Happy People and Their Just Cause

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 Center for Family & Human Rights (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.