Tuesday marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. Friday marks the 40th March for Life protest of the legalization of abortion. At this historic moment, Americans grieve the loss of 55 million brothers and sisters to abortion — human lives that would have enriched our land with their talents and ingenuity. For context, 55 million is approximately the size of the populations of the states of California and New York combined. While Americans have a variety of perspectives on the legality of abortion, most will at least concede that the fewer there are, the better. This 40th anniversary is a somber, historic moment regardless of where one stands on the issue.
Yet on the horizon, we see hints of a new era to come. The pro-life movement has a lot to be thankful for and proud of. I would even go so far as to say we are winning.
Polls, especially in the last few years, reveal that Americans are becoming more pro-life. For example, since 2010, more Americans label themselves pro-life than ever before. Most recently, Gallup released information showing that 50 percent of Americans identify as pro-life, whereas only 41 percent identify as pro-choice. A Marist poll published recently showed that 83 percent of Americans believe U.S. abortion laws are not restrictive enough. The same poll also revealed that 6 out of 10 people believe abortion is morally wrong. These are only a few of the polls among many.
What has influenced such a change in the minds of the American people? Time, experience and advances in science, research and technology, all of which are on the side of life. In particular, the partial-birth abortion debate in Congress shed light on the invasive and even violent nature of abortion. Prior to this, many Americans didn’t really know much about the abortion procedure.
Most likely, developments in prenatal imaging, including ultrasound, which provide a stark look at the humanness of unborn children, have played a part in public opinion. The old argument that an unborn child is “just a lifeless blob of tissue” has been quietly abandoned.
Another tremendously hopeful sign on the horizon involves young people’s views on abortion. The bottom line is that young people are pro-life and are incredibly enthusiastic about ending the human rights abuse of abortion. The other side is even conceding this. Nancy Keenan, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, said as much recently when she decided to step down in favor of someone who could appeal to young people.
We are also winning in the state legislatures. Since the 2010 elections, pro-life activity in the states has moved into overdrive. In 2010, close to 400 pro-life bills were introduced with roughly 100 passed. In 2011, 80 were passed and in 2012, more than 30. For those who believe in the dignity of the human person from conception, this has tremendous impact. Studies have shown that laws restricting abortion at the state level make a significant difference in decreasing the amount of abortions. An article by Michael New in State Politics and Policy Quarterly, the top state politics journal in the country, evaluated abortion data from nearly every state over a span of 21 years, from 1985 to 2005 — a longer period than most studies. His study found that laws requiring parental consent, restricting government funding of abortion and requiring informed consent all lower the number of abortions in a given state.
These state laws not only decrease the number of abortions, they are pro-woman in the truest sense. Laws that require full informed consent; that require abortion facilities to maintain acceptable standards of cleanliness; that require record-keeping and accessibility for emergency crews; that ban “telemed” abortions; and that require a waiting period before undergoing an abortion all put the proper focus on the woman’s well-being as she contemplates one of the most consequential decisions of her life. New laws focusing on the humanity of the unborn are also gaining popularity, especially in the form of fetal pain laws.
So even in the midst of the somber reality on this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, there is tremendous reason for hope. We are saddened by the enormous loss, yet we acknowledge the hugely significant ground we are gaining, one American, one young person and one state at a time.
Jeanne Monahan is president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund (MarchforLife.org).