Pro-life Death?

The victory for Barack Obama and the Democratic Party last Tuesday is the death of the pro-life movement as we know it. The pro-life movement has sought to reverse abortion through legislative action and the courts, and made tremendous gains throughout eight years of George W. Bush, just enough to place the nation at a turning point. Unfortunately, it failed to turn the corner, to the close deal, on November 4, 2008, in large part because of the remarkable unpopularity of President Bush. This terrifically pro-life president will now see his pro-life legacy vanish very quickly.

The nation now faces the once unthinkable approval of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA), which Barack Obama says will be the “first thing” he signs as president. FOCA will nationalize abortion, superseding and overturning abortion restrictions in every state. In the words of NARAL Pro-Choice America, the act would “codify Roe v. Wade into law and guarantee a woman’s right to choose in all 50 states.” Or, as the National Organization for Women excitedly proclaims, FOCA would “sweep away hundreds of anti-abortion laws [and] policies.” In one stroke, this bill, introduced in Congress in April 2007-and co-sponsored by Obama-will wipe out all the fully bipartisan abortion restrictions passed by Democratic and Republican legislatures over the past 35 years.

Obama made that promise in a July 17, 2007 speech to Planned Parenthood, a group that he calls a “safety-net provider.” As Obama made clear in that speech, he views abortion-delivery services as basic government services-services in support of a woman’s “fundamental right” to an abortion. With the huge majority he will enjoy from an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, President Obama will get what he wants.

Obama’s defenders tried to explain away his votes in Illinois rejecting medical care for newborns who survive abortions. With FOCA, that shouldn’t matter, since it eliminates state restrictions regardless.

President Obama will also likely secure taxpayer funding of abortion, government-provided abortion for women in the military, American money to international abortion groups like the UNFPA, federal funding of embryonic research, repeal of the Hyde Amendment, and much more.

In essence, we’re looking at the strong possibility of unrestricted, taxpayer-funded abortion through the entirety of a mother’s pregnancy. There will be no Republican legislative body that can check this. Such change promised by Obama is unprecedented in presidential history.

All of that will happen before President Obama even begins appointing pro-choice judges. If I may hazard a prediction, I believe Obama will have not only four years to mold the courts but eight years. He’s the first Democrat since LBJ to win over 50 percent of the vote. Not even Bill Clinton did that. Add in the fact that an astoundingly sympathetic media will protect him, that the economy will fully recover by 2012, that Iraq will not be a liability for him, and you have a two-term presidency in the making.

And yet, November 4 was devastating for the pro-life movement beyond the election of Barack Obama. As a brief summary of what happened around the country that day, here’s a cut-and-paste of the headlines distributed the morning after by the pro-life source

  • Obama Captures Win Over John McCain, Expected to Promote Abortions
  • Washington Becomes Second State to Legalize Assisted Suicide in Vote
  • Michigan Voters Approve Proposition 2 to Destroy Human Embryos
  • California Very Narrowly Opposes Third Try for Parental Notification
  • South Dakota Voters Defeat Second Ballot Measure to Ban Abortions
  • Colorado Voters Soundly Defeat Personhood Ballot Measure on Abortion

That says it all. The pro-life movement was battered last Tuesday. The “Culture of Life” was bludgeoned.

This means that the pro-life movement will need to rely not on changing laws-though pro-lifers should still try to do that when they can-but on changing hearts and minds. The strategy has always been to do both, but, now, the latter will need to be the dominant priority.

Tragically, many scared young girls, who otherwise might be stopped from choosing an abortion through parental consent, waiting periods, or any number of additional guidelines, will not face the checks to prompt them to pause for second thought. There are thousands if not millions of post-abortive women in their 40s and 50s who will tell you that they wish to God that there had been some type of restriction that would have given them pause. Without those checks, they chose as they did, and many suffer greatly to this day. There seems little doubt that the abortion rate should rise steadily-after declining consistently in recent years.

This is so utterly dispiriting that many pro-lifers feel helpless. Many may toss in the towel: If this is what America wants, so be it….

But for those still willing to try to help young mothers and their unborn babies, the thrust must now focus on counseling, evangelization, education, on establishing crisis pregnancy centers, on making ultrasound technology more widely available, and generally on one-on-one efforts to convince pregnant girls that they have options.

With the results of November 4, there will likely be another 35 years of Roe v. Wade-plus much, much more. Pro-lifers need to regroup and think hard about how to try to ensure that the next 35 years of legalized abortion in America will not produce another 50 million aborted babies.

Dr. Paul Kengor


Dr. Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College and executive director of The Center for Vision & Values. His books include “The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism” and “Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.”

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  • Warren Jewell

    How can the pro-life movement regroup, if FoCA obviates the kinds of efforts and successes out of the struggle of the last 35 years? Besides, out of the ‘spirit of FoCA’, can we not anticipate more efforts at shutting down front-line pro-life actors, who just may find themselves being called ‘anti-abortion’ so as to make them ‘hate-speech’ crime perpetrators that they may be sued and/or jailed? Will not pro-life crisis pregnancy-care centers be targeted by legislation designed for nothing more than eliminating them?

    I suggest, once again, that we need the combined authoritative voices of our bishops succinctly, clearly, plainly and forcefully leading the way into ‘changing hearts and minds’. If ‘the teachers of the teachers’ are yet silent (or obtusely mumbling in USCCB-speak from all sides of their ‘mouths’) who will give close attention to and wary room to operate to the latter at-the-front-lines group?

    When a bishop speaks, and preferably in a teaching mode, many listen. He offers his voice as a ‘floor’ from which others may speak and teach. Indeed, the bishop-shepherd-teacher lifts his pro-life teachers into the pulpit with him. There just is no substitute for that.

  • Mary Kochan

    If we ARE defeated legislatively — and that is by no means a foregone conclusion — we start over locally, personally, and demographically. We will win because we love life. We win even if we lose — the Cross and Resurrection teach us that.

  • Warren Jewell

    Agreed, Ma’am.

    I like the addendum-like article by Fr. John Jay Hughes For Pro-Lifers, A New Day at

    But, I will stand by my consideration of the full voices of the bishops as not only first-for-teaching but first-for-calling-attention-to-teaching. Combined, their ‘clout’, to give it a Chicago flavor, could not be denied. Their powerful witness would also become a barrier to silencing pro-life voices, a la ‘hate-speech’ ordinances.

    But, too, among Catholics now obviously so confused as to be self-defensive no matter how wrong-headed, I could not so easily be given the ‘who are YOU to . . .’ argument.

  • trailblazer

    It might well be that legislative restrictions on anti-abortion activites like praying peacefully outside an abortion clinic (most likely the so-called Planned Parenthood) will come to pass as well as assualts on pregnancy resource centers. It seems likely.

    None of this changes the fact that it is our God who is in control and that to Him nothing, through prayer and fasting, is impossible. It is our lack of awareness and prayer that got us here and an increase in awareness and prayer that will lead us to the victory.

    As regards the issue of “awareness” I agree that it would be really helpful for the Bishops to unite with one strong voice that resounds throughout the Catholic commuminty; a call to fasting and prayer and an increase in education regarding the teaching of the Chruch on the issue of abortion (and other life issues) and the need for a “properly” formed conscience; not the so-called self consciousness which so many claim sets them free from the moral imperatives of Catholic teaching.

    Bishops statement or not, none of this relieves us of the personal responsibility to challenge and educate ourselves and those in the ‘pew next to us” to come to a new awareness and a new level of prayer. The challenge is the same Jesus proposed to the apostles when He asked, who do you say that I am. The answer to this question for each of us lies at the heart of the matter.


  • FOCA will not just turn around every legislative stand the prolife movement has made, but I have read pro-death blogs and articles from Planned Parenthood whining about Crisis pregnancy centers that are proliferating all over the country. Those are very successful in the war against abortion. When given a real choice, women will chose life.