Why the pro-life movement seems to be losing

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Why the pro-life movement seems to be losing

November 10, 2023 -

Paul Meacham holds high a sign that reads "Ohio is pro-life" as the crowd prays during the Ohio March for Life rally at the Ohio State House in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Oct. 6, 2023. "I'm a believer in Jesus Christ and every life has a purpose," Meacham said. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Paul Meacham holds high a sign that reads "Ohio is pro-life" as the crowd prays during the Ohio March for Life rally at the Ohio State House in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Oct. 6, 2023. "I'm a believer in Jesus Christ and every life has a purpose," Meacham said. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Paul Meacham holds high a sign that reads "Ohio is pro-life" as the crowd prays during the Ohio March for Life rally at the Ohio State House in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Oct. 6, 2023. "I'm a believer in Jesus Christ and every life has a purpose," Meacham said. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

With Tuesday’s election results in Ohio and Virginia seen as a referendum on the pro-life movement from pundits across the political spectrum—a point that was reiterated in Wednesday’s Republican debate—it’s understandable that many are feeling discouraged. After all, it took nearly fifty years to overturn Roe v. Wade but abortions have actually increased since that monumental decision.

Moreover, the expansion of abortion options has won in every state that has voted on the subject, a trend that is likely to continue across the coming years. Given that roughly 69 percent of Americans support at least some access to abortion during the first trimester, perhaps we should not be surprised. However, that support wanes quickly once you get beyond those first twelve weeks. As Dr. Jim Denison discussed earlier this week, a majority actually oppose abortion in the second (55 percent) and third (70 percent) stages of a pregnancy.

If that’s the case, though, why have so many of the new laws enshrined a right to abortion that far surpasses popular opinion? And, more importantly, what can we do to reverse that trend?

The answer is, at its core, quite simple. However, it does not appear to be one that many in the pro-life movement want to hear.

Why a national prohibition against abortion will never happen

When the issue of abortion was raised in Wednesday’s Republican primary debate, Nikki Haley remarked that to change federal law, “It’s going to take 60 Senate votes, the majority of the House, and a president to sign it. We haven’t had 60 Senate votes in over a hundred years. We might have 45 pro-life senators. No Republican president can ban abortions any more than a Democratic president can ban these [more restrictive] state laws.”

And she’s right.

I believe life begins at conception and would love for there to be a national prohibition against abortion. But it’s simply not going to happen, and there is no path to making it so anytime soon. But, as Haley noted, that goes for the pro-choice side as well.

This will remain an issue for individual states to decide, and that’s for the best. It may not feel like it as we watch state after state make it permissible to kill the unborn, often even when the child could survive outside the womb. But the truth is, we should want this issue to remain with the states because that’s the level of government where we can have the greater impact. After all, in a democracy your vote is worth more in elections where fewer votes are cast.

So how can we do that?

It starts by shifting our focus from politics to people.

Choose people over politics

Saying our focus should be on people rather than politics does not mean ignoring the latter. But it is much easier to change a single mind through conversation and dialogue than it is to change the politics of an entire party.

Moreover, there is good evidence that many of those who support abortion—particularly in the second and third trimesters—have either not given the details of that position a great deal of thought or do not understand all that it truly entails.

You see, during the first trimester, the methods most often utilized in an abortion are undoubtedly tragic, but they are not necessarily barbaric. However, that ceases to be the case once you get to the second trimester and beyond. (A word of warning: The rest of this section contains graphic descriptions of abortion procedures.)

As the fetus grows to the point that it is too large to simply suck out of the womb, the most common method of terminating the child’s life is called dilation and evacuation. After the mother is put under anesthesia, abortion providers go in with “suction and gynecological instruments” to empty the uterus.

Or at least that’s how it’s described by most clinics.

The truth is that those “gynecological instruments” are used to dismember the fetus in the womb, typically while the child is still alive, and then pull him or her out piece by piece. The “fragmented fetal parts” are then rearranged to make sure none were left behind.

Roughly 95 percent of second- and third-trimester abortions—which account for approximately 11 percent of all abortions—utilize this method. Moreover, “leading authorities” have concluded that it is typically not worth the added risk to the mother to kill the child prior to beginning the procedure.

Does a fetus feel pain?

Initially, this approach was justified by arguing that a fetus cannot feel pain until after twenty-four to twenty-five weeks of development, meaning that dismembering the child while it was still alive did not cause it to suffer. That is still the official position of many abortion providers.

However, more recent studies have shown that, at the very least, there is reason to doubt those conclusions. As Dr. Bridget Thill writes, “Current neuroscientific evidence indicates the possibility of fetal pain perception during the first trimester,” with indications that a child may be able to feel some form of pain after as little as seven to eight weeks in the womb. She goes on to conclude that “denial of fetal pain capacity beginning in the first trimester, potentially as early as 8–12 weeks gestation, is no longer tenable.”

And she is hardly alone in those conclusions.

Ultimately, the possibility exists that every fetus who is killed after fifteen weeks—and possibly long before that—feels the indescribable pain of his or her abortion.

I want to believe that most people who support the availability of such abortions do not fully comprehend all that their position entails. And I want to believe that, if they did, they would stand against such barbarism.

After all, if a slaughterhouse butchered cattle the way abortion clinics kill many of these babies, they would be shut down in a day. While people may have honest disagreements about the value and humanity of an unborn child, I would hope that we could agree that a fetus has at least as much inherent worth as a cow.

The pathway to true change

The good news is that every law that has been passed to protect abortion can be changed to protect children instead. But those laws aren’t going to change until we can change the minds of the people who voted to pass them.

So if we truly want to make a difference on this issue and save the lives of unborn children, we need to focus on telling people the truth about abortion in a way that doesn’t shy away from the hard realities of all that it entails, but which also shares that message with the grace and love of Christ.

And remember that, regardless of what the laws say, every expectant mother makes her own decision about whether to keep or kill her baby, and we don’t need politicians to make a positive impact in their lives.

So let’s start by actively trying to engage with people who see differently on this issue. A great deal of common ground currently lies fallow because both sides often seem more interested in demonizing the other than working together. And while I fully understand the hesitancy to give any ground when it comes to protecting unborn lives, let’s not sacrifice those we can save in the process.

Ultimately, if we really want to make a difference in the fight to save unborn lives, we have to start with people over politics and accept the reality that there is no quick fix on a national scale.

NOTE: In addition to The Daily Article, Denison Ministries produces First15, a daily devotional experience with God; Foundations with Janet, a Bible study resource for individuals and small groups; and Christian Parenting, resources to help parents raise children to know and love the Lord. These ministries are intended to work collectively to build a movement of culture-changing Christians as a catalyst for spiritual awakening and more transformation. I encourage you to try them today.

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