It’s a grave thing, this ongoing debate about babies born alive — survivors of abortion. Every announced presidential explorer on the Democratic side of the aisle in the Senate this week voted against legal protections for these precious, innocent little ones.
For over a decade the Knights of Columbus have been commissioning Marist polling on the belief that there was a story to be told beyond the pro-choice/pro-life labels. That intuition has played out in the polling that has consistently showed that Americans are more pro-life than not. But this current ongoing debate about late-term abortion and infants born alive has shown it like never before.
I talked with Carl Anderson, the head of the Knights, Tuesday. He couldn’t emphasize enough how important Monday night’s Senate vote was. Part of the problem with Roe v. Wade and its terrible jurisprudence is the Supreme Court sidestepped the humanity issue when it comes to abortion. They didn’t want to actually be in the position of sanctioning the taking of a human life. In the case of these infants born alive, taken to a vote, government officials are now putting themselves on the record saying they support the death of a child.
One of the tremendous advantages abortion advocates have had over the decades since Roe, Anderson says, is their “marketing and messaging.” You know the euphemisms well. Freedom. Choice. Women. Health. This born-alive issue is doubling down on death. It’s devastating to think about. But there’s also no denying it. That’s where the hope comes in. There’s a “really strong revulsion” to the “extreme” positions these politicians rejecting efforts to protect babies who have survived abortions are taking.
Anderson hopes that in the wake of such a dark vote, these latest poll numbers might give “confidence to elected officials” that pro-life issues are not only right and just but are winning issues. Voting for infanticide is not a long-term strategy when you see the shift in Democrats and young people, especially, over the last month after high-profile candid answers (Virginia) and celebrations (New York) about late-term abortions and babies born alive.
As the Knights website explains:
Among Democrats, the gap between pro-life and pro-choice identifiers was cut in half from 55 percent to 27 percent. The number of Democrats now identifying as pro-life is 34 percent, up from 20 percent last month, while the number identifying as pro-choice fell from 75 percent to 61 percent. Younger Americans also moved dramatically, now dividing 47 percent pro-life to 48 percent pro-choice. One month ago, the gap was almost 40 percentage points with only 28 percent identifying as pro-life and 65 percent identifying as pro-choice.
This all could have a long-term effect of actually having our miserable, intractable abortion debate out in the open, where progress can be had, if elected officials are held to account for their grave positions.
What the Marist numbers have shown consistently is that there are many Americans who tolerate very limited abortions, but have been describing themselves as pro-choice. The last month has been testing that. The good news is that Americans are fundamentally pro-life — they don’t want abortion. When you take a look at the abortions many who describe themselves as pro-choice will accept as legal, “we could be avoiding the vast majority of abortions.” And you avoid them by making them unnecessary — with the kind of measures supportive of mothers the Knights support and so many faith-based organizations and community health centers provide.
One upon a time, Mario Cuomo argued that those who held the view that abortion was wrong were in the minority and thus could not impose their values on others. Now, an extremist minority is insisting on pushing their abortion ideology on Americans who think otherwise, who actually value innocent, vulnerable life. Democracy dies in a doubling down on death in darkness. But the spotlight is on now. This born-alive debate ends the avoidance of the issue of our cruel inhumanity to babies that has been ongoing for decades. “There need to be more of the kinds of things the Senate did yesterday,” Anderson says. They were asked to “take a stand, unequivocally, without marketing slogans. We need to hold them responsible.”
Mother Teresa, Anderson recalls, said that a child is a nation’s greatest wealth. The question for people who want to be leaders in this moment is: “Are we going to build a culture of life where every child is welcomed and protected? Are we going to have compassionate concern for mothers? Are we going to build a society where life is sacred, beautiful, and respected?”