Thursday, January 22, 2009

Has the Pro-Life Movement Failed? Not By a Long Shot, Ask an Abortion Doctor

By Austin and Cathy Ruse
January 22, 2009 Note: Austin Ruse is president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute and Cathy Ruse is the senior fellow for legal studies at the Family Research Council. This article originally appeared on The Westchester Institute for Ethics & The Human Person's website.

Imagine yourself a typical abortion doctor, working anywhere in the country. You're a late middle-aged man who never gets to know your patients and doesn't care to. In the beginning you saw yourself as a hero in the fight for women's rights, but now years later as you travel a circuit of clinics, your unknown patients lying prone on table after table, the luster of your work has faded.

Every day you walk through a phalanx of protesters praying for you to stop your work and trying to persuade your patients to walk away. A few doors away or across the street sits a pregnancy help center that has a new sonogram machine which is opening a door to your secret world and turning women against you.

And now there is a new threat, that among the young women in the waiting rooms are undercover pro-lifers with hidden microphones recording clinic staffers saying things that will be aired later on the O'Reilly Factor.

Your landlord doesn't want you as a tenant. Your state legislature passes new laws every year that hurt your business. Your home phone is unlisted and your medical colleagues shun you.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. On the day the Supreme Court handed down the decisions Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, the New York Times and the Court itself said the abortion issued had been settled. Of course, nothing in our public life is as unsettled as the abortion issue.

Every year tens of thousands of Americans march in protest on the anniversary of Roe. The Catholic scholar Michael Novak has said that more people have marched in this march for this cause than any other in American history.

Roe established by judicial fiat a national rule of virtually unlimited legal abortion, and the fight against this monolith is not unlike an insurgency against an authoritarian regime:

Roe brooks no dissent and admits no compromise; it will not be moved from power; there is little opponents can do to topple the regime. Yet the rule of insurgencies is that if they do not wither away they will eventually win. The insurgency of the pro-life movement has done much more than stay alive. It has thrived. [TAKE NOTE CANADIAN PRO-LIFERS!]

The result of this iron rule of Roe is that a thousand pro-life flowers have bloomed. It seems pro-life initiatives spring up almost spontaneously at kitchen tables and dorm rooms all across the country. A woman who suffered from abortion decided to tell her story in public and a movement was born and now thousands more speak out. A young man got an idea about prayer and fasting and cooked up 40 Days for Life, a movement that is sweeping the country. Pro-life messages are emerging in the least likely of places, like popular radio and even Hollywood. And yes, hearts and minds are changing.

The result of this is that in poll after poll Americans say they want significantly more limitations on abortion than the Roe regime allows.

Notably, that opinion is shared by women. In an extensive survey of women conducted by the Center for Gender Equality, a group run by former Planned Parenthood President Faye Wattleton, a majority of women stated that abortion should either never be permitted or should be permitted only for cases of rape, incest, or where the woman's life is endangered. When asked to rank 12 issues in order of importance for the women's movement, the women ranked "Keeping abortion legal" next to last, less important than any other goal but "More girls in sports."

Roe was never based on law, but on the opinion of elite policy makers including those on the Supreme Court. The broadness and deepness of the pro-life movement is changing all that and Roe will eventually be reheard and will be overturned. Both sides know that.

Go listen to an abortion proponent speak. They are beleaguered. They are surrounded. They are defeated. The pro-life movement is coming at them from every direction.

Is the pro-life movement defeated? Not by the longest of shots.