January 18, 2013


40 years after Roe v. Wade

On Dec. 3, 2012, a gunman killed 20 children in Newtown, Conn.

On that same day, an abortionist killed 35 children in Indianapolis.

This is not meant to somehow make the shootings in Newtown seem less horrendous than they are. It’s meant to drive home the point that the killing of children in abortion facilities is still with us.

As we observe the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision on Jan. 22, 1973, that legalized abortion in the United States, the issue of legalized abortion is as divisive as ever. However, there is evidence that the pro-life movement is having an effect.

While even one abortion is one too many, abortion rates have actually declined by nearly a third since they peaked in the early 1980s. And perhaps the best news is that, according to recent surveys, young Americans are more pro-life than their elders.

Politically, many people say that the Democratic Party has become the pro-abortion party. How did this happen? Some would say the two political parties have actually switched positions on this issue.

Historically, the Democratic Party was seen as the party that championed the weak, the poor and the defenseless. That’s why Catholic immigrants found their way into that party. But who is weaker or more defenseless than the unborn child? Yet it’s now the Republican Party, historically the party of the wealthy and privileged, many would say, which is in some cases, championing the rights of the unborn child.

There are, obviously, many pro-life Democrats. They just have not, thus far, convinced enough of their other party members that the rights of unborn children are something they should uphold.

During the past 40 years, since the Roe v. Wade decision, pro-lifers have continued to fight for that decision to be overturned.

In fact, according to an article by Jon A. Shields in the January issue of First Things, the magazine published by the Institute on Religion and Public Life, the decision “crippled the pro-choice and energized the pro-life movement, creating one of the largest campaigns of moral suasion in American history.”

Shields argued that, before Roe, “the pro-choice movement was truly a movement. It organized letter-writing campaigns, subverted restrictive abortion laws through underground networks of clergy and doctors, and eagerly sought opportunities to debate pro-life advocates.”

After Roe, though, Shields wrote, even Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who won the Roe case, admitted that “our energy and contributions sagged and we seemed only to plod forward.” They won, pro-choice advocates thought, so it was over.

However, that’s not how the pro-lifers saw it. Shields wrote, “While Roe bred apathy and conservatism in pro-choice ranks, it energized many pro-lifers.” Many of them devoted their lives to changing the hearts and minds of their fellow citizens.

An example of that, of course, is the annual March for Life in Washington, which every year attracts greater numbers of pro-lifers. And most of those marchers are now young people.

Today there is no doubt that our society is the most secular and liberal in American history on any number of issues, but particularly on any issues that pertain in some way to sex—redefining marriage, cohabitation, contraception, dating, etc. Despite that, Shields said, “pro-choice sentiment stopped increasing after Roe altogether, even though it had grown dramatically in years prior.”

Pro-lifers, though, are as determined to limit abortions and put an end to this heinous practice as they ever were. That’s obvious when you see people praying near abortion centers, hoping to persuade women to change their minds. On that December day when an abortionist from Dayton, Ohio, killed 35 children in Indianapolis, there were two “saves”— women who changed their minds and let their children live.

The Roe decision also galvanized pro-lifers to help women during and after their pregnancies. Today in the United States, there are some 3,000 pregnancy help centers—more than there are abortion centers—providing alternatives to abortion.

These centers are heavily dependent on volunteers. According to Shields’ article, “the average center has about one employee for every six volunteers.” Since most of the women they serve are poor, the centers try to meet their economic needs.

We hope and pray that those who march in Washington will continue their enthusiasm for the pro-life movement when they return home.

—John F. Fink

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