Monday, October 31, 2011

'The unheralded gains of the pro-life movement'

In a cover story for the Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes writes about the state of the pro-life movement. Some excerpts:
That the pro-life movement is bigger is a given. It's also younger, increasingly entrepreneurial, more strategic in its thinking, better organized, tougher in dealing with allies and enemies alike, almost wildly ambitious, and more relentless than ever.

All that is dwarfed by an even bigger change. Pro-lifers have captured the high moral ground, chiefly thanks to advances in the quality of sonograms. Once fuzzy, sonograms now provide a high-resolution picture of the unborn child in the womb. Fetuses have become babies.

Abortion advocates were among the first to understand how this would alter the debate. Two pro-choice leaders, Kate Michelman and Frances Kissling, acknowledged three years ago that "antiabortionists" had gained a significant advantage. Supporters of abortion, they wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "have had a hard time dealing with the increased visibility of the fetus." To "regain the moral high ground," they must deal with "a world that is radically changed from 1973," when the Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion nationwide.

Pro-life groups, unlike advocates of easy access to abortion, have proved adept in accommodating to this new world. They've begun piling up successes. In 2011 alone, 24 states have enacted 52 new restrictions on abortion. Five now require an ultrasound before an abortion, two insisting that the screen be viewable by the mother. Four bar abortions after the baby is able to feel pain (at approximately 20 weeks). Eight have opted out of Obamacare. Five ban abortions by webcam (in which a doctor, not in person but videoconferencing with the mother, prescribes pills to induce abortion). Six trimmed or eliminated funds for Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider. Texas led with a $64 million cut. ...

Three pro-life trends have spiked in 2011. The first is the rise in opposition to abortion among young people. The under-30 cohort was the most pro-choice in the 1970s, second most in the 1980s and 1990s. Now they're "markedly less pro-choice" than any other age group, scholars Clyde Wilcox and Patrick Carr have written. "Clearly, something is distinctive about the abortion attitudes of the Millennial Generation of Americans."

Indeed there is. Millennials haven't grown more religious, politically conservative, or queasy about gay rights. Nor do they go out of their way to vote for pro-life candidates. But they tend to see abortion as a human rights violation. Thus their resistance to abortion is gradually increasing.

You can see a manifestation of this generational shift at the March on Washington each January 22, the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade ruling. For years, the marchers were geezers, initially Catholics, then aging Protestants too. In the past few years, the march has been dominated by teenagers and people in their 20s, often carrying infants.

The second trend is the explosive growth of refuges for pregnant but unmarried women. These safe houses go by a multitude of names: Crisis Pregnancy Center, Pregnancy Resource Center, Pregnancy Health Center, Pregnancy Care Center, or simply Pregnancy Center. ...

They all do the same thing, nurturing single women during their pregnancy and recommending against abortion. The results are one-sided: 80 to 90 percent of the women who have sonograms at pregnancy centers choose to have their baby.

Today there are nearly three times as many of these centers (2,300) as abortion facilities (800 to 850). One reason for the disparity is that women stay for months in pro-life centers, but only briefly in abortion clinics. The Care Net network reflects the growth: 550 centers in 1999, 1,130 today. ...

[L]anguage gymnastics and euphemisms reflect the forlorn condition of the pro-choice flock. They're worn out. Many are in despair. Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, told Newsweek of her anguish as she watched last year's March on Washington. "I just thought, my gosh, they are so young," she said. "There are so many of them, and they are so young." Today, zeal and confidence and perseverance in the abortion battle are all on the antiabortion side. "There are more pro-lifers now, and they're more determined," says Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. ...

Fetal pain is another issue that has invigorated the pro-life movement in recent years. Improved ultrasound revealed to doctors that at around 20 weeks an unborn child reacts visibly to pain. "All the neurological equipment is present at 20 weeks," according to Teresa Collett, a professor at the University of St. Thomas Law School in Minnesota and an expert on fetal pain. Fetal pain was recognized, Collett says, as an "independent basis for a state to protect the life of a child." In Nebraska last year, the first law was passed barring abortions after an unborn baby begins to sense pain. Mary Balch of National Right to Life (NRL) played a key role in drafting the Nebraska statute. ... Fetal pain laws focus on the suffering of the baby ... And who in the pro-choice lobby is eager to gainsay the pain experienced by an unborn child? Dispute it and you'll come across as cruel. ...

[R]eal gains have been achieved by the pro-life movement and many, many lives have been saved—in 2011 alone. And bigger gains are bound to come as more babies are spared the abortionist's knife.
Read the entirety of Barnes' piece.