40 years ago, the Supreme Court issued its infamous Roe-v-Wade decision, making legal abortion the law of the land. Since then, there has been a pitched battle between those who (like me) consider abortion to be the savage ending of innocent and helpless life and those who consider it a tragic, yet viable option for pregnant women in distress. This issue has shaped our public discourse, influenced local elections, and has galvanized millions into political activism.
Many feel that the the pro-life position has gained in the popular culture. Polls seem to indicate that younger generations may be even more pro-life than their parents. And yet, abortion still remains the law the land and millions of babies are sent to their premature deaths every year. So what is next for the pro-life movement? Here are five reflections for a 21st-century pro-life movement.
1) The Prolife Movement Should Model Wilberforce’s Endurance and Courage
William Wilberforce is a model for the pro-life movement in that he spent an entire life devoted to ending the slave trade in Britain. There were no overnight successes, but a long, steady, courageous battle to win over the English public and to shepherd legislation through the Parliament. It was a long hard slog filled with many defeats and disappointments. For much of his life, Wilberforce was on the wrong end of public opinion, a minority, an extremist for his views. And yet God gave him the courage and backbone to hang in there. The prolife movement still has much work to do to convince the public that abortion should be wrong. It still requires courage to move legislation forward and get it signed into law. Some question the commitment and feel Christians should abandon the issue. But if abortion is a moral evil, then we should not tire in seeing it abolished permanently.
2) The Prolife Movement Should Primarily Invest In Crisis Pregnancy Centers
It disgusts me when I see the amount of money spent each year by conservative donors on candidates. I only imagine if half that money were donated to crisis pregnancy centers, where real lives are being saved each day. In my next book I devote an entire chapter to the largely unheralded success of these places. They run on shoe-string budgets and are largely staffed by dedicated volunteers who share love and kindness with scared, lonely, often-victimized young girls. These are places of hope and help, not simply for the unborn, but for young mothers. Many offer parenting counseling, give away supplies like diapers and baby formula. Our church supports a local center every year with a baby bottle donation campaign and some of our members volunteer at a thrift shop that supports the center. But sadly, most Christians are only prolife every four years. They are prolife in that they have a good reason to bash Democrats or liberals. But that’s the extent of their work. But a real prolife ethic is devoted not primarly to politics, but to saving one baby at time, whether it’s an unborn baby, a trafficked young girl, or an immigrant. It’s easy to be prolife every four years in November. It takes work to save the life in front of you.
3) The Prolife Movement Should Reframe The Issue as Justice Issue
The siren call of today’s generation of young activists is justice. And this is good, because God is a God of justice and calls His children to be on the side of justice. The prolife movement needs to adopt 21st-century language, to capture the hearts and minds of young evangelicals who are prolife but have a visceral distaste for the bombastic politics of the religious right. I think there are two ways to accomplish this rebranding. First, the prolife movement should break free from the conservative movement and stand on it’s own. In other words, there are young evangelicals who may be prolife, but who don’t subscribe to all the tenets of political conservatism. This would enable the movement to be more nimble, to engage and join common cause with people of all political stripes to save innocent children from death. Secondly, the movement should adopt a more holistic version of prolife. We shouldn’t simply champion the unborn, but we should fight human trafficking and join other causes that defend human life.
4) The Prolife Movement Should Not Make Women the Enemy
So-called “war on women” is mostly a media creation, a caricature of prolife activists. Most pro-lifers I know are generous, giving, compassionate souls. Still, there are some whose articulation of pro-life views hurts the cause. Abortion is a sensitive issue. In championing the unborn we should not disrespect the very difficult choices faced by young women. We should be winsome in our public words and actions. Too often issues like abortion are used only to create enemies out of those who disagree. And the issue has been often used, by both political parties, to gain power. But perhaps this generation of activists will embrace engagement over demonizing. Perhaps we can find common ground and reduce the number of abortions. Not one baby is saved from death by using the issue as a sledgehammer against those who disagree. And let’s offer forgiveness and hope for those who have made the tragic choice to end a life, pointing them to the grace found in Christ.
5) The Prolife Movement Should Continue to Shape the Culture
According to Gallup, only 41% of Americans consider themselves pro-choice. That’s a historic low. I think this is the result of many things, including the development and wide use of ultra-sound technology, creative attempts to shape the media culture, and a younger generation keenly focused on justice for the vulnerable. And yet we have more work to do. We need politicians to craft pro-life legislation, but what we need more is a culture willing to accept such legislation. Politicians largely respond to movements in the broader culture. So more creative media, more education, more small victories.
We also need to address the factors that lead to abortion, particularly the crisis of fatherlessness. Abortion is downstream from the breakdown of the family. So while we fight the wanton destruction of human life, let’s recommit to strengthening the family, building up of our local churches, and preaching the life-saving message of the gospel.