Right Opinion

The Purpose of the Pro-Life Movement

Guest Commentary · May 28, 2019

By Zachary D. Rogers

Amidst the possibilities of gaining legal victories, the pro-life movement is in danger of forgetting its purpose. Of course, this view might be overly optimistic, but it does seem as if overturning Roe v. Wade sometime is now within the realm of possibility. Since that fateful day of the Roe decision in 1973, numerous organizations have been developed to defend the unborn; dedicated research into the science regarding conception, when babies feel pain, and the ability to detect a heartbeat; and passed legislation at the local level that protects women’s health. In sum, the movement has come a great way and in its success lies danger.

The pro-life movement has gained significant momentum — so much that abortion may soon be regulated at the state level rather than at the national level. The temptation now is to divert resources and energy into other issues such as criminal-justice reform, capital punishment, or poverty. There are several problems with this divergence of time, resources, and focus.

Yes, there are important issues surrounding the pro-life movement that need attention and should be worked on by conservatives, but there are reasons now more than ever for the pro-life movement to keep its focus as it nears a major victory for the rights of the unborn. The problem with divergence:

First, the pro-life movement exists to save the unborn; that is its primary — and indeed its only — purpose. We recognize that children are a unique blessing created in the image of God; that the unborn feel pain at a very early stage in pregnancy; that they are human beings from the moment of conception with certain inalienable rights, such as life; and that abortion has harmful mental, emotional, and health effects upon women.

There are numerous other groups that address issues of criminal justice and poverty. The pro-live movement has a worthy and focused goal. It’s a matter of life and death — a matter of human rights and human life. It is important for the movement to be focused on this goal even when other issues exist in the world that need to be addressed. If the Left is any example of selective social justice by politics and intention, the Right need not feel ashamed of focus for a good cause.

Second, diverting attention and energy from protecting the unborn harms the movement on the cusp of victory. It has taken decades to build up the infrastructure, support, and knowledge that have made success plausible. Let’s finish the race that has been given to us before entering an entirely different marathon.

Third, divergence is a misuse of the expertise these organizations have built. To delve into unrelated areas is not playing to the strengths of these organizations or their employees.

Fourth, other social ills will not affect individuals unless those individuals are actually born. These issues can be addressed prudentially in different contexts, with different means based upon the local circumstances, and require a certain level of knowledge and expertise to address. However, although scientific advancements have facilitated robust evidentiary arguments for the pro-life position, they eschew the more central issue. At its heart, the claim of the pro-life movement is a moral one. The killing of the unborn is intrinsically evil.

Fifth, individuals may be involved in multiple organizations. It is entirely possible for men and women to work tirelessly to end abortion through their money, time, and assistance while also working in their church’s local food bank. While the resources individuals have are finite, most of us can be involved in meaningful ways in more than one group.

The example of William Wilberforce should be a shining example to those considering whether or not the pro-life movement should remain a single-issue cause. Wilberforce was an Englishman who lived from 1759-1833. Due to his conversion to Christianity, he began his great work to abolish the slave trade in Britain and her colonies. Thus he founded the Anti-Slavery Society in 1787. He worked persistently in the House of Commons and through speeches and writings to end the slave trade. He introduced bills to do so numerous times only to see them defeated. It was not until 1807 that Parliament passed legislation ending the slave trade in the British West Indies. The Slavery Abolition Act that abolished slavery in most British colonies was not passed until 1833. William Wilberforce died three days after this law took effect. His example should guide us as we seek to extirpate the evil of killing the unborn, reminding us of the necessity and effectiveness of single-minded focus.

What is the goal of the pro-life movement? The purpose of this cause should be legal protection of human life from the moment of conception and to remind modern society of the importance and value of the natural family.

Organizations dedicated to saving the unborn and revitalizing the family in an America determined to denigrate, destroy, and deny it have no need to apologize for their focus and their refusal to be absorbed into other groups and causes. What they require is additional support.

Now is the hour when the pro-life movement and its supporters, those who care about the unborn child and the mother who carries it, must press on toward the goal we have been striving towards for the past decades. While the moral case against abortion is strong, we must also be cognizant of the political environment we must operate in and exercise prudence to achieve our goal. Prudence is the ability to apply a knowledge of the higher things, such as the laws of nature and nature’s God, to the practical circumstances confronting us. Let us not be unwise in the laws we put forward but shrewd as serpents able to recognize a good bill and unwilling to kill a good piece of legislation for the sake of a perfect bill we cannot enact. To those who care about the plight of the unborn, I say let us remain vigilant, let us remain determined, and let us keep our eye fixed on the prize — the protection of the unborn. This way lies victory.

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