Did you hear it? A very loud silence thundered across America last week. On January 22nd we observed the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that essentially abolished abortion law in the United States. Did you notice the articles in the various papers celebrating our unlimited abortion license? Did you see the video clips of the thousands of pro-abortion demonstrators marching on Washington D.C. to voice their concern that the “right to choose” is being threatened by pro-life fanatics? Did you hear the stump speeches of the various candidates running for office who promised to protect a “woman’s right to choose” from those who would want to turn back the clock and force abortion back into the alley?
You didn’t hear any of this and you didn’t see any of these things, did you? Instead, what you heard was the sound of silence. The Los Angeles Times ran a single article about abortion on January 22nd. It’s title? “Antiabortion Cause Stirs New Generation.” The piece was about teenage girls who are increasingly pro-life with regard to abortion. It spoke of Colorado resident Kristi Burton, 20, who recently won a court fight about her proposed amendment to the state constitution. Burton wants the state of Colorado to recognize all life after conception as human life. In our own state, a seventeen-year-old girl sued to begin a pro-life club on the campus of her San Jose high school. In Virginia a similar suit was filed, and the school allowed the club to meet in order to avoid the court battle.
I have been watching the abortion debate for most of these three-and-a-half decades, and I’m having a hard time believing my eyes and ears. Even Hollywood seems to have discovered both pregnancy and the value of life. Knocked Up tells the story of a young television producer who becomes pregnant during a one-night stand. She keeps the baby. Juno, which has had huge success at the box office, is a ribald comedy that tells of a high-school girl’s similar experience. She places her baby with another family. Bella is an unabashed pro-life tale of a woman who is pregnant and unemployed. She bears her child. Etc.
Interestingly, it is the young people among us today who are increasingly pro-life. The reasons for the shifting tide are easy to guess. Twenty-somethings are those who were fortunate enough to survive in a culture of death. One college student was asked at a Feminist for Life rally at UCLA why she was against abortion. Her answer was chilling: “I don’t want to judge my parents because they did what was right for them. But I’ve grown up knowing that they aborted two of my siblings. I’ve grown up my whole life wondering if they were glad they kept me.”
The Pew Research Center has been studying these trends for a decade and claims that eighteen- to twenty-nine-year-olds are far more likely than the general adult population to favor laws prohibiting abortion. One recent Pew survey found 22 percent of young adults support a total ban on abortion, compared with 15 percent of their parents’ generation. Seventy-two percent of teens, according to one Gallup survey, believe abortion is morally wrong, and 32 percent believe it should be illegal in all circumstances.
But all the news is not good. Sadly, it may be “other” people’s abortions to which the young object. Every year over 600,000 women under age twenty-five have an abortion to terminate an unplanned pregnancy. We have killed between 40 and 50 million children since Roe v. Wade and, if trends continue, about 1.2 million children will lose their lives this year in abortion clinics across our country. That means one out of every five babies conceived will never have a birthday.
Abortion hurts women. It severs the bond between mother and child and leads to untold pain for many who terminate their pregnancy. Abortion hurts men. It promotes sexual promiscuity, isolates sexual intercourse from childbirth, and demotes marriage to one option among many. Abortion hurts children who manage to be born. Some of their siblings are not there, and their families are thus contorted. And abortion is especially hard on the poor. Ninety percent of abortion clinics are located in the inner city and have done untold damage to ethnic minorities. Over half of all abortions are performed on ethnic minorities.
Indeed, we see both bad news and good news on the horizon. On the one hand, we have the horrifying truth about abortion in America. We have come to rely on barbaric procedures (suction-aspiration, dilation and curettage, saline abortion, intact dilation and extraction, RU-486, intrauterine cranial decompression, and partial-birth abortion) as legitimate means of birth control. How long can a society that kills its children survive?
On the other hand, we have the silence surrounding Roe’s 35th anniversary. In this case, the sound of silence can only be encouraging. Bob Dylan’s old song rings true in 2008: “the times they are a-changin’.” And what did the newspapers carry the day after January 22nd? The News-Press ran not an article, but a picture—a color picture—of a few thousand women protesting in front of the Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. Their complaint? Abortion is legal.
As Steve taught us a few weeks ago, it is a good time to pray, to talk with our neighbor, to vote for candidates who will respect God-created life, and to participate in promoting a culture of life. God help us.