Turning Point, or Eternal Return?
In 2015, when the Center for Medical Progress released undercover videos revealing Planned Parenthood’s illegal side business in selling fetal-body parts, I thought the abortion giant was finished. Recorded by pro-life journalist David Daleiden, the videos were so shocking I couldn’t see how anyone would continue to support the organization. One so-called doctor was caught boasting, while she munched on salad during a business lunch, about her skill in extracting the most profitable organs and tissue. Another executive haggled over pricing, and joked that she wanted to buy a Lamborghini. Such casual callousness toward human life is at the heart of abortion as a for-profit operation—of abortion, period. And here it was all over the Internet for everyone to see. Planned Parenthood was as good as gone, or so I believed.
Now it is late in 2020, and a presidential election is at hand. In the time since the Daleiden videos broke, we have had an unprecedented show of pro-life support from the White House. In January 2017, a week after President Trump’s inauguration, Mike Pence spoke at the annual March for Life in Washington, the first time a sitting vice president had done so. The following year, Pence introduced the president, who addressed marchers from the Rose Garden. Another first. Pence attended the March again in 2019; Trump made a video appearance. This year, in yet another first, the president himself gave a speech at the March—in person. All of this public attention (plus other pro-life initiatives on the administration’s part) has been unprecedented, indeed more than pro-lifers who voted for Trump could have expected.
Yet while there has been palpable momentum behind the cause for life, the reality is that funding for Planned Parenthood has gone up on Trump’s watch. The Washington Post reports that “Government reimbursements and grants to Planned Parenthood hit record levels in the group’s fiscal years starting in 2017 and 2018, according to its most recent financial disclosure.” While the chief executive thundered against abortion in a historic March for Life speech, federal dollars continued to bankroll the nation’s largest abortion provider.
What about the other big-ticket item, the Supreme Court? During his four years in office, Trump has been able to fill three seats, a political windfall even the most optimistic Republicans could not have anticipated back in 2016. His first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, said during a Senate hearing in 2017 that “the Supreme Court of the United States has held in Roe v. Wade that a fetus is not a person for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment.” When pressed by Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois to reveal his own views on Roe, Gorsuch replied, “I accept the law of the land, Senator, yes.” Does that translate into a “No” on overturning Roe?
Trump’s second nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, was met with a hailstorm of hysteria and panic that made the “high-tech lynching” of Justice Clarence Thomas by then-senator Joe Biden seem almost cordial. Kavanaugh appears to be preparing, through the tactical crafting of opinions, to overturn Roe at the opportune time in the future. For now, though, Kavanaugh (and Gorsuch) was overruled by another Republican nominee, Chief Justice John Roberts, in June Medical Services, LLC v. Russo, the 2020 case that struck down a Louisiana law requiring abortionists to maintain admitting privileges at hospitals.
Of the three nominees, Amy Coney Barrett, protégée of Antonin Scalia and the Court’s newest justice, is perhaps the most promising vote against Roe. Yet her confirmation could prove to be a Pyrrhic win—during Senate hearings Democrats threatened to pack the Supreme Court should she be seated, and there is every indication that if and when they have the power to do so, they will seek to add abortion ideologues to the high court bench.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans have filled the federal judiciary with handpicked candidates, but it has had little immediate effect on the killing of unborn babies. Planned Parenthood remains open for business. State laws such as Louisiana’s, designed to protect women and children from the depredations of the abortionist, are routinely struck down. Faced with the opposition of the courts, state legislatures are virtually powerless to advance pro-life positions. The more we try to solve the problem of abortion through our politics, the more entrenched abortion seems to become as a way of American life.
This is not to say that nothing has changed in the last four years. Donald Trump has been, without doubt, the most pro-life president in American history, and his actions prove it. In 2017, for example, he used his executive-order power to cut off funding for International Planned Parenthood. This led to the closing of dozens of abortuaries, many in Africa, which had been funded by American tax dollars until Trump intervened.
In August of 2019, Planned Parenthood announced that it would be pulling out of a Title X federal grant because the Department of Health and Human Services under President Trump issued a new rule preventing grant recipients from discussing abortion with patients. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the agency’s rule despite a request by Planned Parenthood to reverse.
And just last week, Trump’s director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), John Barsa, renewed pressure on USAID, and on United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, to stop promoting abortions around the world, including in the United States.
Trump also defunded the United Nations Population Fund, and brought substantial, pro-life changes to insurance and medical practices in the United States, including conscience protections for healthcare providers.
These are very welcome changes. But for all this, abortion will likely remain legal. Abortion has been sold to Americans as the easy way out of an unwanted pregnancy, and we human beings are naturally inclined to seek the easy way out of the troubles we create for ourselves.
But the consequences of this “easy way out” are horrific, with sixty million infant corpses stacked up beside tens of millions of mothers and fathers with broken hearts, families with permanently missing members, neighborhoods rendered sterile and silent by the abortionist’s scalpel.
Margaret Sanger, Planned Parenthood’s patron saint (or at least until recently) wanted to end what she saw as the “problem” of too many non-WASP babies, “human weeds” as she called them. Her answer was contraception. But her attitude typifies perfectly the abortion mentality in the United States. Even as the horrors of our country’s appalling experiment have become apparent—entire generations of our fellow Americans, many of them people of color, exterminated—we still seem to believe that we can get out the same way we got in: through the courts and the political system. We realize that a grave mistake was made in 1973, and so we want to go back to the legal turning point and fix where we went wrong.
But let us remember that Roe reflected a much deeper darkening of the American psyche, a turn to nihilistic hedonism in the 1960s that was in turn rooted in previous perversion and deviance, from the spread of cultural Marxism to the Kinsey Reports. We lost America long before we lost the abortion argument in Roe. Supreme Court decisions can be overturned if the political will exists, but I seriously wonder whether the failure of politicians to end the country’s abortion-on-demand regime isn’t better explained by a much bigger, civilizational-level compromise that we have made: Somehow, we have come to believe that America without abortion is unthinkable; depriving ourselves of an “easy way out” is antithetical to who we are as modern citizens.
David Daleiden’s videos did not bring about the end to Planned Parenthood’s reign of terror. In fact, agents raided Daleiden’s apartment on the prompting of Planned Parenthood and under the authority of the California attorney general at the time—Kamala Harris, who is now poised, this very day, to become the next vice president of the United States.
The thought of David Daleiden’s tormentor possibly gaining the power of the Oval Office fills me with dread. But the reality is that winning elections is not going to change anyone’s heart. It will take more than a ballot, a law, a court ruling to end the American Age of Abortion. It will take a change in the way we perceive and value life itself, and that, I believe, will take prayer, fasting, and reparation before God. Failing this, whatever the results of our elections, we will be in for pretty much more of the same.