The future of the pro-life movement
At the Washington D.C. “March for Life” on Jan. 27, 2017, recently inaugurated Vice President Mike Pence declared that “life is winning in America.” The vice president pointed to the election of a pro-life majority in both houses of Congress and the election of the Trump administration by an electoral majority as evidence that the American people are rallying around the pro-life cause. While this conclusion may be a bit bombastic, there is some evidence that certainly suggests a substantial portion of Americans still hold pro-life views. Pew Research, a non-partisan institute, found that 39 percent of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. This tells us that despite modern liberal rhetoric, there is still a place in American politics for the pro-life movement. However, the majority of people under the age of 30 are pro-choice. For the pro-life movement to remain relevant in the coming decades, it must evolve from a movement rooted in religious and moral paternalism, and become solely a movement advocating for humane medical practices.
The pro-life cause must become rooted in scientific reality and compromise. Archaic and outdated positions, like the argument that a fertilized egg is a human or that next-day emergency contraception is murder, must be abandoned. Sure, a fertilized egg is alive – but only in the same sense that our skin and hair cells are. It possess no heart, no brain, none of the things that make us human. Rather, this is exactly the stage of pregnancy when we should be encouraging women to take birth control steps or have abortions – long before the formation of a brain, heart or person. Additionally, to make any real progress, the pro-life movement must concede the fact that abortion as a whole will never be outlawed. In 1973, the Supreme Court declared in Roe v. Wade that women have a constitutional right to abortion, and legal experts like Jesse Hill of Case Western Reserve School of Law argue that despite Trump’s campaign promises, this ruling is not going anywhere. However, Roe v. Wade did allow states to regulate second and third term abortions, and this is where pro-life efforts should be focused. The aim must be shifted entirely from outlawing abortion, restricting choices women can make and forcing oft-impoverished women into motherhood, to ensuring that when abortion does occur, it is early on in pregnancy and conducted humanely. Additionally, the movement must also focus on preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place.
More policy makers should follow the lead of Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio), who vetoed an extreme “heartbeat” bill that would have effectively banned almost all abortion in Ohio, and certainly would have violated Roe v. Wade. Instead, he signed a bill restricting abortion after 20 weeks, with exceptions for situations where the life of the mother is in danger. Reasonable compromises like this must be made and women encouraged to make their reproductive decisions early on in pregnancies. Shady practices that target abortion clinics nefariously with intense and unreasonable regulations must end. However, nine states and Washington D.C. do not have laws prohibiting abortion after a specific point in a pregnancy. This means that there are no laws preventing abortion of a six, seven, or eight month old fetus. To clarify what exactly that means, that means that fetuses with nearly fully developed hearts and brains, some of whom would be viable to survive on their own in a hospital setting, can be aborted. This is a mortifying practice and its abolishment should be the focus of the pro-life movement.
Furthermore, we must look for common ground with our pro-choice compatriots. Despite our differences in opinion, it’s safe to say that both sides can agree abortion is an unfortunate occurrence, which in an ideal world would occur as little as possible. The simplest way to do this is to prevent unwanted pregnancies in the first place. The hypocrisy of so-called “pro-life” politicians who seek to limit birth control access to women is beyond comprehension. The government has no right to dictate women’s access to birth control products, as their only argument for doing so is religious and moral paternalism that is beyond the role of government. Additionally, if your stated goal is to limit the amount of abortion that occurs in this country, there is no easier way to do so than by making birth control easier to access for women and preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Is it any surprise that researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine found that the national abortion rate would plummet if women had access to free birth control?
Fellow pro-lifers, your beliefs in the sanctity of human life are still relevant in this era, but many of your policy stances are rapidly becoming outdated. To achieve any success, the pro-life movement needs to evolve.
Bradley Polumbo is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.