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Assessing Progress in the Fight for Life

As we celebrate the 45th annual March for Life in Washington today, it’s worth considering the significant progress made in the past year toward securing that most fundamental of all God-given rights – the right to life. The gains have been public, sometimes political, but in matters such as these, it’s always necessary to recall that, at bottom, our real enemies are the “powers and principalities,” “thrones and dominions,” about which St. Paul warned.

It may be something of a pleasant surprise to pro-lifers, who might have been concerned about his pro-life bona fides, that in his first year in office President Donald Trump has proved to be a valuable ally. Whatever else you may think of him overall, he has moved both swiftly and solidly to reverse the heartless, anti-life course of his predecessor, Barack Obama. Trump nominated and secured the confirmation of a noted pro-life judge, Neil Gorsuch, as a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court – the most high profile of a number of pro-life judicial nominations and key personnel decisions, including Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and Sarah Huckabee Sanders as press secretary.

In the area of policy, Trump did not just reinstate, but dramatically expanded, the Mexico City Policy, which blocks federal funding to foreign non-governmental organizations that perform and promote abortion; he defunded the anti-life United Nations Fund for Population Activities and enacted regulations that allow states to move Title IX funding away from Planned Parenthood.


In October, the Department of Health and Human Services significantly extended [1] the religious and conscience exemptions for employers under Obamacare’s Contraception Mandate. Also in October, the House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act [2], though the bill is currently stalled in the Senate. Similarly (and with a hat tip to senators such as Marco Rubio and Mike Lee who stood firm to assure it was included), an expanded child tax credit [3] was included in the tax reform bill, which will be a boon for working families, thus furthering the creation of a culture of life.

Unfortunately, there were also some setbacks at the state level. For example, Illinois’ Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, signed [4] a radical, anti-life law that provides Medicaid funding for abortion and declares that abortion will remain legal in Illinois, even should Roe v. Wade be overturned. Similarly, attempts in the states of Texas and Virginia to defund Planned Parenthood were thwarted [5] by an anti-life judge and anti-life governor, respectively.

The folks at Planned Parenthood probably find cold comfort in such developments, however, since it was announced late in 2017 that the FBI and Department of Justice have launched an investigation [6] into their sale of fetal tissue obtained from abortions.

But two news stories – the type of stories that flash and then fade before one has the time to consider their import – also appeared at the end of 2017 that should give us pause, reminding us that while our battles perforce must be fought in the political, legal, and bureaucratic arenas, ours is – at base – a spiritual war.

First, two well-known television personalities – Chip and Joanna Gaines of “Fixer Upper” fame – announced they are having a fifth child. Social media exploded with vicious reactions. One critic offered the observation, “[O]verpopulation is killing this planet. Having another child is an irresponsible act” – which pulls back the whole, dreamy veil intended to obscure just what the anti-life movement means by “choice.” Others seemed to take an ugly pleasure in jumping on tabloid rumors that the couple’s marriage is in trouble by suggesting they were only having another child to save their marriage. Sniffed one, “Having a baby won’t make you better.” A couple makes the simple announcement that they are having another child – a beautiful moment, a moment for celebration – and lies and ugliness rain down. The demons are, doubtless, pleased.

Second, a YouTube video [7] was posted on January 4 by Students for Life of America which should serve to remind us just how far the Father of Lies has made progress at our elite institutions of “higher education.” The video shows a student at the University of Tennessee coolly and calmly discussing the legitimacy of infanticide, arguing that since two-year-olds are not “sentient” (he seems very proud that he knows the word), they, therefore, have no right to life. Many of us are aware of “scholars” such as Peter Singer [8] and Steven Pinker [9] who have offered similar, very “insentient” (and horrific) opinions. That such chilling views fall so nonchalantly from the lips of a young person, barely an adult, on a campus in Knoxville, Tennessee, should alert us to how deeply this noxious spirit has spread and is continuing to work its mischief in our culture.

Certainly, we must continue the marches, the exercise of the political franchise, the lawsuits. But let’s not forget our most powerful weapons – almsgiving, fasting, and prayer, particularly the Rosary. The battle is spiritual, and will ultimately be won only on the spiritual plane. Conversion of laws will come after conversion of hearts. It would be easy to become discouraged as we set about this task, but we should remember – indeed, must remember: “With God, all things are possible.” (Mt. 19:26)

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us and for the unborn we seek to protect.


*Image: Fetus in the womb by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1510 [Royal Collection, United Kingdom]

Alan L. Anderson worked at the parish and diocesan level in catechetics in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria for over twenty years. He writes on culture and the Faith from Roanoke, IL.