Since Roe v. Wade, The Personal is Personal
“We are a cultural tectonic shift. We will outlast their political movement.”
The 43rd anniversary of Roe v. Wade is next week. What’s the state of our Cause today?
Note the word Cause. The defense of human life from the moment of conception until natural death is often referred to as “the pro-life movement.” But we are much more than a “movement.”
Our huge, sprawling, ungainly, unmanageable, uncontrollable 43-year-old grassroots effort spreads across racial, cultural, religious, and socioeconomic lines, an ongoing rebellion against Roe v. Wade and all its minions and all its manifestations. It takes so many forms, speaks to so many different segments of society, has so many objectives, with so many leaders fighting and working on so many fronts, that it is much, much more than a political “movement.” It is a cultural tectonic shift, and it is not confined to North America any more.
A political movement is a brief (perhaps) shining moment: a few campaign cycles, a few Congresses, a presidential election or two. Then it’s gone. Not so with our Cause.
True, initially, our objective was to elect a new Congress and president, get a new Court to overturn Roe, and then disappear. Things didn’t work out that way, of course. Public policy momentum and the cultural revolution of which Roe was both a symptom and a standard were trending strongly against us, and technology was exploding.
But the March for Life kept happening. Over the decades, it morphed from being a stubborn protest to being a joyous rite of passage for untold thousands of young people each year.
That’s a lot of Marchers for Life over 42 years. They have taken so many different directions to protect innocent life that the Abortion Industry needs more and more wine and sleeping pills to reduce its anxiety. Surely they see us as a many-headed hydra. Every time they quell us in one place, we pop up with success somewhere else.
What accounts for our success?
For us, it has always been about people. For them, it has always been about ideology. We have done politics because we are forced to do it: Politics is how we educate the public, how we protect women and babies—and how we have to protect our very right to reach out to women in need.
For them, the solution to what they see as a problem is government action, tending more and more toward authoritarianism as they seek greater and greater control of thought and limits on (our) freely-chosen acts. For them, the personal is political.
For us, the response is personal, tending more and more toward one-on-one relationship building, educating, mentoring, and persuading as we seek more and more movement of hearts. For us, the personal is personal.
Few people are more vulnerable than a woman faced with an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy. So, to offer an alternative to the snake-oil salespeople of the Abortion Industry, from the beginning we have had caring ministries.
A few women renting a storefront on Main Street here and there has grown to more than 2,500 professionally trained and supported pregnancy resource centers across the country, over a thousand of them ultra-sound equipped; a national hotline (text “Helpline” to 313131 or call 1-800-712-4357); special outreach efforts to Jewish women and other minorities; and campaigns by college students to create childcare on campuses so women don’t have to drop out of college.
Big Abortion perceived a threat to its business model immediately and attacked long ago. Year after year, first in the media, then in Congress, and then going local. New York and California are their beachheads right now.
Remember Schopenhauer’s stages of the progression of a new idea? First it is ridiculed, then attacked, finally accepted.
In real America, outside the Washington Beltway and away from the bi-coastal extremes, the progression through Schopenhauer’s stages is further along, and acceptance of the value of individual life is getting to be the norm. Last year, states enacted 50 new pro-life, pro-woman, pro-baby laws.
The personal is powerful.
There have been close to 57 and a half million abortions since 1973. As time goes by, more and more women make the connection between their depression, their substance abuse, their suicide attempts and their abortions. They seek healing. So post-abortion ministries have grown. From candlelight vigils at the Supreme Court to retreats to hotlines, more than a quarter of a million women have been reached by the multitude of these ministries. The message is simple: You’re hurting and we can help. There is forgiveness, there is hope, there is healing. The first step is to recognize the cause of the problem.
At Planned Parenthood’s online store today there aren’t any “I’m proud of my abortion” t-shirts for sale as there were a few years ago. Maybe between “attack” and “acceptance” there’s a phase Schopenhauer missed, one of “aversion.”
The aversion is growing, and Big Abortion is getting desperate. The Empire is striking back. It is not going gently into the death of its ideology.
In the past five years, Planned Parenthood, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit (!), has transferred at least $21,567,629 to its Political Action Fund. A lot of that went to state redistricting efforts and state battles.
This organization gets 41% of its budget from American taxpayers! For it to influence the political process like this is hard for financially strapped Americans to stomach. Isn’t there a prohibition against boiling a kid in its mother’s milk? How about not undermining the people’s will with the people’s own money?
Planned Parenthood is playing its trump (pun intended?) card right now. Last week, it gave a primary endorsement to Hillary Clinton, as she polls neck and neck with Bernie Sanders in Iowa and New Hampshire.
PP never had to endorse in a primary before. Why not? Surely not because anybody suspects that Bernie Sanders is a secret pro-lifer.
Big Abortion is just a political movement. It must cling to Hillary Clinton, the candidate who personifies its ideology, with a death grip lest the whole movement capsize.
We are a cultural tectonic shift. And we will outlast their political movement.
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Connie Marshner is a commentator and researcher on life and family issues in the Washington, D.C., area.
So glad to hear there is good news on an important part of the culture.
It is encouraging, isn’t it!
The best news is that we’re still in the fight — on all the fronts: politics, caring ministries, and more.
I didn’t even mention the “other” end of life, i.e., the battle against euthanasia that is just beginning. A lot of work to do on that front….
Brava Connie–in some ways, we have just begin to fight!And we are not going anywhere, or as the great Father Neuhaus said, we will not weary, we will not rest.”
Thank you, Maria!
Or, as Mother Teresa said, “we are not called to be successful, but to be faithful.” (or words to that effect!).
Victory belongs to the Lord–we just have to do our best. What’s so encouraging is that over the years, our best keeps getting better and better, in terms of human excellence and ingenuity!
Well said. A moving tribute to the millions who carry forward the pro-life cause. You seem to be saying that the movement to overturn a “law” has morphed into a cause to change a culture.
But this analysis, though eloquent and persuasive, I thinks begs a question. Is the public purpose of the movement/cause to change laws or to change hearts? Is it to overturn Roe or to “end abortion”. (And, if I may be so bold, I don’t think Schopenhauer is a very helpful reference, since he had in mind a very different kind of historical/philosophical progression than what you have in mind).
To “end abortion” (euthanasia, etc.) is the same thing as to “end murder” – it is a vital work that, God-helped, will go on until the end of time, with varying degrees of success. You probably can get a lot of politicians who uphold abortion-friendly laws who would agree that it would be great if (as Bill Clinton famously said) they were rare, but “safe”.
Who but PP and its fellow-traveling butchers and eugenicists possibly could want to multiply abortions? Defunding these creeps is a remaining and urgent public issue. That’s a public task that might be accomplished with the right kind of President, Congress and Supreme Court. Similarly, It may be possible, with the right combination of the foregoing, to protect conscience rights. But where is the will to put the butchers out of business by allowing states to define their activities as criminal? I don’t think we’re going to see a political groundswell for that anytime soon, at least not with the tactics we’re using these days.
I guess it’s a perennial question of politics and culture: which is downstream from which? You’re right, the law needs to respect human life. But absent a king to issue a decree…. there has to be some public consensus. Therein lies the rub.
Back in 1973, the culture may have yet been intact enough that a political change to invalidate Roe might conceivably have been possible — if “we” (whoever “we” was) had been at the top of our political game. But “we” did not exist as a political force at the time,and the zeitgeist was pro-Roe. So the moment passed.
As more women had abortions, more and more people knew someone who’d had an abortion and didn’t want to condemn their friends…. 57 million+ abortions later, it’s a different culture. That’s why the growing public consensus today for some kind of limitation on abortion is good news for pro-lifers. And that has come about because extensive non-political engagement works in harmony with political engagement.