One of the great frustrations in being pro-life in the United States is that the chance of success, measured by ending legal abortion, seems a near impossibility. Even with almost half of Americans identifying as pro-life, Roe v Wade and our stubborn government system sets that goal atop a mountain we don’t know how to climb.
Yet the tragic case of toddler Alfie Evans in England should remind us that pro-lifers are not simply tilting at a windmill, we are standing firm in support of the sanctity of life.
Even if it never succeeds in banning abortion, the pro-life movement is important, because once we stop fighting for the lives of the unborn, the fight becomes one over children who are born. By holding that line, and forcing the battle onto the ground of our choosing, we deprived those less concerned with the sanctity of life the opportunity to justify further death. The British courts have done just that with their inexplicable decision to bar Alfie from medical treatment.
In 2013, Planned Parenthood official Alisa LaPolt asked if a baby was born during a botched abortion, and was alive on the medical table, what the doctor’s moral obligation is. Shockingly, she replied, “We believe that any decision that’s made should be left up to the woman, her family and the physician.”
In the United States where the debate over the personhood of fetuses is still fierce and competitive, this was a statement beyond the pale– and, thankfully one Planned Parenthood tried to distance itself from. Yet euthanizing children is a growing and troubling trend elsewhere.
In 2014 Belgium became the first country to pass a law allowing euthanasia without any age limit. According to a 2017 Ipsos poll, a whopping 87 percent of Belgians support legal abortion. This is among the highest numbers in the world, and it should come as no surprise that once almost the entirety of a society has decided the unborn may be destroyed, it moves to destroy those who actually take breath.
Support for abortion in England is lower than in Belgium, but significantly higher than in the United Sates. The pattern shows the connection between abortion and euthanasia and how liberalizing the former leads to the liberalization of the latter. This is a trend that a powerful pro-life movement in the United States helps to keep in check.
Life Is Greater Than Social Good
The crux of the arguments for abortion, euthanasia, and overriding parents’ decisions about keeping their children alive is that, sad though they may be, these work towards a greater social good. In the case of the unborn, abortion eases the path of women who do not wish to be pregnant. In the case of the born, it eases the burden on the parents and state and, some argue, ends the suffering of the human being allowed to die.
But once a society decides that the greater good is more important than an individual right to life, what limiting principles can stop the progress of socially beneficial death? If aborting a fetus because it has Down syndrome is morally acceptable, why not the one-day-old who has Down syndrome? Might they not be a burden to parents and society? Might they not suffer, as all humans do?
This dangerous utilitarian attitude is making troubling inroads in our society. Much of the pro-choice movement has adopted the “pro” position, put forth by Katha Pollit, that abortion should be treated not with sadness and shame, but celebrated as a great social good that gives women greater equality. Gone are the days when Democrats called for abortion to be safe, legal, and rare. Now many argue it should be safe, legal, and celebrated. This is a dangerous position that must be strenuously opposed.
The fact of the matter is that nobody knows what a fetus feels, how an unborn baby experiences existence. The same is true for Alfie. There is no doubt he has experienced a brutally unfair level of pain and suffering, but what does he feel when in his mother’s arms, when he feels and senses his father’s breath? The frailness of his broken body cannot overcome the power of his being, courageously fighting for that most precious gift, life itself.
And what does it matter how long he can survive? Viewed from the perspective of universal time, or even simply human history, is 80 years so much longer than a day, or even an hour? How can being ever be held up next to nothingness and not be the more moral, beautiful, and essential choice?
The Pro Life Movement Has To Fight
Dylan Thomas wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, Rage against the dying of the light.” Alfie Evans has raged, and even in our sadness we must take inspiration from that fact that he shows us life wants to live. That inspiration in turn must make us more steadfast in protecting the sanctity of human life in the face of those who would destroy it.
Do not despair when the task of ending abortion seems impossible, because we are holding a line. A tie is a win in the fight for life. Keep fighting, because even when you lose, fighting for the dignity of human life is never in vain. Even the smallest victories literally give breath to children who experience the wonder of existence.
There are many important battles in American political life, but none is more important than this one. Never give up.