First they ignore you.
Then they ridicule you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win.
This insightful observation of Mahatma Ghandi reveals a truth about social-reform movements — that it takes perseverance to achieve victory.
Ending the darkness of Roe v. Wade is not only possible, it is more than likely to occur if those who understand what’s at stake don’t give up, having tired of the seemingly long battle. For, as social-reform movements go, the 34-year struggle to overturn Roe and its judicial progeny is still a relatively young one.
The lessons of the long struggle for black civil rights are instructive. From the advent of the first African slave being taken to the American colonies in 1619 to the end of the Civil War was a period of 246 years. The cause for life is, in comparison, only 34 years old.
The ratification of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery in 1865 to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 was a period of approximately 100 years. We who fight for life having been laboring for only one third as long.
From the announcement in 1896 by the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” public accommodations for blacks and whites was constitutional to the reversal of that decision by the same Supreme Court in 1954 in the Brown v. Board of Education case was a period of 58 years — almost a quarter of a century longer than our present struggle.
The period from the Civil Rights Act in 1964 to the present is approximately 42 years, eight years longer than we have presently struggled. The lesson is that American social-reform movements sometimes take time. We will win the battle to overturn Roe if we do not lose heart.
But as we maintain a long-term vision, we must also come to terms with today’s brutal facts. The numbers are staggering and so, sometimes, is the temptation to despair. As we soberly mark the 34th anniversary of the judicial atrocity known as Roe v. Wade, the sheer number of innocent victims of that act of judicial tyranny overwhelms our everyday experience. Even under the most conservative of estimates (and we lack certainty because we do not have a national, uniform mandatory abortion reporting requirement), somewhere between 40 and 50 million unborn children have died under this nation’s regime of abortion.
To put that number in some context, the best estimate is that the total war dead, of all causes, for all of America’s major and minor wars since 1775 is 1,329,991 or an amount equal to just one year of Roe’s infernal tally.
It is true that a prudent, incremental strategy of judicial, legislative, and public media efforts, including test cases, test legislation, and consistent public education, have led to noticeable gains in reducing the number of abortions and educating the public (and perhaps, soon, ending the legal support of partial-birth infanticide). However, the relentless daily, monthly, and annual toll of unborn lives lost, mothers and fathers physically and emotionally devastated, and cultural and political disunity of the country, leads many to wonder if the fight, after so many years of battling, is really winnable.
Can we honestly expect things to change when so many lives have been lost, so many families affected, so many legal battles and legislative arguments made and ignored, so much money spent and so many years of our lives gone by?
The answer is a resounding “yes.” Positive signs are all around us.
The ever more detailed pictures of unborn babies in the womb manifest their humanity in ways that only the most hardened can deny. More young adults and high school students are pro-life than ever before. The accumulating weight of serious medical studies details the truth conclusively that abortion, in addition to killing her unborn child, is harmful to the woman who subjects herself to it.
On the legal front there are also hopeful signs. In addition to new principled justices, at no time in the last 34 years has the Supreme Court ever found a solid constitutional basis for the so-called “right to terminate a pregnancy.” Combine this with the equally revealing, albeit maddening, point that the Supreme Court conceded in the Casey decision 19 years after Roe – that no single constitutional argument standing alone could buttress the “right” to abort (i.e., without the added legal doctrine of stare decisis abortion jurisprudence is a house of cards) — and the overturning of Roe is inevitable.
Ultimately, the realization that the radical ideology behind the abortion industry is bankrupt morally, culturally, economically, and spiritually will lead to the collapse of the current abortion regime, just as surely as the deadly decay and false reality of Marxism led to the fall of the Soviet Union. All this is the good news if we just keep up the struggle.
– Nikolas T. Nikas is president and general counsel of the Bioethics Defense Fund, a public interest law firm that advocates for life-affirming policies regarding abortion, human cloning and embryo research, and end-of-life issues.