Prior to the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln and many members of the Republican Party supported a seemingly practical slavery reduction measure, coined “compensated emancipation,” where the United States would buy slaves from willing slave owners with the intention of freeing these slaves. The measure, in the beginning, was seen as a novel and creative remedy for slavery. For some time, America had been quarreling over the injustice of black slaves and the shameful disregard for basic civil rights. That culture war seemed to have no end in sight, and in response to this frustrating reality, President Lincoln endorsed a plan he thought would bring abolitionists and slavery advocates together, mutually respecting each perspective, and hence reducing the number of slaves with an eye toward ending slavery.
Lincoln’s battle is too familiar to contemporary Pro-life advocates who work and pray to end abortion and other assaults on human life. The election of an unapologetic, pro-abortion president and like-minded majorities in Congress has widened the division within the Pro-life movement at a time that unity is more crucial than ever.
In regard to a long term strategy to end abortion, honest disagreement abounds among Pro-lifers. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court theoretically stood one vote shy of a potential reversal of Roe. A few Pro-life laws were enacted to protect women and unborn children in the two terms of President Bush, in addition to a flurry of state laws restricting abortions and expanding informed consent mandates for women undergoing abortions.
Many have suggested that the Pro-life cause must be expanded to encompass other issues that are not directly related to the sanctity of innocent human life, thinking that the movement would then attract and inspire more youth, more minority activists, and perhaps some affiliated with more liberal political parties and agendas. Despite the good intentions of those espousing this route (Pro-lifers are all too familiar with and tired of the “safe and rare” pontificating), such an approach weakens the focus of the movement and carelessly drops the humanity of the unborn child (and his murder) into the pool with problems such as hunger, poverty, and health care. These problems are indeed societal scourges requiring creative solutions and cooperative public policies. Given the number of abortions alone and leaving aside the death of embryos from research and those killed by euthanasia, the Pro-life cause and its leaders must insist that restoring the value and sanctity of innocent human life remain the highest cause and the only focus. To do otherwise leaves that baby in the womb drowned out by other voices with no one to extend a life preserver.
Urging the nation to put the argument of fundamentals aside, President Obama, early in 2009, insisted that the nation unite behind an agenda of abortion reduction. The subsequent proposals from Congress were and remain deeply flawed both in principal and in practice. Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced The Prevention First Act in the Senate, and Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Tim Ryan introduced The Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion, and Support Parents Act in the House. This so-called abortion reduction legislative measure, if enacted, would not have reduced one abortion. The bill furthered “comprehensive” sex education, expansion of “family planning” funding, and falsely cast a social safety net for pregnant women.
Maneuvers like these are based on the call for common ground on abortion, for few can publicly reject a common ground notion in theory. Practically, however, the only common ground between Pro-life advocates and the “safe-and-rare-common-grounders” is the burial ground for the slaughtered innocents. For example, statutory rules for hospitals to receive federal funds require that these facilities provide so-called emergency contraceptives (including private or religious hospitals). This is no common ground for those who know and recognize that the wrongly named emergency contraception can cause a chemical abortion. Acquiescing to this political hypocrisy forces Pro-life Americans, both personally and collectively, to cooperate with the evil of abortion. Furthermore, the expansion of “family planning” funding directly increases funds to those who commit abortions, like Planned Parenthood, responsible for 25-30% of abortions in America.
Thus, the enterprise of reducing abortion on the basis of common ground is ludicrous if doing so entails providing more public funds for organizations that refer for, promote, and provide and contract with entities that refer for, promote, and provide abortion. The common ground rhetoric is just that—counterfeit rhetoric to seemingly soften the positions of the pro-abortion charlatans holding public office.
The concerns about the Pro-life movement aligning itself solely with a single political party are valid. Pro-life advocates would be too happy to accept varying political views if shown that bipartisanship would actually save more lives and end abortion. To date, however, one party rejects the Pro-life position while shunning its Pro-life members, and the other party faces its own internal struggles to uphold the Pro-life position. Some sectors of the Pro-life movement have decried the issue of legality as hurting efforts to change the social landscape to be more hospitable to a culture of Life, particularly in public support of pregnant women and families. None of these concerns can justify, no matter how good the intentions may be, endorsing or supporting incongruous and nonsensical abortion-reduction proposals.
Furthermore, the abortion advocates reject and refuse to even consider many compromise measures proposed by the Pro-life side. In Nebraska, for example, the legislature passed a fetal pain law limiting abortion to 20 weeks (compared to current threshold of about 24 weeks), and efforts to pass a similar measure on the federal level were mocked and thwarted—despite medical evidence and peer-reviewed studies. Parental involvement laws should and could be enacted at the federal level, for minors can not choose to undergo any type of surgery or receive any prescription without parental involvement—except those sacred rites veiled as abortion rights. If abortion advocates were true to their pro-choice clamor, the resistance to expand funding for alternatives to abortion would be nil; however, pro-aborts will only fund one choice, and again have mocked and thwarted efforts to direct funds to agencies that actually do offer more than one choice. The actions expose the sincerity of the abortion-reduction din.
None of this implies that there may be no incremental progress in reducing abortion until the practice is entirely illegal. Slavery abolitionists saved thousands from slavery by limiting slave trade and fighting to keep slavery out of border states. Such practices mirror restrictions on abortion and conscience protection laws that have been effective in reducing the abortion rate. The Republican idea of compensated emancipation was actually used successfully in many countries when implemented alongside laws intent on ending slavery. Similarly, social assistance and support from both government and private resources for women facing unplanned pregnancies have proven successful when implemented alongside laws oriented toward ending abortion.
Pro-life advocates are eager to work for authentic proposals to reduce the abortion rate with the noble and absolute goal of eliminating the barbarism entirely. The question must not be either/or, but rather a both/and solution with the clear understanding that authentic abortion-reduction measures are merely precursors to the abolition of abortion.