Thursday, November 3, 2011

The forward-thinking pro-life movement

The Weekly Standard has published an article whose message bears repeating.
That the pro-life movement is bigger is a given. It’s also younger, increasingly entrepreneurial, more strategic in its thinking, better organized, tougher in dealing with allies and enemies alike, almost wildly ambitious, and more relentless than ever.

All that is dwarfed by an even bigger change. Pro-lifers have captured the high moral ground, chiefly thanks to advances in the quality of sonograms. Once fuzzy, sonograms now provide a high-resolution picture of the unborn child in the womb. Fetuses have become babies.
This passage is particularly encouraging:
Three pro-life trends have spiked in 2011. The first is the rise in opposition to abortion among young people. The under-30 cohort was the most pro-choice in the 1970s, second most in the 1980s and 1990s. Now they’re “markedly less pro-choice” than any other age group, scholars Clyde Wilcox and Patrick Carr have written. “Clearly, something is distinctive about the abortion attitudes of the Millennial Generation of Americans.”

Indeed there is. Millennials haven’t grown more religious, politically conservative, or queasy about gay rights. Nor do they go out of their way to vote for pro-life candidates. But they tend to see abortion as a human rights violation. Thus their resistance to abortion is gradually increasing.

You can see a manifestation of this generational shift at the March on Washington each January 22, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling. For years, the marchers were geezers, initially Catholics, then aging Protestants too. In the past few years, the march has been dominated by teenagers and people in their 20s, often carrying infants.
Having attended the March for Life four times myself, I can personally corroborate this evidence of increased support among young people.

What's unavoidable about the pro-life movement is that it commands such a stronger sense of commitment than other "social issues" movements in the U.S. Oh, sure, gay marriage...whatever. Prayer in schools...*yawn.* If the abortion issue were simply a matter of having a particular religious or social point of view, it could not possibly command such dedication--and diversity--as we in fact see.

That's because abortion is a fundamentally unique issue. It is the slavery issue of our time, not because the moral contours are the same, but because it is that enormous elephant in the room. Being pro-life means you actually understand that the United States allows around 3,500 deaths every day at the hands of licensed medical doctors. This is not the kind of issue that makes you upset because of some vague dissatisfaction with the moral character of people around you. This is the kind of issue that makes you say in your heart, Oh my God, people are dying!

I'm glad that pro-lifers have found ways to energize young people in support of this extremely important cause. I would like to see the pro-life movement become more than a single-minded mission, however. Ending Roe v. Wade is not enough. In fact, it isn't even enough to end abortion. The goal is to institutionalize a respect for life. We need to be talking about our societal attitude toward violence in general, particularly nationalized violence in the name of "national security."

I'm optimistic about the future of the movement, and I would like to tip my hat to some of the groups, left unmentioned in the Weekly Standard, which I believe have made a positive difference. SecularProLife is now getting some attention among pro-life news sources. Feminists for Life has long been making a profound difference on college campuses. I Am Whole Life is a movement to make the pro-life movement more expansive and comprehensive. And I just have to throw in Libertarians for Life, who have provided some of the most rigorous (secular) philosophical and moral arguments against abortion I have ever seen.

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