The battle for and against the legal right for a woman to procure an abortion had been waging in our country decades before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Someone who has studied the history of the pro-life movement, in particular, can tell you about the challenges, victories, and failures which have occurred. In fact, Students for Life of America provides a good summary up to 2011 here.
Today, the fight against abortion is both reaching new bounds and facing new challenges, simultaneously. The recent news about Supreme Court Justice Kennedy’s retirement is cause for increased talk about the abortion debate in the media. Talk and rumors about the repeal of Roe v. Wade have begun to circulate, with strong opinions present on both sides.
The Progress we Have Made
Since the legalization of abortion in 1973, the pro-life battle against abortion has flipped from defense to offense. Rather than defending life-protecting laws, it has become our work to see them passed. And this is precisely what the pro-life movement has been doing for the past few decades. Though as a whole, abortion is still legal, a great many things have been done to limit when, how, or why abortions can be done. Yet, the battle still continues. Any loss of life is a great tragedy. However, we can and should rejoice for the many lives, both of babies and mothers, which have been saved as a result of pro-life work.
That is not all, by any means. The pro-life movement has also seen the construction of pregnancy care centers (sometimes called crisis pregnancy centers) as well as mothers’ homes. These outlets provide necessary care and items to mothers who might otherwise feel that they could not raise their child. These wonderful places prove that pro-life work cares deeply for mothers and families. Most often, volunteers and the donations of pro-life individuals allow these centers to run with little or no cost to the mothers.
“You Aren’t Really Pro-Life”
As someone who is actively involved in the pro-life movement, it can oftentimes be disheartening to pay attention to the public’s opinion on these things. I have recently heard this idiom being used more and more: “If you don’t support/oppose (fill in the blank), you aren’t really pro-life.” This blank is filled in with everything from immigration to birth control. Sadly, even Catholic and conservative voices sometimes promote this attitude. However, I mean to show that pro-life work is necessary and is not reliant on the approval of the media or of individuals in the public.
Unfortunately, it is too often that pro-lifers are vilified and villainized as uncaring or bigoted people. A particular strategy used to demean the pro-life movement is to insist that standing against abortion cannot be justified by itself. Issues such as contraception, immigration, and gun control are all piled on. The language often insists that unless a person takes action or holds a specific stance on all of these other issues, they are unjust for being against abortion.
This attitude insists that it promotes a “consistent pro-life ethic.” However, more often it is a shrouded attack against ethics altogether. For example, telling pro-lifers that they are hypocrites to protest abortion but not immigration policies makes no real sense. Both are issues which people may care about and have opinions on. But unless someone takes action on a particular issue, nothing will ever be done, period. While certainly things can be done about gun control or immigration, things can also be done about abortion. The difference is that abortion is a more prevalent issue, literally happening within our neighborhoods, legally.
An Inconsistent Ethic
If we go back about a century and a half ago, slavery was legal. Imagine wishing to uphold the dignity of the human person and opposing slavery. Now imagine some of those in support of slavery insisting that you cannot protest against slavery unless you know what it’s like to be a slave owner, or unless you also protest for Native American rights, or some other issue. Ultimately, it is a feeble attempt to take the moral high ground against someone doing the right thing.
Now, I should not discount people who do take legitimate action to counter gun violence or support immigrating families. But as far as I am aware, the vast majority of people villainizing pro-lifers are not making prayer vigils outside of immigration offices or volunteering their time to offer face-to-face counseling to persons in dire need. On the contrary, many of those crying out for the “consistent pro-life ethic” mean nothing more than to shame the pro-life movement into moral relativity and stagnation. It very often becomes nothing more than an ad hominem attack, with the underlying implication that abortion cannot be opposed without their say-so.
Fighting the Good Fight
The truth is that the pro-life movement is made up of many people who do care very deeply and go to great lengths to promote a culture of life. The good news is that good works do not rely on the approval of others. We know that life has an inherent dignity. When that right to life is threatened, we recognize our duty to stand up for it.
Fellow pro-lifers, I promise you that we are on the side of good here. Whether we can give hours of our time in volunteer work or are limited to praying for the unborn, what we do matters. There are a great many issues in the world which we can be concerned with, many concerning the dignity of human life. Yet, we should never be afraid to stand our ground and proudly proclaim that We are the Pro-Life Generation.
Nikolai Brelinsky is studying as a seminarian for the Diocese of Raleigh. He currently studies at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, PA. However, his home is in Zebulon, NC. Nikolai is involved with pro-life work and enjoys sports in his spare time.