Family Research Council

On the 40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade

By Cathy and Austin Ruse

Cathy Ruse is Senior Fellow for Legal Studies at Family Research Council. This article appeared in Human Life Review on January 17, 2013.

As January 22, 2013, nears, abortion defenders will be tempted to gloat. After 40 years, Roe v. Wade still stands.

But abortion in America is more than a court opinion. At its heart, abortion is an act involving three people: a mother, her child, and an abortionist.

It is also a movement and a political cause, even a political litmus test. It is a sociological and cultural phenomenon. It is certainly a business transaction, and big business at that: Hundreds of millions of dollars are made on it every year. In 1992 the Supreme Court even elevated abortion to a cosmic philosophy.

Put it all together, call it Big Abortion, and what do you see? A crazed and wounded elephant lumbering through the jungle, where it is set upon by jungle cats. One grabs hold of its snout, others have its legs, yet another leaps on its back. The elephant is going down. The lions know it, the elephant knows it, and so do all those watching this mortal combat on TV.

The pro-life movement is this pride of lions, and the one weakness in this metaphor is that ours is a movement of peace and not of violence. The part of the metaphor that rings thoroughly true is that Big Abortion is going down and everyone knows it. The pro-life movement is broad and deep and vast and is coming at Big Abortion from every angle. There is no escaping the inevitable.

The pro-life movement is also like religious orders during the Middle Ages. The Holy Spirit moved across the land in those days inspiring men and women to start religious orders and congregations. In a similar way, the Holy Spirit in our own day moves across America, indeed across the world, inspiring men and women, even boys and girls, to start pro-life initiatives. They are varied and inspiring.

Lila Rose heard the call of the Holy Spirit in her dorm room at UCLA and started making those wonderful phony phone calls and undercover visits that promise to bring Planned Parenthood down.

David Bereit heard the call and started 40 Days for Life, which has rejuvenated prayer in the pro-life movement. His efforts are now sweeping the world.

Jimmy Nolan heard the call and invited college students to devote a summer to walking across the United States, from California all the way to Washington, D.C., spreading the Gospel of Life.

Georgette Forney and other women heard the call and began bravely laying bare the truth about their own abortions, which were prompted by abandonment, not empowerment, and to speak aloud the unspoken reality that women do regret their abortions.

Thousands of ordinary men and women received the call and opened several thousand pregnancy care centers that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
There are pro-life societies of doctors and lawyers and legislators. Pro-life associations of students and professors. There are groups that go after the leases of abortion facilities and others that stand vigil outside them, assuring women that there are better options for them and their babies.

Every year tens of thousands of Americans march in protest on the anniversary of Roe. Catholic scholar Michael Novak has said that more people have marched for this cause than for any other in American history. They will march again this year, and the crowd will be as young and strong and hopeful as ever.

How will abortion proponents greet this anniversary (not in print but in their hearts)? With weariness and trepidation. Imagine yourself an abortion doctor. You're a late middle-aged man who never gets to know your patients and doesn't care to. In the beginning you saw yourself as a hero in the fight for women's rights, but now years later you travel a circuit of clinics, unknown patients lying prone on table after table, and the luster of your work has faded.

Every day you walk through a phalanx of protesters praying for you to stop your work and trying to persuade your patients to walk away. A few doors away or across the street sits a pregnancy help center that has a new sonogram machine opening a door to your secret world and turning women against you.

And now there is a new threat: Among the young women in the waiting rooms are undercover pro-lifers with hidden microphones recording clinic staffers saying impolitic things that will later be aired on The O'Reilly Factor.

Your landlord doesn't want you as a tenant. Your state legislature passes new laws every year that hurt your business. Your home phone is unlisted and your medical colleagues shun you.

It wasn't supposed to be like this. On the day the Supreme Court handed down Roe, the New York Times and the Court itself said the abortion issue had been settled. Of course, nothing in our public life is as unsettled as abortion.

Roe was never based on law but on political opinion and power. Critics of Roe grow in number every year, and there will come a day when the consensus that "Roe was wrongly decided" becomes so great that no appeal to stare decisis will prevail. And everyone knows it.

Big Abortion is a wounded elephant. Daily its end draws nearer.

Meet The Author
Cathy Ruse Senior Fellow - Legal Studies

Cathy Ruse has devoted her professional career to promoting the dignity of the human person. Her professional experience spans the fields of communication, public policy, and law. (Full Bio)

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