Amid the onslaught of pro-abortion challenges to pro-life state initiatives, abortion advocacy groups pushing extreme abortion laws in states around the country, and daily pro-abortion propaganda on social media, pro-lifers sometimes understandably question whether any progress is being made in the 46 years since Roe v. Wade. We might ask, along with Professor Karen Swallow in a recent Vox piece, “What will it take to disentangle the sexual, familial, economic, and political threads of legal elective abortion that have become so tightly woven into our cultural fabric?” Yet Dr. Swallow, whose article is titled “Abortion will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now,” responds to her own question, saying, “I think we are beginning to see that unraveling now.”
Whether or not the pro-life cause is making major progress, Dr. Swallow’s article raises several points to consider as we carry on the fight for life.
#1: Major social changes come in more a subtle manner, and sometimes faster, than many realize.
As Dr. Swallow points out, major social change can come subtly, unexpectedly, and quickly: “The eradication of abortion may be difficult to imagine. But consider how difficult it would have been for our grandparents to foresee a culture in which nearly one in four women has an abortion by age 45.”
Even if we are not on the cusp of pro-life victory, there is plenty of evidence already that positive pro-life changes happen subtly and unpredictably. Many of the most pro-life presidents — including Reagan, Trump, and Bush-41 — supported legalized abortion before becoming pro-life advocates during their respective tenures as president. Former abortionists like Dr. Bernard Nathanson and Dr. Anthony Levatino became two of the most outspoken pro-life activists raising awareness about the horrors of abortion. The lies and evils of major abortion industry players continue to be exposed by organizations like Live Action and made known to millions thanks to modern technological advances.
#2: The humanity of the preborn child is harder and harder to deny.
As Dr. Swallow points out, “Every age has its blinders, constructed, usually, through a combination of ignorance and self-interest.” With any hope, these blinders give way to progress in which the truth is vindicated — usually so thoroughly that later generations, like ours looking back on legalized slavery, barely comprehend such an offensive idea. Dr. Swallow argues that major advances in prenatal science and medicine since Roe v. Wade have made the humanity of the preborn baby, even in the first trimester, increasingly irrefutable:
Before the first trimester is over (when the vast majority of abortions are performed), a tiny fetus the size of a fig kicks her feet, yawns, sucks her thumb, and demonstrates her left- or right-handedness. Her heartbeat and brain waves are detectable just a few weeks after conception. Clearly, such beings are human — and all human rights begin with the right to life.
The amazing progress of prenatal science has been reflected in various state efforts to protect preborn babies with science-based legislation like heartbeat laws and pain-capable abortion bans.
#3: Abortion is the “redistribution of repression.”
Abortion advocates often link women’s liberation to abortion on demand. It’s the subtle lie behind the ill-fated billboard campaign in Michigan that outraged so many successful women who balance motherhood with professional success. Yet abortion on demand, as Dr. Swallow points out, is nothing more than a “redistribution of repression.” The wording of this phrase — borrowed from Selene Cerankosky’s evocative article in Human Defense — reminds that “liberation” via abortion comes at a grisly cost: the actual lives of preborn children. Given the increasing undeniability of the preborn baby’s humanity, women’s liberation through abortion on demand rings hollow. As the illustrious founders of feminism like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony proved, abortion should never be linked to the liberation of women. It is a sign that society is failing women.
In the end, nobody truly knows how long the pro-life fight will last, or whether we are beginning to see the unraveling of the status quo. But we can all hope that Dr. Swallow’s assessment about where we are in the fight for life is right: “Recent attempts in several states to expand access to late-term abortions in anticipation of the possible overturning of Roe not only violate the view of the majority (who support greater restrictions after the first trimester) but will be seen by future generations as a last, desperate show of stubbornness in the face of human progress.”
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