Today marks 40 years since the Supreme Court decisions Roe and Doe which allowed for abortion at any time during gestation for any reason.
I’ll be on CNN “Newsroom” just after 9 a.m. ET to discuss some follow up ideas to my piece from last week. No, I don’t agree with Time magazine. I don’t think abortion advocates are losing. Witness the most recent elections and the annual report for Planned Parenthood. As long as there are more than a million abortions a year, more than 4,000 every day, I cannot say that pro-lifers are winning.
However, the pro-life movement in the US has done an exceptional job of keeping the fight alive. Nowhere else has abortion remained the issue that it is here. In fact, pro-life activists in other countries look to the U.S. for inspiration. Some of them will be here for our national March for Life on the 25th. The pro-life movement here is a global inspiration, particularly because of the heroic efforts of many unknown heroes.
So here are a few of my thoughts for moving forward in the next phase[s] of our work here in the U.S.
1. As we move forward, we need to rethink our political alliances. By this, I don’t mean that people should jump ship from a particular political party. I think we need to start being more strategic. We are an important demographic. But for too long, we have been considered a given and we’ve been told to keep quiet so as to gain political candidates who will support our policies. Well, the past two presidential elections have shown us how that doesn’t work. Instead of being a given, we need to make candidates work to show that they support our interests. This includes knowing how to speak about pro-life issues without looking like a Neanderthal.
2. After 40 years, it’s time to broaden our agenda to include more of the social justice issues. The dignity of the human person has to be the principle that guides all of our activities. If we truly believe this, then we can also be pro-life activists in any of our day to day activities. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to support every social justice government program. But if we’re pro-life, then we do care about how people are treated and we want them to be able to live good lives, with their basic needs met.
3. Communicate and develop more empathy. I don’t know of a single pro-lifer who is motivated because of mean spiritedness. But sometimes this is not well conveyed in our work. We don’t have to approve of specific lifestyle choices in order to love and serve those individuals. People on both sides of the abortion debate tend to see ideologies instead of people. By the very principles of our beliefs, we see the person, not the policy. We have to tell that story and allow it to be told. This is what happens every day in pregnancy help centers across the nation and around the world.
4. Speaking of communication, our movement is 40 and we need to enter a new phase, maybe become a little more sophisticated. Perhaps ironically, I think it’s the younger leaders who will be able to lead us in this direction. I hear it from young leaders on both sides of the abortion debate: things are different now. It’s not just the development of social media. There’s a whole different social environment in which people are living and making decisions, particularly those for whom abortion is an extremely relevant decision.
5. Build communities. Abortion is a symptom that communities have failed, whether we’re talking about the family or broader context. I sincerely believe that the first pro-abortion messages that people hear are not from Planned Parenthood and the like, but from those closest to them who communicate in one way or another that they have no time for them, that a particular person is a bother and a drain. You don’t have to join a pro-life group to be an activist. Just live the principle that every human life has dignity. People need to feel as if they belong and are loved for who they are, as they are. If we build and strengthen our communities, there won’t be a “need” for abortion because there will be a place for every human life regardless of how it came to be and its socio economic status. [If you want a quirky example of this, check out the TV series "Raising Hope." Just be sure to start at the very beginning.]
The pro-life movement is holding its ground, probably even gaining in some areas. We’re a long way away from a culture in which abortion is unthinkable. But if we hold strong and smart, I think we could see some significant advances in the near future.