WASHINGTON – Pro-life Americans have reasons to be hopeful even after 40 years of legalized abortion, leaders in their movement said at the annual March for Life and related events.
Speaking Jan. 24 and 25, pro-life speakers pointed to legislative gains in the states and potential developments in the courts – as well as God’s grace and the movement’s perseverance – as hopeful signs.
This year’s March for Life took place Jan. 25 because of scheduling and hotel conflicts with President Obama’s Jan. 21 inauguration. The march normally occurs Jan. 22, the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
States are enacting bills that are “dramatically changing the contours of abortion policy in this country,” said Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life (AUL), the pro-life movement’s leading legal organization. Yoest spoke at AUL’s legal symposium Jan. 24 in Washington, D.C.
Last year, states passed 43 laws restricting abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which is affiliated with the pro-choice movement. That made 2012 the second highest year ever for such laws, trailing only the 92 restrictions enacted in 2011.
The pro-life movement won’t advance much at the national level in the next several years, but progress at the state level will continue, Yoest said.
There is a “tremendous tidal wave of pro-life legislation in the pipeline,” she told the symposium audience.
“I’m looking offshore, and I’m here today to tell you there is a storm surge coming.”
Abortion rights advocates recognize the pro-life gains more than pro-lifers, and they have changed their strategy, she said.
They are “pivoting from choice to coercion,” with the new health care system as an example, Yoest said. “What they could not win through choice they intend to impose by coercion.”
At least partly in response, the most requested model legislation from AUL by states is for the defunding of the abortion industry, Yoest said. Second is AUL’s model to strengthen conscience protections. AUL’s legal team is helping in 39 states, she said.
Photo by Tom Strode
Jeanne Monahan, new president of the March for Life, speaks Jan. 25 at the rally on the National Mall preceding the march.
Law professor Gerard Bradley told the same audience, meanwhile, there may be an opportunity to exploit a possibly “fatal flaw in Roe v. Wade’s jerry-rigged legal edifice.”
Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that abolished all state bans on abortion, combined with Doe v. Bolton, which was decided the same day, legalized abortion, in effect, throughout the country for any reason at any point in pregnancy.
The protagonist in a Supreme Court reconsideration of Roe “will not be a Good Samaritan or a heroic state official. He will be a bad man, one who has killed his own unborn son or daughter,” Bradley said.
He will be a man convicted under a state “feticide” law, which treats violence causing death or injury to an unborn child as a separate offense, Bradley said. At least 38 states have approved such laws, he said.
“I submit it might be the undoing of Roe, because [the many defendants] convicted of feticide make an equal protection argument against their convictions, to overturn their convictions,” Bradley told the audience. “They say it violates equal protection of the law. It’s unconstitutional to hold him accountable for what she is perfectly free to do. They say, in effect, … ‘I’m making the same choice. I have the same intention, commit the same act, cause the same harm, engage even in the same behavior – whether it’s an abortifacient drug or stomping on somebody’s stomach – and I can have the same motivation….’”
Such a case could require the high court to resolve the “foundational question” it has suppressed since Roe, he said: “Who counts as a person?”
Though it will be awkward for the justices “to now take up the foundational question it has long suppressed,” he thinks they “actually have no feasible alternative,” Bradley said. “[The men convicted under feticide laws] raise equal protection challenges which go right through the personhood question.”
A Southern Baptist theology dean encouraged pro-life Christians to speak justly and mercifully, recognizing change may come unexpectedly.
“We are people who are speaking from one conscience to another, often to people who have been wounded, to people who are scared and to people who are seeking to cover and to hide,” said Russell Moore, dean of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., during a Jan. 25 Family Research Council (FRC) event before the March for Life.
“That means that we don’t cower,” Moore said. “We speak directly to the conscience. … And we speak of justice.
“And we must also speak of mercy – that we are the people who recognize and know that God is able to receive those who have done horrific things, those who have been wounded in horrific ways.
“As we speak, we speak not only to those who are with us, but we speak with justice and with mercy to those on the other side, knowing that hearts can be changed,” Moore said.
“And it just might be that in your advocacy, wherever it is, that the arguments that you make will go nowhere for now but will be remembered in a time of turning, in a time of crisis in a way that yields fruit.”
Moore spoke at FRC’s ProLifeCon conference in Washington for the online pro-life community.
At the March for Life rally, Rep. Chris Smith, R.-N.J., addressed President Obama, a strong advocate for abortion rights, as he spoke of the pro-life movement’s resolve.
“Someday future generations will look back on America and wonder how and why such a seemingly enlightened society could have failed to protect the innocent and inconvenient,” said Smith, the leading pro-lifer in Congress. “They will wonder how and why a Nobel Peace Prize-winning president who spoke eloquently about caring, cherishing and safeguarding all of our children could have simultaneously been the abortion president.”
Smith said, “Know this, Mr. President, we will never quit. In our diversity, our faith and trust in God is tested, but it also is deepened and overcomes and forges an indomitable yet humble spirit.”
After the rally, the massive crowd of pro-lifers – dominated by young people – marched to the Supreme Court with the temperature in the mid-20s.
It was the first March for Life ever without Nellie Gray, who died in August. She had been president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund since its founding after the Roe decision. Jeanne Monahan, formerly of FRC, is the new president of the organization.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)