During discouraging times, pro-lifers remind themselves that William Wilberforce worked for two decades before he began to change hearts and minds and end 19th-century slavery in Great Britain. In efforts lasting twice as long, pro-life activists are just now beginning to see signs of success. A recent Gallup Poll found that 50 percent of American adults define themselves as pro-life (up 5 percent from 2011). According to The WashingtonTimes, two-thirds of U.S. pregnancies end with the birth of a baby, a significantly higher rate than in 1990. In addition, the teen pregnancy rate has been falling, confirming the effectiveness of strengthened abstinence programs and more widely available abstinence education.
In the meantime, the pro-life movement has brought an explosion of life-affirming laws enacted in the states. Forty-seven states considered more than 460 bills to protect women and their unborn children. In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed fetal heartbeat legislation. In Michigan, the state legislature approved what some pro-life leaders are calling "the largest collection of pro-life legislation ever addressed at one time" in the Wolverine State. In Mississippi as of July 1, all abortion-clinic physicians must have admitting privileges at a local hospital under a law passed by the Republican-led legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant in April.
Abortion rates are down as well. Domestically, a new report released from the National Center for Health Statistics reveals the abortion rate in the United States has dropped 25 percent since 1990, showing the pro-life movement is making progress in stopping abortions. Further, the decline in the abortion rate for married women is even higher. The total number of abortions reported in 2011 was 15,863 - the lowest total since 1999 (when 15,501 abortions were reported).
On the state level, newly released abortion data from the Indiana State Department of Health reveals the Hoosier state's abortion rate dropped to a 33-year low in 2010 as a result of a 5 percent drop in abortions from 2009 to 2010. In 2010, 10,031 unborn children were victimized by abortions, a decrease of 526 from the previous year.
A 2011 Guttmacher Institute report says abortion rates decreased 18 percent among U.S. black women between 2000 and 2008, "the largest decline among the four racial and ethnic groups examined."
When it released its report earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a record low in the teen birthrate and listed two possible causes: "the impact of strong pregnancy-prevention messages" and "increased use of contraception." While the left emphasizes the contraception link and ignores a rise in abstinence, it is very significant that teens report they increasingly are choosing abstinence. It is hard to imagine that anyone who cares about teenagers' futures would encourage early and out-of-wedlock sexual activity; the negative outcomes are very predictable and well-documented in the social science literature, including dramatic and unprecedented increases in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among the 15-to-25-year-old population. All adults should join in the effort to encourage teens to wait until marriage. We should celebrate the increasing effectiveness of abstinence programs and brighter futures for the nation's young people.
Teen pregnancy rates have trended down for all ages and for all racial and ethnic groups. This decline is "one of the nation's great success stories of the past two decades," said Bill Albert, chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Moreover, "teen pregnancy rates should continue to fall because teen birthrates between 2008 and 2010 have continued to drop," he said. According to HealthDay News, the teen pregnancy rate in the United States dipped to its lowest recorded level since 1976. Teen pregnancy rates fell 40 percent from 1990 to 2008, reaching a historic low of 69.8 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19, according to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics.
The abortion movement continues to lose support around the world. International pro-life advocates had an impressive and unprecedented victory at the recent U.N.-sponsored Rio+20 conference. The increasing sophistication and expertise of the pro-life coalition was evident as representatives fought for months to keep pro-abortion code language (reproductive rights, reproductive health services, reproductive care, and a new term, "population dynamics") out of the final document. At the end of the Rio conference, 52 heads of state signed a final document, "The Future We Want," that did not contain the objectionable language. The Rio document is a major victory for the pro-life coalition and signals a new day for the pro-life movement. (CWA is a long-standing, active member of the coalition.)
On another front, a coalition of Catholic and Eastern Orthodox pro-life leaders from 18 countries in mid-June launched the From Ocean to Ocean pro-life pilgrimage of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa from the eastern coast of Russia to Fatima, Portugal. The intent of the pilgrimage is to promote the defense of life across continents.
In summary, the abortion rate plummeted by 32 percent from 1990 to 2008 among women in their early 20s. In addition, the abortion movement also has lost a significant chunk of business. For the first time in 16 years, the number of abortion facilities has declined; they peaked in 1995 at a total of 938. Since then, Planned Parenthood has closed an average of 12 facilities per year, with a net decline of 189 facilities.
The growing success of this pro-life trend is thanks to the great work pro-life advocates and organizations have been doing through the many excellent activities in which they engage on a regular basis - for example, educating the public about abortion, holding big pro-life events and praying to soften the hardened hearts of those who favor abortion and to end this evil.
Janice Shaw Crouse is senior fellow at Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute and author of "Marriage Matters" (Transaction Publishers, 2012).