The Catholic Thing
Happy People and Their Just Cause Print E-mail
By Austin Ruse   
Friday, 24 January 2014

Fifty million abortions and counting since 1973, and sometimes it seems we are no closer to stopping the carnage than we were on that wicked January day forty-one years ago. So, why are pro-lifers so happy? You could see it in their faces – their frozen faces – this week at the March for Life.

No matter what the weather, no matter the political climate, pro-lifers have never flinched from driving across country crammed into buses and sleeping on floors, just to walk up Constitution Avenue past the Senate buildings to the Supreme Court, the body that issued the most divisive and bloody decision in American history.

And these marchers are happy.

Even though abortions still occur 1.1 million times a year – down 100,000 from a few years ago, down 500,000 from a decade ago – and even though pro-lifers are no closer to overturning Roe, they are happy, practically jubilant.

Their joy springs from knowing, without doubt, that their cause is just. But there is joy, also, in the gloominess of the other side. And the other side is profoundly gloomy.

In the Glengarry Glen Ross world of big magazine advertising sales, I had a boss who would say, “If the guy doesn’t give you the business, the next best thing is to ruin his day.”

Abortion advocates haven’t had a good day in years. The best they’ve had recently is the silly filibuster by Wendy Davis in Texas, which delayed a pro-life bill for what, a few weeks? Roe may still stand, but pro-lifers have otherwise ruined the pro-aborts’ days.

      Among the thousands of witnesses for life

Watch them on TV and you see a people beleaguered, sometimes even panicked as they realize in their hearts that the country has changed and the people are no longer with them, if they ever were.

On CNN’s “Crossfire” this week, the new chief scold from NARAL Pro-Choice America actually trotted out the old saw that women cannot get second trimester abortion without a doctor’s approval, as a way to show how reasonable our abortions laws are. Of course, the “doctor” is no more than a legal Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia butcher. And he’s never seen an abortion he didn’t approve of and from which he didn’t cash a nice check.

Besides having the just cause, and the Schadenfreude of continually ruining the other guy’s day, pro-lifers are happy because of the astonishing gains made in recent years in the states. Here there is genuine good news.

A paper just released by the Alan Guttmacher Institute shows a tsunami of legislative restrictions on Big Abortion.  “Over the course of the year, 39 states enacted 141 provisions related to reproductive health and rights. Half of these new provisions, 70 in 22 states, sought to restrict abortion services.” According to the report, these 70 legislative restrictions make 2013 second only to the 92 enacted in 2011. And – get this – the 205 restrictions enacted over the past three years are more than the previous ten years combined.

Guttmacher reports that “forty-five percent of the abortion restrictions enacted over the past three years fall into four categories: targeted restrictions on abortion providers, limitations on insurance coverage of abortion, bans on abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization, and limitations on medication abortion.”

Among the most interesting and successful initiatives by state-based pro-lifers are targeted restrictions on abortionists. Abortion doctors still tend to be the dregs of the medical world. Their facilities are very often quite nasty and certainly not up to the standards imposed even on manicure salons.

Pro-lifers have correctly surmised that requiring these facilities to come up to some sort of code would not only make women safer (since women are often taken by ambulance from such butcher-shops), but would likely result in shuttering places that refuse to make changes.

This brilliant tactic has closed down a number of abortionists in Texas and elsewhere. What’s more, it makes it possible to stop abortion without necessarily overturning Roe. If a woman cannot get an abortion anywhere, then Roe is an empty shell.

         Happy people marching for a just cause

Guttmacher lists states according to their “hostility” to abortion, meaning they have enacted four to ten major restrictions. In 2000 there were only 13 such states. In the new report they list 27 states that qualify as “hostile,” including four “purple” states that went for Obama in the last election: Virginia, Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

How did this happen?

It happened because happy pro-lifers did not fret about the seemingly insurmountable obstacles facing them, including Roe, but also every major institution in America.

For fifty-eight long years starting with the 1898 Plessy decision, civil rights workers prepared the ground, prepared the American people to support, and therefore make possible something like Brown v Board of Education. In a similar way – sometimes noisily, most often quietly, but always insistently and happily – pro-lifers have prepared the ground, and therefore make possible the overturning of Roe one day.

Will the endgame be easy? Are we even near the endgame?  Professor Gerry Bradley of Notre Dame Law School thinks not. And he is hardly alone. This week in Public Discourse he wrote, “The stunning fact upon which any pro-life reassessment must focus is this: Americans’ beliefs and practices about abortion have digested the truth about the unborn with nary a hiccup. A growing number of Americans say that they approve of abortion, even though they regard it as ‘murder’.”

Pro-lifers aren’t saps. They know this. They also know this huge thing called Roe stands in the way. And the only way Roe goes away is a remarkable four-carom shot; right Senate, right president, right Court, right case. And even if Roe falls, the battle starts the very next day in most of the states. They know that, too.

Still, you wouldn’t believe how happy these young people were marching with frozen feet on that long cold walk up Capitol Hill. And they’ll be back next year, no matter what. 

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-FAM.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (11)Add Comment
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, January 24, 2014
It is high time for Catholic bishops in the US to do something collectively that would be really meaningful when it comes to demonstrating their seriousness about Roe v Wade. I propose that ALL bishops declare the day of the Right to Life March each year as a Holy Day. Call it the Holy Day of the Innocents.

Because it would be a Holy Day, all Catholic schools would be closed, all diocesan, parish and USCCB offices would be closed, all Catholic hospitals would make this a Holy Day holiday for non-essential personnel, and all Catholic universities would be closed. This would send a strong message to Catholic themselves about the importance placed by the Church on ending the horror or abortion and to the secular world that our Church leaders take this very seriously.

It would also allow all those who would otherwise be occupied to attend the March on Washington and other local demonstrations scheduled for that day. It would also allow those not attending marches across the country to attend Masses in remembrance of the Holy Innocents who were slaughtered because of abortion. It would also allow for prayers for the mothers and fathers of these children - for their healing and repentance.

What would happen if all pro-life Catholics lobbied their diocesan bishop to declare such a Holy Day? I suspect that the joy on the faces of the marchers that Austin speaks about would radiate to many, many more Catholics. What a great way for the bishops to put meaning into the Church's mission to evangelize the culture!
written by John McCarthy, January 24, 2014
The pic is worth a thousand words..
written by Augustine Thomas, January 24, 2014
I don't know. I'm dubious about being happy that we've "only" allowed fifty-five million murders.

We, as a society, are worse than Nazis. Pretending that we'll get back to the truth without hurting the feelings of baby murderers is utterly ridiculous.

Great if some people are happy, but I'll remind you that not all the martyrs happily sang to their deaths. There's no rule that says we have to be happy about living here in Hell. We have to keep fighting, but we don't have to be happy in order to do it.
written by Augustine Thomas, January 24, 2014
Deacon Ed,

Wonderful idea about making it a holy day, or rescheduling to a holy day!
You can trust that no one will take your advice--your plan glorifies God too much and them, not enough! (George Weigel doesn't want to end abortion, he wants new and more impressive names to drop!)
written by Gail Finke, January 24, 2014
I interviewed Dr. John Willke, founder of Right to Life, two years ago and was really surprised at how happy he was. I figured that after fighting abortion for 41 years he would be, if not discouraged, at least not encouraged -- but that was not at all the case. He said that he was convinced that abortion would be outlawed one way or the other, because it was wrong. Period. He had a grand scheme of how it might happen through laws but if that didn't happen, he said, it would be because the West would implode and destroy itself and other cultures (maybe Muslim) that actually cared about life enough to reproduce would take over. Either way, he said, abortion was too destructive to last, and to him fighting for life meant ultimately being on the winning side.
written by Dennis, January 24, 2014
Professor Bradley's employer, Notre Dame, is a great part of the reason that "personally opposed but..." nominal Catholics receive intellectual cover on abortion. Ted Hesburgh and John Jenkins have made abortion advocacy the enlightened position among nominal Catholics.
written by Dennis Larkin, January 24, 2014
Not long after Roe, Dr Wilke had approached Ted Hesburgh of Notre Dame to lend his prestige to the right-to-life movement as the outgoing Civil Rights Commission Chair. Hesburgh declined.
written by Seanachie, January 24, 2014
"Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill."
written by Deacon Jim Stagg, January 24, 2014
Excellent idea, Ed! A Holy Day of the Innocents!
To whom can we address your suggestion (USCCB Committee name and address, for example).

Thanks for a great idea!
written by Ruth Bookalam, January 26, 2014
What a wonderful idea Deacon Peiter. We will get to work on making January 22nd. a Catholic Holiday ! ! ! ! Many Parishioners could not attend the Mass for the Unborn and Stand for Life at the Cathedral in my home town because they work. It would help so many youngster who do not attend catholic schools as well.

This article is most encouraging for many of us who, in spite of all we do, it does not seem to discourage people from having abortions.

Thank you,
Ruth Bookalam
written by Deacon Ed Peitler, January 26, 2014
If anyone is interested in my idea, an approach I think viable is developing a website where those providing identifying information could shoot off a "canned" email (or construct their own) to their bishop supporting this idea. It would be a website similar to those where you can lobby your elected official in Washington on a specific topic. All dioceses have email addresses available for contacting their bishop and it would be a simply matter of creating a database that could identify the appropriate bishop based on one's zip code. Anyone with website development know-how can get in touch with me at and perhaps we could work together on this project.

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