Abortion and Public Policy

by Deacon Michael D. Harmon

A bit of a thrill ran through the pro-life movement in the fall of 2009 when a national polling organization, the Pew Research Center, reported on October 1 that for the first time since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, a bit more than half of Americans — a true majority — were willing to call themselves “pro-life.”

We should not be so excited. While that report is worth a cheer or two, it does not change the central fact of our national political life, which is that President Obama, leaders of his party in Congress, and most national media outlets have no doubts about abortion — they are hugely in favor of it. While there is some debate among them over the best ways to sup-port it, they involve matters of political expediency and tactical maneuvering, not about the top two priorities of the “pro-choice” movement: first, to keep any inroads from being made in current legal supports for abortion and second, to expand them if at all possible.

Pro-life Americans first have to under-stand their opponents’ motivations be-fore they can have any hope of overcoming them. For many feminists and their allies, the right to have an abortion is a fundamental exercise of freedom, as basic to their sense of liberty as the right to vote or speak one’s mind. Without it, women are virtual prisoners of their anatomy, forced to become “slaves” to what the ideologues among them consider a foreign entity who has entered their own flesh without their consent.

Yes, few children are conceived through rape, and someone who consents to having sex cannot rationally think that babies are not often a product of such actions. However, pro-life individuals may not understand how fully and completely the contraceptive mentality has divorced sex from childbearing in many women’s minds — not to mention many men’s.

Having a child means being tied down to raising it for up to twenty years, all because a woman exercised her freedom to go to bed with a man — the same freedom men have had (in their view, at least) forever. That is what “choice” means — to choose to be independent of childbearing and childrearing unless it is the choice of the sovereign self. To say to one of these people that “children are a gift from God” is not only nonsensical, but an attack on their freedom. They and they alone determine their future, not any Deity.

So how could an abortion regime that permits an unborn child to be slaughtered in the womb from the moment of conception until birth be expanded? In several ways: while it has not been mentioned much lately, the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) remains very much part of the feminist agenda. It would remove not only federal but state laws restricting abortion.

Parental notice, mandatory counseling, age limitations, “partial-birth” prohibitions and “born-alive” infant protections and any other restrictions would be voided by FOCA. And then there is “health care reform,” which would inevitably provide federal money to finance abortions (the Hyde Amendment pre-venting federal funds from being used for abortions applies only to Medicaid and has to be renewed every year). The new law could also be interpreted as mandating that individuals and institutions (for example, Catholic doctors and hospitals) would have to provide “abortion services” or lose federal funding.

How can this be fought?  By prayer, of course.  But pro-life individuals have to understand that older feminists will never be persuaded to give up what they regard as central to their freedom and personal sovereignty.

Instead, the pro-life movement must focus on young people whose attitudes have not yet been hardened by the pro-abortion propaganda they will inevitably encounter in higher education. The presence of so many young people at the March for Life tells us that we are making inroads, but the focus on youth must become deliberate and targeted. Only then will a pro-life political majority be forged.

Pro-life forces may be slowly winning the public attitudes battle, but until that is translated into votes in legislatures and in Congress by the entry of pro-life youth into the electorate and into public life, our laws will not change. We are pro-life so that the next generation will free our nation from the scourge of legal abortion. +

–Michael D. Harmon is an editorial writer and commentary page editor for the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the largest daily newspaper in Maine. He has been a journalist for 39 years. He also serves as a deacon at the Church of the Prince of Peace, Sanford, Maine. He is also a member of the board of directors of Ducks on the Pond, the ministry which oversees the buildings used by the Institute for Christian Renewal and the healing center.

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