olds the right to procure an abortion without parental consent, and without parental notification if to do so would expose them to violence.
The new law mandates that abortion “will be carried out in centers of the public health network or linked to it.” Rights of conscientious objection are allowed for individual health care providers, but not for institutions, such as hospitals, raising a serious concern for Catholic hospitals.
Popular opinion does not support the new abortion law, put through by the Socialist party. Large public protests followed its passage in the legislature. Opposition leader in the parliament and a candidate for Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, supports repeal of the law. Earlier this year, when Spain’s pro-abortion government official, Bibiana Aido, Minister of Equality, attended an international conference held in Paraguay, 7000 people participated in an online protest of her support of abortion.
Despite set-backs and negative trends, such as Spain’s new abortion law, we cannot become discouraged. With the help of today’s pro-life youth, the future looks promising. As the pro-life group active at WYD, Youth Defence, declares, “Abortion is the human rights issue of our generation and we need to be informed, inspired and motivated to defend life.” These young people may be overlooked and misunderstood at this moment. But in the years ahead, the real story of who they are and what they seek will be told in actions that will have enduring life-affirming consequences.
 The Institute for Family Policies, “Abortion in Europe and in Spain 2010”, https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B2M8u8oVWKhaYTk2ZWQ1OTgtMDk2NS00YTI3LTk5OGYtNzFmYjNjN2VjZmFm&hl=en.