For the first time since the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, more American youth say they are pro-life than pro-choice. According to a 2009 Gallup poll, 51 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds in America said they were pro-life, compared to 45 percent who called themselves pro-choice. Similar changes may be underway in other countries, including Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia.
In Ireland, Eoghan De Faoite, who chairs Youth Defence, speaks of protecting "the dignity of every person, no matter how 'inconvenient,' because they are all wanted by God." Youth Defence began in 1992 with discussion of the X case, where a 14-year-old rape victim wanted to leave Ireland for an abortion, and proponents of abortion claimed the youth of Ireland wanted abortion legalized. Some college students in Dublin disagreed, set up information booths on the streets, and rallied their peers to protest abortion. Youth Defence's Rally for Life drew more than 10,000 people to the streets of Dublin: Many went on to protest outside courthouses and the homes of ministers. The Irish government backed down, and 20 years later abortion is still illegal in Ireland except when the life of the mother is endangered.
De Faoite says Youth Defence members still travel to the major cities in Ireland and hold street sessions to inform the public about abortion. Californian Margaret House, 22, observed a 10-day Youth Defence roadshow recently and found the Irish response to pro-life teaching different from that of Americans: "In Ireland [the response] was more positive, in the United States there was more shaming and yelling." Youth Defence is now ramping up efforts to oppose attempts by the European Union and Planned Parenthood Global to get Ireland to legalize abortion.
On the other side of the world, Pro-Life New Zealand, a group co-founded by Andy Moore in 2008 and aimed at college students, is trying to start a national debate about abortion, now a "taboo topic" that may only appear on the news about once a year. Abortion is legal in New Zealand when the unborn child is less than 20 weeks old and a pregnant woman faces a danger to her physical or mental health, when the unborn child has a risk of being handicapped, or when incest has occurred.
The definition is broad enough to allow 21 abortions per 1,000 women, a level similar to that of the United States: A typical New Zealand woman seeking an abortion can find a doctor to say that continuing the pregnancy would mentally harm her. Moore says his countrymen are "easygoing and laid back, actually quite apathetic ... [and] out of touch with this important issue." Pro-Life New Zealand started as a student group at the University of Canterbury: Through setting up informational booths at large events such as the Agriculture and Pastoral Show, it has now spread to half a dozen universities and become a national organization. "Abortion is being talked about a lot more," Moore adds.
Some pro-abortion groups in New Zealand bring pregnant women seeking abortions to nearby Australia, where the abortion rate is slightly higher: 22 per 1,000 women. In Australia, abortion laws differ from state to state, the most liberal being Victoria state, where abortion is decriminalized up to 24 weeks. The government in Victoria has also taken away conscience protection for doctors, forcing all doctors to perform abortions regardless of their beliefs.
Teresa Martin, president of Cherish Life Queensland, says young Australians are "very open to the pro-life message-a message many have not heard due to the 'screening out' the media does in relation to the pro-life voice"-and many attended a Rally for Life march last February in Queensland. Twenty-year-old Lauren Langrell of Sydney is involved with 40 Days for Life, an effort started in America: She prays in front of abortion businesses, talks with women going in, and estimates that 40 Days for Life in Australia has saved 300-400 lives.
The death of Steve Jobs last October reminded me of a death 24 years earlier, in October 1987. I caused that death. I regret it. The law did not punish me because what I did was legal. Thoughts of shame have nipped at me ever since. It becomes overwhelming on anniversary dates.
As readers now know, Steve Jobs' adoptive parents brought him into their home as an infant. His biological parents were an Anglo-American woman and an Arab father from Syria. News accounts gave details about his biological father, and some in the Arab world took credit for Jobs' brilliance. I read these details over and over, attempting to resurrect something from my past.
I am a woman of Anglo-American descent. Years ago, I was in an abusive marriage to an Arab man. When the relationship became unbearable and he learned I would leave him, he forced himself on me without contraception. After it was over, I tried everything I could to avoid getting pregnant-washing, standing upright, jumping up and down, praying.
I did get pregnant. I was so traumatized that I went numb. I literally had no sensation of touch for a time. Someone did something to me so callous and calculating that I could not comprehend it. I called my parents who came and got me. They offered advice and comfort. My mother said she would take care of the baby and that she would not be able to do what I was contemplating, but that it was my decision. My dad wondered aloud why I would want a tether for the rest of my life to a man who would do that to me.
I wanted this immediate pain to be over. A quick operation seemed to be the answer.
I eventually remarried, had two children, and continue to live a productive life. I have confessed to God, repented for my actions, and felt forgiveness. But actions still leave consequences. I've never stopped wondering who that child was and what the now-23-year-old would be doing as an adult. These thoughts slam my conscience as strongly as a fist to the face. I wish I'd known that a temporary situation did not require a permanent solution.
What if that child had been like Steve Jobs, who was extraordinarily gifted and changed the world? Or what if that child had been disabled or deemed "less than" by society-would I have become a more compassionate, loving person? A person who could never imagine taking the life of someone innocent?
Maybe the child would have been just average in every way. I don't know. It doesn't matter. Even in my case of calculated rape, the trauma passed just as the pregnancy would have passed. Life would have gone on. I traded in one kind of trauma for a longer-lasting one. What I know now with hindsight is that children are completely innocent. They do not choose their parents. They do not deserve to die.
Steve Jobs' biological mother possessed wisdom for the long term. She did the right thing. Better a baby on my knee (or an adoptive mom's knee) for a few years than on my conscience forever.
-Mary Doe is a pseudonym (editors agreed to use it to protect the writer's privacy)