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Pro-life pivot

"Pro-life pivot" Continued...

Issue: "Millions cut down," Jan. 17, 2009

The public has responded: 51 percent of Americans now tell pollsters that abortion is morally wrong, with 40 percent saying it's morally OK; that's an improvement from 20 years ago. The strategy of focusing attention not on abortion in general but on very late abortions, through legislation concerning infants born alive or partial-birth abortion, also seems to have been effective regarding public opinion: The Gallup 2007 Values and Beliefs survey noted a shift during the 1990s "in a significant and sustained way to the conservative side . . . it appears that the debate over partial-birth abortion is the cause for this adjustment in public attitudes."

The central issue, though, is not public perception of the pro-life movement or abortion in general: It's the life or death of unborn children. The number of abortions per year has declined from its 1.6 million peak two decades ago to 1.2 million or fewer now: still a horrendous number, less than predicted when Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide.

On the other hand, the law hasn't changed-and the death toll still tops 1 million. Hopes were high in 1992 when the Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey seemed poised to overturn Roe. The justices agreed to uphold parental-consent, informed--consent, and waiting-period laws, and four of them-William Rehnquist, Byron White, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas-opposed Roe. But Justices Souter and Anthony Kennedy delighted abortionists by siding with liberals to uphold Roe: They have lived ever after with the happiness brought by Washington Post acclaim.

Fieldstead Forums, renamed Life Forums, continued after Casey, but the Supreme Court decision ended the major push to remove from the Constitution the abortion liberty forced into it in 1973. The decision also propelled to greater importance the compassion wing of the pro-life movement. The largest umbrella group for pregnancy counseling centers, Care Net, had fewer than 300 centers 20 years ago and has more than 1,100 now. Even Time reported last year that the "quiet campaign for women's hearts and minds, conducted in thousands of crisis pregnancy centers around the country, on billboards, phone banks and websites, is having an effect."

Guy Condon typified the shift toward compassion when he moved from the presidency of Americans United for Life, which emphasizes legislation, to the presidency of Care Net. On Nov. 11, 2000, he gave a speech in Washington, D.C., to benefit the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center and was driving to his home in Virginia when a Dodge van broadsided his 1990 Honda. Condon died shortly thereafter in a Fairfax hospital. His wife Linnie and four daughters, ages 12 through 19, survived him.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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