A Shifting Tide: Pro-Life Laws and the March for Life

march_for_life_2006-04Wednesday, January 22 will mark the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade: a 7 to 2 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that found a woman’s right to an abortion fell within the right to privacy protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Justices’ decision invalidated all state laws restricting access to abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. They also said states were allowed to regulate second trimester abortions in ways related to maternal health, and permitted third trimester abortion restrictions, including the ability of states to outlaw them.

Since this unjust and immoral decision there have been numerous debates over abortion and the definition of human life. Polls continue to show cultural divide over the issue with a greater percentage moving towards the pro-life position. In 2011, 92 measures to protect life were enacted in 24 states. The following year, 43 pro-life bills were enacted in 19 states. And in 2013, 70 new bills in 22 states increased protections for women and the preborn in the womb. Moreover, 20 states so far have restricted abortion coverage through the state health insurance exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). These events prompted an unexpected proclamation by Time Magazine a year ago that “The Pro-Life movement is winning.”

The March for Life in our nation’s capital began on January 22, 1974 and marked the first anniversary of Roe v. Wade. That first March for Life rallied around 20,000 people on the west steps of the U.S. Capitol Building. An estimated 225,000 marched on the 25th anniversary in 1998, and last year on the 40thanniversary it was estimated that over a half million people gathered in the National Mall to show their opposition to the murder of the most innocent of the human family — the preborn child.

Although it is consistently unreported by the national news media, the March for Life in D.C. has annually grown in size, influence and in public recognition. One of the most noticeable characteristics about the rally is the age and gender of the participants. A greater number of young people, particularly women, are actively engaged in the debate. They are passionate, vocal and dedicated to the defense of human life; they believe that abortion is morally wrong and bad for our society. Polls reveal that 53% of those between the ages of 18 and 34 consider abortion morally wrong with estimates of 24% and higher believing abortion is wrong in all circumstances. These numbers are far from what we can call a victory, but clearly, the tide is shifting.

I have seen firsthand — domestically and internationally — the growing number of young people engaged in the debate about human life and its defense from its earliest moments. One key ingredient in this debate, in my opinion, is the growth in science and technology that is assisting in a deeper appreciation of nascent life, particularly ultrasounds. The clarity of the images is undeniable and has debunked the “glob of tissue” or “clump of cells” lies that are still used to confuse women into committing a terrible and irreversible act. It is the game changer in the debate about the humanity of the preborn child. We are — as we have always been — talking about babies. Abortion is not about a mere choice or medical procedure; it is about the destruction of a developing human being.

Since the murderous onslaught of legalized abortion in our nation, we have seen the death of over 50 million babies. International figures are close to 50 million killed per year. The bloodshed is unimaginable and unconscionable.

At times when I feel weary from the battle, I reflect on the pro-life movement’s many victories. Since 1973, we have won many battles on local, state and federal levels. We have continued to positively influence how people think about abortion and the dignity of human life. We have saved countless lives from the murderous hands of abortionists — mothers and babies — through sidewalk counseling and interventions. We have successfully challenged the dehumanizing language of “choice” to the point where NARAL and Planned Parenthood are looking for new words to hide the ongoing assault. Young people are joining our ranks by the thousands. Public opinion is shifting as we expose the illusion of abortion portrayed by its promoters. And in the backlash over the unjust HHS contraceptive/abortifacient mandate, many women are recognizing the threat contraception and abortion pose to them and their legitimate health. Societies around the world are waking up to the heinous consequences of the anti-life agenda.

The promoters of abortion know there is a shift in the tide; however, they will not give up their agenda so easily. They are determined, and for the moment occupy the highest positions of media and the government. What unites the pro-life movement is truth and devotion to the dignity of every human life. In conclusion, I ask you to consider the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, in his famousLetter from the Birmingham Jail, challenged all Americans to actively but peacefully oppose laws that were morally wrong:

There are just laws and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that an unjust law is no law at all … One who breaks an unjust law must do it openly, lovingly … I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.

Following St. Augustine, King knew that secular laws must be in harmony with God’s law, which directs us all to our ultimate destiny in Him. Without this understanding of how to order society, law is an arbitrary demand of the powerful, and has no call on a well-formed conscience.

As we gather around the nation to denounce the unjust and immoral decision ofRoe v. Wade, I pray that we have the courage to persevere in our quest for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for every human life.

Reprinted with permission from Human Life International.

Father Shenan Boquet is the president of Human Life International, the world’s largest international pro-life organization.