This year marks a significant milestone for both pro-life and pro-abortion advocates—the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, companion Supreme Court decisions. January 22, 1973 has served as a landmark—a triumph for those in favor of abortion-on-demand and a tragedy for those who stand on the side of life. These court decisions have dramatically influenced the development of both movements. Now is an appropriate time to reflect on where we are four decades later.
As expected, this 40th anniversary did not pass unrecognized by the main- stream media. Time Magazine chose to commemorate this occasion with a provocative cover emblazoned with these words, “40 years ago, abortion-rights activists won an epic victory with Roe v. Wade. They’ve been losing ever since.” At first glance, this may seem like a media triumph for pro-lifers. However, a closer read reveals a somewhat abortion-minded slant throughout the article entitled “What Choice?” Even the title itself suggests a cynical perspective.
The opening paragraph introduces readers to an abortion facility director and details the daily operations, even down to the number of abortions performed. I’ll admit it was difficult to read, as I could imagine the lives of the 22 mothers and their unborn babies who were described as being there for abortion services. There is seemingly no compassion toward these women in the text. Yet the writer wastes no time in empathizing with abortion facility staff over the number of state-imposed regulations they must endure. She laments 24-hour waiting periods, counseling and parental notification as inconveniences.
During 2011, pro-lifers achieved a record high number of 92 abortion protections passed in 24 states. While Roe v. Wade still looms at the national level, there is no mistaking that pro-lifers are gaining ground at the state level. Keep in mind that these actions are largely designed to protect women’s health. For example, in Mississippi, a law was passed requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Of course pro-abortion activists sued to determine the constitutionality of the law and if it presents an undue burden on women seeking abortions. The Virginia state board of health issued a rule requiring that abortion clinics abide by the same architectural zoning regulations as hospitals. This meant that hallways must be wide enough for two gurneys to pass. The Time Magazine article revealed the pro-abort’s main complaint is that this type of legislation is hard to campaign against. Again, there seems to be no concern for the health of the woman.
It seems the pro-aborts are unhappy they no longer have a monopoly on the phrase “women’s health.” Historically, they clung to that language. In fact, it was one of the elements that proved influential in achieving the victory of Roe v. Wade. They campaigned on the premise that abortion should be a legally protected matter between a woman and her doctor. This was supposedly to “protect” a woman from the dangers of back-alley abortions.
Now, pro-lifers are revealing that abortion is not about women’s health at all. One of the most tragic examples of the past year was the death of Tonya Reaves. Following her botched abortion, she was left to bleed for over five hours before being transported to a local hospital where she later died. Further investigation showed that the Planned Parenthood abortion facility in question was not even considered to be a surgical abortion provider. Another woman, Roberta Clark, had an early abortion at Planned Parenthood. Severe symptoms sent her to the hospital where doctors did emergency surgery to remove an undetected tubal pregnancy. Sadly, she will be unable to have her own children as a result of this incident. It is evident that as long as abortion remains legal, regulations must be enacted to help protect women’s lives from the abortion industry.
Another hurdle for the pro-abortion movement has been the monumental advances in ultrasound technology. Prenatal ultrasounds are a window to the womb that offer a glimpse at the miraculous growth and development taking place in utero. A tiny heartbeat can be heard as early as six weeks gestation. Undoubtedly, the prenatal images are opening eyes and changing hearts and minds of abortion-minded women. Equally as detrimental to the other side have been developments in neonatology allowing premature babies to survive as early as 23 weeks! The evidence in favor of life is incredible and indisputable.
In addition, these advancements have influenced public opinion. A May 2012 Gallup survey revealed that just 41% of Americans identified themselves as “pro-choice,” while 50% identified themselves as pro-life. However, pro-abortion advocates claim that this is merely a failure on their part to adapt to the shift in public attitudes on abortion. They believe that “pro-choice” is a term of the past. Instead they are opting for new terminology to redefine the movement holistically as “reproductive justice.” They have also realized that they can no longer compare abortion to other medical procedures like having a tooth pulled. Instead they are admitting it is the termination of a life, but still maintain that it is a woman’s “choice.”
Fortunately in this new era, they cannot rely on the traditional ties to feminism. Emily Buchanan, executive director of the pro-life group, the Susan B. Anthony List, shares her viewpoint in “Pro-Life and Feminism Aren’t Mutually Exclusive.” This moving commentary (published online by Time Magazine) shows that 18-to-29-year-old women shun the notion that abortion somehow liberates women. This generation sees abortion as the human rights issue of our day. They refuse to overlook the fact that more than a third of their peers are not alive because of abortion. And it reveals another weakness in the pro-abortion camp—the blatant age gap.
The women leading the pro-abortion movement are those who were in their 20s and 30s when Roe was decided. These leaders, now in their 60s and 70s, are failing to connect with the next generation. Not only are they lacking in numbers, they are also missing the level of passion the pro-life movement has in its young, up-and-coming leadership. Groups like Live Action and Students for Life are doing phenomenal work and creating an influx of youthful energy, passion and brilliance. (Bradley Mattes goes into greater detail about these youth-led groups in his column on page 7.) Even NARAL’s own president, Nancy Keenan acknowledged her need to step down because of young pro-life activists. In response to the annual March for Life in Washing-ton, DC she said, “I just thought, my gosh, they are so young. There’s so many of them and they are so young.”
Looking back, the pro-abortion battle cry used to be make abortions “safe, legal and rare.” Unfortunately, they only succeeded in making abortion legal. Over time the message has changed to become increasingly radical with the declaration that abortion should be “on-demand and without apology.” That philosophy has caused a major division within the pro-abortion movement. Gallup poll data reveals the majority of “pro-choice” Americans support making abortion illegal in the third trimester, 24-hour waiting periods and parental consent for minors. Most abortion-rights organizations oppose any and all common sense regulation. This dissenting opinion contributes to the reality that more Americans are simply choosing not to align with the pro-abortion side. It suggests that the pro-abortion movement’s division is weakening its resolve at the very time it needs to rally and develop new strategies.
In spite of the difficulties, the media has still remained an ally of the pro-abortion side. Last year, when the Susan G. Komen breast cancer foundation announced it was withdrawing grant funding to Planned Parenthood, it was subjected to a monumental backlash throughout the media and social media. Ultimately, the bullied group opted to reinstate funding rather than risk additional fallout. No doubt these funds are keeping the lights on while the abortions take place. Overcoming the media bias remains a daunting task for the cause of life.
The question remains, what are the facts about abortion? Is it increasing or decreasing? The number of abortion business-providers nationwide shrank from 2,908 in 1982 to 1,793 in 2008, the latest year for which data is available. Also, the CDC reports a drop in reported abortions of 5 percent for 2008, being the largest single year decrease. While this is certainly positive news, it is also bittersweet because the nation’s largest chain of abortion facilities has proven that it has become more and more efficient in the business of abortion. A record high number of 333,964 abortions were performed by Planned Parenthood in 2011. In fact, Planned Parenthood’s abortion numbers have steadily climbed a staggering 69 percent or the equivalent of more than 136,894 abortions annually since 2000. Planned Parenthood’s 2011-2012 Annual Report reveals while the number of abortions reached a record high, cancer screenings and prevention services have dropped by 29 percent. In addition, only 2,300 adoption referrals were made. This means 145 abortions were performed for each adoption referral.
A chilling statement appeared in the annual report’s introductory letter signed by Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood. It says, “We are so proud of the year’s many successes, and deeply grateful for all the partners, sponsors, volunteers, staff and friends who helped make them possible.” Clearly, Planned Parenthood remains arrogant and unapologetic when it comes to reporting its abortion numbers.
The notion that Planned Parenthood relies on abortion business is supported by a study released by Life Issues Insti-tute in October 2012. The research revealed that an overwhelming 79% of Planned Parenthood’s surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of African American or Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods. Minority women are approximately three-times more likely than Caucasian women to have an abortion. Therefore, the evidence suggests that Planned Parenthood is locating its facilities in the areas most likely to provide abortion income.
Following the money trail, Planned Parenthood’s most recent annual report boasts $1.2 billion in total income. Of that, $542 million is taxpayer funding, amounting to over 45% of their total revenue. It is alarming to consider that our government continues to provide blood money used to enable the slaughter of our unborn sons and daughters. This coupled with the re-election of the most pro-abortion president in history shows that we have our share of challenges to overcome pro-abortion legislation, and to achieve pro-life election victories.
The closing paragraph of the Time Magazine article defines the most pressing goal for pro-abortion activists 40 years after Roe. “To widen access to a procedure most Americans believe should be restrict-ed—and no one wants to ever need.” It sounds like a self-defeating cause, but don’t be deceived, the task ahead is grueling for those of us who stand for life. Our generation is fighting for the past generation we lost to Roe v. Wade and is working to protect future generations from this mammoth injustice. We need to be aware of the opposition and how they will attempt to reframe the argument. We also must be aware of our own weaknesses and not only be willing to face them, but to correct them. Moreover, we must remain passionate and diligent. Be encouraged in your efforts, remembering the greatest asset we have is that the truth is on our side and life will prevail.