Like Father Richard John Neuhaus, Pro-Lifers Won’t Ever Stop Fighting Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jan 11, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Like Father Richard John Neuhaus, Pro-Lifers Won’t Ever Stop Fighting Abortion

by David Andrusko
January 11, 2009 Note: Dave Andrusko is the editor of National Right to Life News and an author and editor of several books on abortion topics. He frequently writes Today’s News and Views — an online editorial column on pro-life issues.

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus died yesterday and there is more to say about the author of many books and the editor in chief of the prestigious magazine, "First Things." In addition, there is the speech Fr. Neuhaus delivered at the July 2008 NRLC national convention.

As I first listened to and then later re-read Fr. Neuhaus’ remarks, the rhetorical chord that rang out to me was, "We shall not weary, we shall not rest." A student of politics, he understood that electoral victories inevitably are followed by defeats. It’s what you do with the ebbs and flows that matters. (This speech was delivered, of course, before the setbacks in the November election.)

You can get discouraged, as a piece that appears yesterday on the web site does. Or you draw strength and calm assurance from Neuhaus’ long-view approach: "The pro-life movement that began in the 20th century laid the foundation for the pro-life movement of the 21st century," adding, "We have been at this a long time, and we are just getting started."

The headline of the CT piece is "Battle Fatigue," and the subhead is, "Abortion opponents head into Obama presidency after big losses." The latter is unquestionably true, the former, in my judgment, is just as unquestionably false. (Before I go any further I should note that I have read CT since the 1970s and have learned a great deal from this evangelical flagship. But it is flat-out wrong in this particular instance.)

The article begins by quoting President-elect Barack Obama’s promise to Planned Parenthood’s political arm that the first thing he’d do as President "is sign the Freedom of Choice Act." Quite correctly FOCA is described as a measure that "would remove almost all state and federal restrictions on abortion."

However, to that the author adds, "But observers wonder if the anti-abortion movement has enough life in it to successfully fight the legislation or similar measures," based on Obama’s election and pro-life losses in several state initiatives. That’s quite a statement. Let’s start by asking who are the "observers"?

The first two are a pro-abortion author who argues there is "abortion fatigue" among the "populace," and a sociologist who argues the buzz now is over the battle to redefine marriage. Not exactly overwhelmingly weighty. Let me offer a couple of thoughts.

First, to reiterate, none of us is naive enough to believe there would ever be a straight-line progression to victory. We took a shellacking in the congressional elections, but we will come back strong just as we have many times before. And Obama’s victory was greased by concerns over a very dicey economy, not his full-bore support for abortion, which he kept under wraps except when joking around with his buddies at places like PPFA.

Second, the CT story discounts the fact that young evangelicals are even more pro-life than their pro-life elders. Why? Supposedly because they don’t "have the same fire in the belly about the issue that older evangelicals have had." That is not my experience, not my experience at all.

Young people–Evangelical and/or Catholic–understand the abortion issue in a more personal way than many of us who are older never did. They are, in Derrick Jones’s words, the "Abortion Generation," or the "Roe Generation"–alive when they could easily have been aborted.

Virtually everyone knows someone whose life has been devastated by an abortion. Abortion is not an abstraction to young people. It is a tragedy visited on many of their friends and peers.

Third, the author of the piece makes this statement: "In 2005, 19.4 per 1,000 women had an abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, but the number–1.2 million in 2005–has stayed relatively the same since the 1970s."

This is seriously misleading.

What happened, as you well know, is that abortions skyrocketed after Roe until they hit 1.5 million in 1980. And they stayed above 1.5 million throughout the 1980s and then peaked at 1.6 million in 1990. But that number has dropped by a quarter since. Why?

Because of the cumulative efforts of legislation such as parental involvement, right to know laws, and waiting periods which began to be put in place in various states through the 1980s and 1990s; a broad increase in basic public knowledge about the unborn as ultrasound and other medial technologies have proliferated; and the impact of pregnancy care centers offering alternatives.

It is true that the number of abortions is about the same as it was in the early years after Roe. But it is also true, as was demonstrated visually in a graph that appears in the January issue of NRL News, had these rates and ratios not dropped (thanks to pro-life initiatives), another nine million babies would have been lost.

But the worse part of the article, for me, is the ending. Although we supposedly are "fatigued," and thus probably unable to fight pro-abortion initiatives in Congress, we do have a fallback: we can place our hope in the generosity of….Barack Obama.

Well, thanks but no thanks. As we have demonstrated a hundred times, Barack Obama has no more interest in decreasing the number of abortions than I do in increasing them.

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