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Eyewitnesses

Roe v. Wade | Ultrasound technology is among the reasons that more Americans, especially young Americans, are becoming pro-life

Issue: "Pro-baby," Jan. 30, 2010

NEW YORK-On weekdays Chris Kan, 28, wears nice slacks and a pressed button-up shirt to work in the sky-scraping world of New York finance. On the weekends, he puts on sneakers, gym pants, and a sweatshirt, goes to the Midtown Pregnancy Support Center-located in an office building close to Grand Central Station-and sits down with people in crisis.

The office building's lobby, torn up for renovation, is hung with plastic tarps and cluttered with ladders, but the center itself, seven floors above, is peaceful. Its whole floor is painted like a baby's nursery in light blue and yellow, with softly blurred posters by Impressionist painters framed and hung on the walls. In an office that doubles as a counseling room, Kan sits down at an oval conference table with the husbands and boyfriends of women contemplating abortion. Next to that office is a more comfortable room with overstuffed pale blue chairs. That's where female counselors meet with the women themselves, a box of Kleenex within reach.

Kan has been volunteering at the center for almost as long as he's called himself pro-life: one year. He is one of an increasing number of Americans who have recently changed their views on the abortion issue from "pro-choice" to "pro-life." In 2009, Pew Research Center found that more Americans (41 percent) now favor making it more difficult to obtain an abortion, up from 35 percent in 2007. From 2005 to 2009 the percentage of Americans who want to reduce the number of abortions rose from 59 percent to 65 percent.

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In a political climate that, at least rhetorically, favors working together to reduce abortions, that stat doesn't mean these people call themselves pro-life. But a Gallup poll last May found that for the first time in the 14 years Gallup has been asking the question, a majority of Americans-51 percent-identify themselves as pro-life. A year before, only 44 percent of Americans labeled themselves pro-life.

In a New York magazine article, pro-abortion writer Jennifer Senior asks, "Just how pro-choice is America, really?" The answer: Not as pro-choice as it used to be. Senior bemoans the fact that Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 are "the most pro-life to come along since the generation born during the Great Depression." Crisis pregnancy centers outnumber abortion providers, she notes-and two-thirds of abortionists are over the age of 50.

She and pro-lifers agree that advances in technology-especially ultrasound technology-are aiding the pro-life side, and so are the painful stories of women who have undergone abortions themselves. The generation that never knew a time before Roe is no longer wholly convinced that abortion is a solution.

Kan once saw "pro-choice" as the "civilized" position, the "intellectual" position: "In New York, where tolerance and acceptance are so prized, those are the default views. People generally think that the more tolerant you are the more intellectual you are, the more civilized you are." He knew that the Psalms spoke of God knowing him from his mother's womb, but he couldn't translate that to the realization that God also knows a child from the womb of a single mother contemplating abortion.

Kan's church didn't discuss the issue, but his friends did. They challenged him to think about the issue more deeply, so he began to research it for himself, first to find out the facts and then to find out what his faith had to say. He started with blogs-pro-life author Randy Alcorn's-and with other teachers like Mark Driscoll and John Piper. After a while he understood the facts of when human life begins and intellectually embraced the pro-life view, but it was still just a set of statistics and not something to feel passionate about.

Then Randy Alcorn linked to a graphic video of an abortion, and Kan watched it. He knows that some consider graphic abortion videos and pictures to be "scare tactics," but Kan says he processes truth visually. He needed to see an abortion happen-"to see a limb being pulled out"-to care deeply about the human life lost. He watched the video, made by actor Eduardo Verastegui, which first shows an embryo developing, with its translucent fingers and toes and the growing dark blot of its organs. Then it shows an abortionist's gloved hands holding the dismembered body parts of a fetus: The baby's mangled limbs lay on a surgical counter, his severed head in those gloved hands.

That was the end of ambivalence. Kan asked, "Why is this allowed to happen?" Then he asked himself, "What am I going to do about it?" A month later, the Midtown Pregnancy Support Center was training him as a counselor.

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