I was profoundly disappointed to learn the other day that the slogan for this year’s March for Life is "Build Unity on the Life Principles throughout America. No Exception! No Compromise!" This comes right on the heels of a series of articles by well respected pro-life activist Judie Brown in the Wanderer voicing the idea that the pro-life movement has largely failed politically and must shift it’s efforts to a “no compromise” position. Both of these messages come in a season where debate in Catholic publications seems to center around which pro-life candidate to support, despite years of foot-dragging, betrayal, and inaction by these same supposedly pro-life candidates, not whether such a pro-life vote would actually accomplish anything.
I think the time as come to state some facts that have been plain to me for some time, but that seem to be far from self-evident to most pro-lifers:
1] The American electorate is not pro-life. Since Roe v. Wade came down in 1973, support for legal first-trimester abortions has remained rock-solid steady at about 65% of the electorate. Thirty-five years of pro-life agitation has done nothing to change this. Claims that “the younger generation is pro-life” have no basis in reliable polling. The idea that such a super-majority can be forced to adopt a ban against its will is both unreasonable and anti-democratic.
2] An absolute ban on abortion exists virtually no where in the world. As of now, only Costa Rica, Chile, Malta, and the Vatican City have such a ban, and cumulatively they represent only 18,968,510 people, about the population of New York State, or less than three tenths of a percent of the world population. The idea that we are going to get it here in the near term goes against every trend of the last fifty years.
3] Not only does first-trimester abortion have wide-spread support, but there is even greater support for In-Vitro Fertilization, which is just as anti-life as abortion. The idea that IFV would ever be made illegal is even more far fetched than a simple ban on abortion.
4] Compromise is exactly what is needed and, frankly, the best we can hope for in the near term. While first-trimester abortion is well-nigh sacrosanct among voters, there is virtually no support for discretionary second- and third-trimester abortion. Provided that exceptions are made for the physical health of the mother, laws banning these procedures would enjoy overwhelming support and are exactly what the pro-life activists should be working for.
5] The allegedly pro-life Republicans have given us virtually nothing and should not be trusted to actually enact pro-life policies. The ban on “partial birth abortion” is a fraud, as many other methods of third-trimester abortion are available. Ten of the twelve Supreme Court justices appointed since 1973 have been named by Republican presidents, yet we are no nearer to seeing Roe v. Wade overturned. Republicans have had thirty-five years to actually do something about abortion and, except for the Hyde Amendment of 1976, nothing tangible has been accomplished. Why not? Well, Republicans can read poll numbers just as well as anybody, and to think that they will buck a super-majority of two-thirds of the electorate is foolish if not actually fantastic.
6] A “no compromise” ban on abortion is about as dead an issue as prohibition. Such a law would be struck down in the courts almost immediately and any party passing such a measure would be turned out en mass at the next election.
7] The time has come to vote other pro-life issues. Protest against abortion all you want, say the rosary to change people’s hearts (as I do every day), write letters to newspapers, council your friends and neighbors, indoctrinate your children against the Culture of Death, but don’t waste your vote on that issue!
The war in Irak is an abomination that has been condemned by the Vatican on numerous occasions — let’s vote against that!
We spend more on heath-care than any other nation on earth, yet a significant portion of our working classes are still denied access to proper medical treatment — let’s fix that!
Wages are down 30% since 1972, while the top one-percent of earners are making 300% of what they did then — lets correct that!
Jobs are going over-seas, immigrants are flooding into our virtually open borders, secular multi-culturalism is being indoctrinated into our school children — do we want to put up with that?
This time out — let’s vote the issues!