Abortion: There Is No Silver Bullet
Pro-life passion is essential – but so is wisdom about the best strategy to achieve the ultimate pro-life objective. While it would be ideal if Oklahoma could simply declare itself abortion-free, and thereby abolish abortion, we cannot. That is not the way our system of government works. The “consent of the governed” is a necessary prerequisite in our system. Winning hearts and minds, building a consensus, restoring a Culture of Life is a painstaking process.
There is a downside to proposing things that are unrealistic or not currently achievable. Absence of a careful, well-informed, well-thought-out strategy based on facts, experience, and reality lead to disillusionment and failure. And it is paramount that the efforts of those who have gone before – the legislators on the front lines, in the trenches, engaged in hand-to-hand combat – not be disparaged with slogans such as “pro-life legislation has kept abortion legal,” or “pro-life candidates will keep abortion legal.” Such statements are tragically misguided and do grave injustice to those legislators who have given their blood, sweat, and tears to the effort to protect the unborn child.
Should German businessman Oskar Schindler of Schindler’s List have abandoned his efforts to save as many Polish Jews as he could since he could not save them all? Should a fireman called to a burning building to rescue survivors refuse to enter if he cannot save them all?
William Wilberforce toiled for decades to end slavery in the United Kingdom before seeing his step-by-step efforts finally succeed. Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, did not end slavery throughout America in a single step. He was a political realist who understood the concept of “a bridge too far,” and took incremental steps which ultimately led to the end of slavery.
Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement throughout the 20th century followed a careful strategy of progressing step by step, building upon one court victory with yet another challenge, continually pushing the envelope a little further, until success was finally achieved.
The key factor is that the citizenry must be willing to accept the changes that are being promoted. The public must be in support or the effort will fail. And where the law is involved, the courts must agree.
Legal scholars in the pro-life movement have strategized since January 22, 1973 – the shameful day the U.S. Supreme Court condemned to death the unborn children of America – about how best to reverse what the Court had done. For pro-abortion politicians and judges, the Supreme Court decisions of that day were supposed to have resolved the abortion issue once and for all. What they didn’t take into account was the fervor, the dedication, and the commitment of pro-life Americans.
Longtime General Counsel of National Right to Life, James Bopp, Jr., has written that the current composition of the U.S. Supreme Court is such that a declared federal constitutional right to abortion will not be reversed at the present time. Mr. Bopp writes: “This means that now is not the time to pass state abortion bans because (1) such provisions will be quickly struck down by a federal district court, (2) that decision will be affirmed by an appellate court, (3) the Supreme Court will not grant review of the decision… there will be yet another federal-court decision declaring that state law on abortion is superseded by the federal constitution. No amount of stirring rhetoric arguing that the states have a duty to do something to trigger reconsideration of Roe changes the hard fact that such an effort is presently doomed to expensive failure.”
Mr. Bopp continues: “But if the U.S. Supreme Court, as presently constituted, were to accept a case challenging the declared constitutional right to abortion, there is the potential danger that the Court might actually make things worse than they presently are. The majority might abandon its current ‘substantive due process’ analysis… in favor of what Justice Ginsberg has long advocated-an ‘equal protection’ analysis under the Fourteenth Amendment…. If this view gained even a plurality in a prevailing case, this new legal justification for the right to abortion… would jeopardize all current laws on abortion, such as laws requiring parental involvement for minors, waiting periods, specific informed consent information, and so on…. Were the Court to embrace her view that the equal-protection clause protects the right to choose abortion on the basis of gender discrimination...states would likely have to fund abortions that they are not currently required to fund in programs for indigent persons.”
Government in a democracy is neither quick nor efficient, but there is great reason for pro-life optimism. The momentum is on our side. Polls show that young people today are more pro-life than ever. Technology such as ultrasound is a powerful tool which provides a window on the womb. The numbers of babies being killed today are the fewest in nearly 40 years.
All pro-lifers seek the day when the right to life of the innocent will be protected in law. We must not be discouraged that it is not yet politically possible to realize this goal completely, and we must continue electing pro-life legislators at the state and federal level and pro-life presidents who will nominate pro-life justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. We must continue making incremental gains, educating the public, undermining the legal foundation of abortion, and winning hearts and minds to the pro-life cause. Doing so will save lives now, and lead to ultimate victory for the unborn child.
Publisher's note: I have known Tony for nearly 30 years. We have worked together on many endeavors while at times disagreeing over strategy to attain our common goal. But strategy distinctions have never confused me into thinking Tony was anything less than a solid and committed defender of human life. Jeff Durbin is another passionate defender of human life who also departs from Tony's chosen strategy to end abortion. I admire both Jeff and Tony.
Tony Lauinger is State Chairman of Oklahomans For Life and Vice President of National Right to Life. He co-founded Tulsans For Life in 1973.
Opinion of the Editor
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David Van Risseghem is the Director of Sooner Politics.org. The resource is committed to informing & mobilizing conservative Oklahomans for civic reform. This endeavor seeks to utilize the efforts of all cooperative facets of the Conservative movement...