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Is the tide on abortion changing?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A participant in the annual March for Life rally holds up sign 'I am the Pro Life Generation' outside the Capitol Building in Washington, January 25, 2013 (Credit: via Flickr)

A pro-life group has been denied official club status at Johns Hopkins University.  The reason?  A student government senator explained, “We have the right to protect our students from things that are uncomfortable.  Why should people have to defend their beliefs on their way to class?”  Paradoxically, the university allows “Students for Choice,” a pro-abortion club.  The organization sells t-shirts which advocate “choice” and tells students where they can obtain abortions.  How the university reconciles this contradiction is beyond me.

However, the news is not all negative for pro-life supporters.  Yesterday, the Florida House passed a bill that would ban sex- and race-selective abortions.  Tuesday, the Kansas Senate approved new restrictions on abortion providers.  The bill declares that life begins “at fertilization” and that “unborn children” have interests “that should be protected.”  In addition, a new North Dakota law bans abortion after six weeks; Arkansas has adopted a restriction on abortion after 12 weeks.  Five other states are considering similar legislation.

A participant in the annual March for Life rally pushes her child in a stroller as the rally marches towards the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, January 25, 2013  (Credit: via Flickr)These bills mirror a remarkable shift in public opinion on this issue.  The number of Americans who call themselves “pro-choice” is now at an all-time low, at 41 percent; 50 percent call themselves “pro-life” (up from 33 percent in 1996).  A majority of Americans do not want tax dollars used to fund abortions.

And even those who support abortion believe by a large majority that abortion should be illegal in the third trimester, partial-birth abortions should be banned, and parental consent should be required for minors.  Even more striking, 52 percent of Americans now consider abortion to be “morally wrong,” while only 10 percent consider it “morally acceptable.”

What do these trends mean for Christians who seek to change their culture? Abraham Lincoln observed, “Public sentiment is everything.  With public sentiment, nothing can fail.  Without it, nothing can succeed.”  Clearly, those who are speaking boldly on the issue of life are being heard.  Sociologist James Davison Hunter is right: when we achieve our highest influence and live there faithfully as salt and light Christians, we make a difference.

During my last trip to Cuba, I met a pastor from Havana who is feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, and caring for the unloved.  When I asked why he was involved in such benevolent outreach, he explained: “God showed me that I am not the pastor of my church, but of my community.”  If you’re in a dark room and you have the only flashlight, wouldn’t you turn it on?