For more than 35 years, pro-lifers have struggled to choose the best tactics and strategies while hoping to reach a point in America’s history where abortion would become an anathema to the public as well as lawmakers and judges. In the ongoing quest to focus on a project or proposal that might facilitate this goal, it would seem that many have lost their way.
Pro-life efforts commence from the simple truth, revealed to one and all in basic biology, that each human being begins his or her life at fertilization. Indeed, we know that an individual has his/her personal DNA and his/her identity engraved on that first single cell which results from the union of a human sperm and a human egg. Philosophically, we recognize him/her as a person who deserves to be protected in law and by the culture in which he/she resides.
Not a single pro-life person I have met has ever doubted that basic fact. And so it makes perfect sense to say that pro-life integrity is the complete, principled recognition and the defense of each and every person’s right to life from the instant his or her life begins until his or her end. This principle is confirmed in the natural law and is reflected in such basic documents as the Constitution of the United States.
But translating this ideal into political and social proposals appears to have created a problem that is growing by leaps and bounds. For example, just five days before the 35th Annual March for Life, the Catholic bishops of Georgia issued a statement in which they officially opposed a state legislative proposal that would legally protect preborn children from the beginning of their lives. Georgia’s proposed House Resolution 536 would legally declare every human being a person from the moment of fertilization until death. It would, in simple terms, express the truth that is fundamental to pro-life efforts: it would leave no innocent person behind.
Even so, the Georgia bishops, Archbishop Wilton Gregory and Bishop Kevin Boland, said that the proposal, “does not provide a realistic opportunity for ending or reducing abortion in Georgia.” The bishops went on to say that they would not “retreat” from the goal of protection, but that they would support, “legally feasible means for bringing about an end to legalized abortion.”
This is extremely troublesome. It convinces me once again that pro-life strategists are losing their way and perhaps have lost sight of the goal. The Georgia Catholic bishops, like others around the country, have been advised that the timing is not right. And yet, by setting aside this basic principle upon which the culture of life is based, they are setting aside the ultimate goal we strive to achieve.
Pro-life leaders in Georgia, as elsewhere around the nation, are committed to advancing the goal, raising the bar and demanding consistency from those in public office. They have chosen the state constitutional amendment course because it provides a golden opportunity to discuss the humanity of the preborn child, the wrongness of abortion in every case and the beauty of parenthood, which is tragically contradicted by choosing to abort one’s preborn child. While such strategies as the pursuit of a real pro-life amendment should be met with wild enthusiasm and unity of purpose, the opposite has been the case not only in Georgia, but in Colorado, Michigan and elsewhere.
After 35 years of political business as usual in the pro-life movement, we have before us a huge problem that requires a radical solution. If we are honest in asking ourselves why the pro-life movement has been unable to transform our home-team advantage into cultural conversion and practical steps toward the goal, we would have to admit failure.
We claim peripheral victories now and then and many of us seem pleased with that. However, while we may be saving a few preborn children from abortion with some minor regulations on abortion, what is happening to the big picture? Why do we concede to so-called political timing and human judgment?
If you think in the context of what has actually been achieved for the babies through politics over 35 years, you really would have to conclude that something is rotten in government and a dramatic shift is needed—a shift in tactics, strategy and focus.
This is why so many state pro-life advocates have banded together in coalitions, looked at legal personhood and chosen to pursue it. These people see a golden opportunity to express pro-life integrity in the law and are willing to do what it takes to get the task completed.
Returning to Georgia for a moment, it is easy to see that the death peddlers are frightened for one simple reason: it would put them out of business. That is why the director of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Georgia, calls the proposed amendment “extreme.”
Yet there is nothing extreme about focusing on the humanity of the child and legally protecting every innocent person from America’s largest abortion chain.
Therefore, I ask my fellow pro-lifers to consider the following recommendations as the starting point for revitalizing our efforts:
- Pro-lifers need to raise their political sights and demand consistency from those running for political office. We should not settle for anything less than pro-life integrity.
- We all need to stop talking about restricting abortion and begin abolishing it. The legalized death of even one innocent human being is unacceptable and we should be making that point over and over again.
- Each of us needs to feel, in the depths of our souls, the urgency that is so obvious when we realize that every single day in our nation 3,288 little children lose their lives in the most gruesome acts of murder known to man.
It is time for a change in pro-life strategy and tactics. It is time for tried and true wisdom as we recollect ourselves and renew our sense of what it means to be pro-life. The greatest doctrine on pro-life integrity is taught by the Catholic Church. Her teachings are grounded not only in the natural law, but common sense. Turning to her vast collection of teachings, we find one of those fundamental facts upon which we should reflect at this crucial time in history. As it says in Gaudium et Spes (The Joys and the Hopes), “a monumental struggle against the powers of darkness pervades the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested. Caught in this conflict, man is obliged to wrestle constantly if he is to cling to what is good, nor can he achieve his own integrity without great efforts and the help of God’s grace.”
The temptation to be satisfied with some ineffective minimum is unworthy of our time on earth. Let us move on toward the only goal worth pursuing: the legal protection of each and every innocent person, born and preborn. Pro-life integrity and all that it means is achievable today. Let us not wait a moment longer.
Judie Brown is president of American Life League and a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life.