Hope for the Pro-life Movement

Is the annual March for Life, held on the 22nd of January, worth the trouble? Is there really any reasonable hope of ever overturning Roe v. Wade, of ever stopping the court-sanctioned baby killing?

Since the Supreme Court legislated abortion on demand 41 years ago, after casting about for constitutional justification and settling on an unenunciated privacy right lurking in the penumbras of the Constitution, abortion has been present in every state in the union, breaching the unborn’s own uterine privacy in which to grow and develop on a trajectory towards birth. Nearly 50 million future citizens have been lawfully destroyed by this means in a country that has long signified to the world sanctuary from persecution and tyranny. What has become of the destiny of our country, a nation that Ronald Reagan loved to refer to as a “city on a hill”, drawing on a biblical image of Jerusalem that New England settlers also applied to their fledgling American colony?

Despite the horrors of 50 million sets of small body parts disposed of as trash, however, the answer to my opening question is yes, it is still worthwhile holding the yearly March for Life.

Below are some suggestions—in no particular order of likelihood or importance—of possible ways (some perhaps more likely than others!) in which the overturning of Roe and Doe could happen over time. Of course, as each day a fresh set of unborn lives are in jeopardy, the sooner legalized abortion is overturned in our country, the better!

  1. In addition to giant failures in other areas, the very excesses of our President in his thirst for ever-wider abortion rights could spell political disaster for his party. Talk about a zombie apocalypse! In any case, there is a real possibility that both the House and Senate could shift to Republican control. Now, Republican control in the past has not brought a reversal of Roe. However, despite the rumblings of discontent from moderate Republicans, the Republican Party may continue to be strongly influenced by the Tea Party, which (though primarily formed to counter Big Government and fiscal irresponsibility) has a considerable membership overlap with serious Christian conservatives, both Evangelicals and Catholics, for whom social issues such as abortion are also injustices crying out to be righted. Again, considering outcomes that are possible if not probable, we can even hope to elect a Catholic president who will have the opportunity to choose new Supreme Court justices willing to revisit Roe v. Wade, Doe v. Bolton, and their unhappy progeny. Although we likely could not expect recognition of a constitutional right to life from conception, overturning Roe would at least return abortion to the states. Many of these states would then adjudicate or legislate their own bans on abortion and most of these might at least place greater restrictions on the right than the Supreme Court has thus far allowed (Please note that I am well aware of all the “ifs” in this scenario!)
  2. Shifting to the states: long live and grow the red states, which are still populated by serious Christians who vote their convictions in state elections for legislators and pro-life governors eager to limit and (if given the slightest opening) shut down abortion completely within their state boundaries. Of course, red state citizens seeking abortions retain the option of traveling to the nearest blue state; nonetheless, there is much hope in this area for at least regional decreases in abortions.
  3. Polls show a general decline for support for legal abortion, and markedly so with younger people, presaging, we can hope, both better legislative prospects down the road and more life-affirming individual choices even while abortion remains legal. Although laws tend to both influence what we think of as “right” behavior and deter us from illegal behavior through fear of the consequences, in the end we do need the conversion of minds and hearts on this subject in order to truly protect the unborn. Therefore, the shift in the poll numbers, particularly for the young, is a hopeful sign that this conversion to pro-life convictions is possible even four decades after abortion has been legalized—and that it is, in fact, happening.
  4. Of course, the annual March for Life itself is overwhelmingly populated by teens and young adults, who not only descend on Washington in droves, but also represent hundreds of thousands more back home. The March constitutes for them an eye-opening opportunity to see the potential power for change in their numbers and their youthful energy. In addition, participants are exposed to great and inspiring pro-life speakers in rallies and prayer vigils on the day before and the day of the March, as well as informational booths and displays set up by pro-life organizations from around the country. These show the rich gamut of pro-life activity, from political and educational activities to assisting women in crisis pregnancies or suffering post-abortion trauma to campus pro-life organizations, including support groups for pro-life law and medical students, etc.
  5. Let’s not forget that in the decades ahead, as couples continue to avoid births through contraceptive means (which in most cases are actually abortifacient means) and to abort children conceived by “accident,” those who welcome some or many children are likely to gain a greater share of the population and to vote their convictions, hopefully attracting others to our cause to overturn abortion through the ballot box.
  6. Then there is another possibility course of action, which, while ranking low in probability with the bookmakers, should not be ruled out: secession. I wrote about this elsewhere some years ago and stirred up no small amount of controversy. The red state/blue state dichotomy could—perhaps sooner than we might think—result in states opting to pull out of the union. My guess is that if that were to happen, the armed forces of the United States (who tend to be more conservative and religious than the general population) would be reluctant to exercise military force to stop seceding states. In addition, perhaps paradoxically, the generalized modern sense that we should not dictate personal lifestyle choices for others (although it coexists in many liberal minds with intolerance of traditional morality) may make blue states reluctant to impose continued membership in the United States on red states that choose to secede. On the other hand, given the United States’ status as a major superpower for the past century, for strategic reasons there may be more official resistance to secession than we might think. We pray the secession option does not happen, but ultimately the protection of innocent life trumps any tyrannical regime that cannot protect even the smallest of its future citizens.
  7. Let us also not forget what Mother Teresa said: “The ultimate fruit of abortion is Nuclear War!” Of course in God’s Providence, He may simply close the operation down and proceed to the General Judgment, where all persons will receive their deserved reward or punishment. Precisely because we know not the day or the hour, we can never rule out this possibility, although on the other hand we cannot claim an ability to definitively read the signs of the times. Over the centuries, history has shown us crowds of end-times enthusiasts prematurely pronouncing that the end is nigh. God’s patience clearly exceeds our own, since He has tolerated human wrongdoing even on an epic scale. His merciful response to millennia of misbehavior was to become Man as the baby Jesus, Our Savior, and Herod then did his unsuccessful best to kill his incarnate God. The Holy Innocents paid the price and were rewarded with Paradise. However, despite this massacre of the innocents, God did not intervene to end human history but went on to offer his Son for our redemption on Calvary, the “successful” deicide that Herod’s attempt presaged, and God has also borne with humanity through countless other periods of human misery and depravity. So although we list the End of the World as a possible outcome of our current situation, since it will someday come to pass, we know that we are highly unlikely to be correct in any specific attempt to pinpoint the time.

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In any case, however, a country that kills its own eventually will come tumbling down, thus facing its own individual “end time.” Our own responsibility to restore justice is also the best way of defending our country from such an inglorious end. That is ultimately why we march on January 22: to witness to our inflexible determination to protect human life at its weakest and most innocent, motivated by love for God, love for the human life he has created and redeemed, and, yes, love for our country. In doing so, although we have received no private revelation and caught no glimpses of the future in a crystal ball, we know that someday, whether by one of the means enumerated here or by another as yet unknown, we will overcome! After all, God, who is ultimately the Lord of History, wills it!

Fr. C. J. McCloskey III, S.T.D. is a Church historian and Research Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute in Washington, DC. He is perhaps best known for guiding into the Church such luminaries as Dr. Bernard Nathanson, Lawrence Kudlow, Robert Novak, Judge Robert Bork, and Senator Sam Brownback. His articles, reviews, and doctoral thesis have been published in major Catholic and secular periodicals. He is co-author (with Russell Shaw) of Good News, Bad News: Evangelization, Conversion, and the Crisis of Faith (Ignatius Press) and the co-editor of "The Essential Belloc" (St. Benedict's Press).
Articles by Fr. McCloskey:

  • Mitchell Kalpakgian

    Thank you for reminding us that the Lord of history is the God of surprises, miracles, and possibilities we have not imagined. So many thoughtful reflections in the article! I (in my 70’s) feel more and more like Simeon and do not want to leave this world until I see a particular event– the atrocity of abortion and Roe v. Wade finally ended.

    • Angel

      You will see a miracle beyond your wildest dreams!

  • Alecto

    I’m surprised this did not address the other proliferating group among the young: libertarians. Seniors and Boomers, being completely self-involved and myopic, either cannot see, or simply refuse to see the growing frustration among the 18-34 crowd. This demographic distrusts and reviles the effects of all things experimental 60s, despite what the ruling geezer elites believe. That is why they reject abortion more than their parents, reject divorce more than their parents, and reject encroaching federal government intrusions into personal and financial matters. They’re angry they’ve been left holding the bag for their fiscally and socially abusive parents!

    Anecdotally, my own peers are disgusted with Boomers, and even “the greatest generation” which implemented, perhaps mindlessly, the current union-big business-big gubmint apparatus. It has resulted in the socialist worker’s paradise touted by the current president, which precludes US from realizing the American Dream or any dreams of our own. The greed and sense of entitlement lies with seniors and Boomers, not us, and thank God for that.

    Those odds on #6 should be recalculated. They’re not as remote as Fr. McCloskey may have you believe.

    • Rob B.

      “The greed and sense of entitlement lies with seniors and Boomers, not us, and thank God for that.”

      Oh, I wish it were so clear-cut as that. Sadly, entitlement is like a genetic condition now, passed from generation to generation. It will take more than the eventual death of the Boomers to set things right again.

  • Paul

    What is most disturbing from this article is the showering of affection on the so-called “Red” states in this country, when being anti-abortion is usually their ONLY Christian virtue.
    So we’ll trade abortion for the death penalty and starving children?!?!?!
    That’s really all it is, if we’re playing politics with the church and faith, it just becomes a trade on morality. Six of one with the Dems, half dozen of the other with the Repubs.
    This priest is doing all people of faith a great disservice.

    • April

      Are you crazy? He never said that the death penalty and starving children were okay. With the death penalty you are killing the criminals (which I don’t believe in just give them life in prison instead) BUT with abortion we are killing innocent children. INNOCENT children are not equal to murderers. DUH!

      • Paul

        Yes, actually they are equal. Murder is murder is murder.
        Neither is more right or less wrong.
        His support for the Republican party is implicit in his biased article.

        • markkrite

          Once again, all that occurs to me when reading such illogical garbage is Paul might’ve gone off the deep end, and desperately needs intervention or maybe just his keeper. Pathetic.

        • April

          You said: “murder is murder.”

          If this is what you claimed, then you are a NUT in the head!

          Here is a definition of murder: THE UNLAWFUL KILLING of one human by another, especially with premeditated malice.-freedictionary.com

          MURDERING an innocent child is not the same as KILLING an armed robber IN SELF-DEFENSE.

          Are you on drugs???

          I pray that thou shall not enter law school!

          And folks, here we have it, the logic of a liberal!

          • emonty0001

            You complain about “logic” and give a definition of murder with UNLAWFUL accentuated. Using your terms, neither abortion nor capital punishment are “murder” in the places they are “lawful”. Killing an armed intruder may or may not be lawful…. I personally have trouble with the idea of abortion, capital punishment, or “make my day” laws being legal anywhere.

          • martinogk

            Dear April. I do not agree with the dictionary definition of murder. If murder is only “unlawful killing”, then abortion is not murder, since abortion is legal in the United States. Let’s not get caught up in word definitions though. If Paul had written that “killing is killing is killing”, there would not have been any confusion. We all agree that the death penalty is a form of killing, that killing is wrong, and as you say, that the the death penalty should be replaced with life in prison.

          • Magystelling

            When the death penalty is imposed the death certificate reads:
            Cause of death…Murder by the State even in the red states!!!

        • martinogk

          So very true. The bible says that “thou shall not kill”, and it is not for us mortals to decide when it is time for someone to die, whoever that person is. The reason that the Catholic Church has credibility on the issue of abortion, unlike republicans and evangelicals, is that the Catholic Church has a very consistent message on the sanctity of life, also fighting against the death penalty and euthanasia.

    • markkrite

      “Trading abortion for the death penalty and starving children,” are you kidding us or are you another troll plying the internet waters? There is such wild illogic here that it defies common sense. Check out your synapses, Paul, something’s misfiring.

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  • TeaPot562

    Sadly, it was the “Boomer” Generation, with their “Filthy Speech & free Speech” movements in the early 1960s who presaged the “liberal” finding that any pregnant woman (including teens pushed into it by either parents or adult “Boyfriends!”) had unlimited rights to terminate a pregnancy, and no on else, including the father of the anticipated infant, had any rights.
    Strangely, the “red states” seem to have lower unemployment, and seem to be more welcoming to immigrants, a/c having jobs to be filled.
    If God wants to end our civilization, all He has to do is stop sending saints to try to turn us from our evil ways.
    Prayer may be advisable.

    • Rob B.

      Lucky for us, He always sends us the saints we need (though not always the saints we want 🙂 )…

    • Alecto

      In a country which actively denies and denigrates its own young, why should “welcoming the immigrant” be considered a virtue? Try being a recent college graduate, or worse, a minority with a high school diploma trying to find a job and being PUSHED OUT by business-illegal alien PIMPS. Don’t come crying for anyone under 30 to fight your GD wars MR. when you are FORCED to speak SPANISH!!!!!!!! No mercy!

  • James Patton

    Politics and the culture war, how very refreshing…

  • markkrite

    This is a wonderful post, so full of hope which is so needed now during the oppressive Age of Obama.And who would’ve thought we’d one day have such a MEAN-SPIRITED person as President, even to the point of foreclosing the existence of a human unborn baby that SURVIVED an abortion attempt!? Absolutely NO COMPASSION for the most vulnerable and innocent among us. And this cretin, Obama, has, in my reading, especially with his stand re legalized killing, i.e., abortion on demand, fulfilled every requirement for impeaching, What’s the hold-up in doing so? From the Benghazi imbroglio to persecution of religious and secular conservatives by the thuggish I.R.S.,OBAMA’S LEFT NO STONE UNTURNED IN HIS RELENTLESS QUEST TO “TRANSFORM” THIS NATION INTO LEVIATHAN. The man needs to go, and right now. Common decency and common sense demands it.

  • Rob B.

    The good father lost me when he mentioned the Tea Party as a vehicle for ending abortion. I think this off-shoot of the GOP (like the GOP itself) has different priorities.

    In the end, I don’t think we can hope for a political solution to this problem. Our culture must change and the politics will follow. I think that’s what the Holy Father meant when we asked Catholics to stop focusing so much on issues like banning abortion. He wants us to fight on another battlefield.

    • martinogk

      Father McCloskey lost me as well. If those are the hopes to end abortions, there is not much hope. His wisest statement is that “we do need the conversion of minds and hearts on this subject”. That is not being achieved with a focus on the GOP, tea party, red states and state secession. Here are better ideas:

      – Make sure that mother or father do not feel ashamed or are looked down upon for having a child born out of wedlock. Instead, be happy for the wonderful miracle that happens every time a new person is born. Pope Francis personal call in September to Anna Romano, offering both his support and to baptize her out-of-wedlock child after she refused to do an abortion, is one of the most important and effective statements on abortion to ever come from a pope.

      – Provide both moral and practical support the mother and/or father in their efforts to take care of their newborn child, at the family, parish,neighborhood and societal level. Single parents need more support than married couples, so let’s give it to them.

      – Do not fight against abortion as a single issue, but as part of a broader issue of the sanctity of life, that includes opposition to euthanasia, abolishment of the death penalty, and the opposition to war and drone attacks. Such a broader approach would greatly increase the credibility of the pro-life movement among the general public.

      – Fight against poverty. Abortion is more common among the poor, and with less poverty, there will be less abortions. The pro-life movement will also gain credibility by arguing that we also have a common societal responsibility to care for children after they are born.

      – Make contraception more easily available. Now, I know that is against Church teaching, so I respect those that do not wish to pursue this last item, however effective it would be to reduce the number of abortions..

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  • Tom Barbarie

    I subscribe to much of what Father McCloskey writes here, and I enthusiastically proclaim to all who come into earshot that secession is an idea whose time will come again. I do not, however, share his confidence that the American military would exhibit reluctance to do battle with states which dare to take that step. I base my conclusion on the craven collapse of the military leadership on such matters as homosexuals serving openly and allowing women into combat and other leadership roles for which they are clearly unsuited. These are not men in whom much trust can be invested.These are men whose careers trump everything else. For secession to meet with some future success, there must be a gradual insertion of the idea into the public consciousness, and the first steps must be small ones. It is encouraging to note that there are movements in several states for regional secession. Should those movements find traction, the very concept of statewide secession could become more thinkable, and the reconfiguration of governmental entities in North America will come about. I say “will” rather than “could” because history clearly teaches us that nothing lasts forever — not Thousand Year Reichs nor Cities Upon Hills.

  • emonty0001

    Sorry Father, despite the title I find little truth or charity in your article or supporters in the comment section a political solution will not solve the issue of abortion.

  • Michael Bindner

    Sadly, this is the kind of clap-trap we expect from Fr. McCoskey. More sadly, in the recent past such nonsense would get him a promotion to bishop. Let us hope this is no longer the case. He does draw an interesting distinction on the standard Pro-Life Strategy. It is to make the same mistake we made with slavery by overturning Roe and having abortion states and anti-abortion states (if they were pro-life, they would have local subsidies to families that would discourage abortion). That would again create a cessessionist movement. This is EXACTLY why Roe should not go anywhere and why the movement is a scam. MSW is correct in that GOP governors don’t run on being anti-abortion – although there is usually a nod and a wink among the faithful in their base that they are. The tragedy IS that they are such fiscal conservatives in such a way as to never support the economic assistance to families mentioned above that WOULD reduce abortion. That is why we call them anti-abortion and not pro-life.

  • Perplexed

    It’s Catholics like you who made me seriously hesitate before joining the Church. Thank God we have Pope Francis to show us what it really stands for. This nonsense withers in the light of his ministry.

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