While tens of thousands came to D.C. on Friday to protest abortion in the 47th March for Life, several hundred showed up to support the practice. Counterprotestors at the March for Life are comparatively so few that using flashy methods to get attention is understandable. These young men and women should be given some credit for their courage in coming to an event where they know they are bound to be outnumbered. Yet the obscene crudity they resorted to this year is merely a symptom of a much more malicious disease.
Before the march, one group of pro-life advocates, CEC for Life, gathered in front of the Supreme Court for an annual vigil. The group was made up of about 20 young people, who laid on the ground in a fetal position with a long red ribbon draped over them. Sarah Howell, one of the group’s leaders, said the demonstration shows how these young people are standing in solidarity with the unborn while the ribbon represents the bloodshed of abortion.
As the young people laid still with their eyes closed, one of their leaders prayed for the ending of abortion. The mood was solemn amongst the group, yet just six feet away the atmosphere was one of Bacchic revelry as counterprotestors sneered at the demonstration.
The contrast between the two groups could not be more stark. While one group mourned the 60 million babies who have been aborted, the other sang and danced. One young woman holding a sign that called pro-life advocates hypocrites, bounced up and down, spun in a circle, and wore an enthusiastic smile while chanting, “Without this basic right, women can’t be free.” An older woman handed out red-stained white pants to her fellow protestors, while another walked around with a Trojan box strapped to her head, urging young men to take condoms—because, after all, abortions are their fault, she claimed.
Later in the march, the group’s lead protestor (handler of the megaphone) berated the protestors as they walked past. He said the same mantra over and over, “Pro-life, it’s a lie—you don’t care if women die.” He also chanted, “A baby’s not a baby ‘til it comes out, that’s what a birthday’s all about.” When he wasn’t chanting, he was cursing at the crowd and claiming that this was actually a march for female enslavement.
More disturbing than the pro-choice protestors’ words and actions is their defense of abortion as a good. In the 1990s President Clinton said he hoped abortion would be “safe, legal, and rare.” Abortion used to be seen as a necessary evil, much as slavery was seen during the time of the American Founding.
Many of the Founding Fathers realized that practically they could not end slavery immediately, but they laid the foundation for its eventual abolishment where they could. Yet in 1861 views on slavery shifted. In his famous “Cornerstone Speech,” Alexander Stephens declared that slavery was a positive good. It was Stephens’ new ideology of innate inequality among the races that gave the South the ability to claim the moral high-ground. Today the same thing is happening in regards to abortion.
As Dr. Matthew Spalding, dean of Hillsdale College’s Van Andel Graduate School of Government, said in a recent article on abortion, “We have now come to the point where both positions in this debate, anti-abortion and pro-abortion, claim the moral high ground of America’s first principles as the standard of their cause.”
Abortion advocates no longer see abortion as a “necessary evil” because they don’t see it as evil at all. Destiny Lopez, co-director of a nonprofit that works to expand abortion access, told Vox that claiming abortion should be rare “completely negates all the work that we’ve done.” In Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign she was still saying abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare,” but by 2016 she said abortion should only be “safe and legal.” The most common pro-abortion sign at the march read, “Abortion on demand and without apology,” while a trove of young women in pink held signs that read, “Keep abortion safe and legal.”
This shift in thinking has created a culture war nastier than we’ve seen in a generation, and things are only going to get worse. When abortion was seen by the left as an unfortunate circumstance instead of something to be celebrated, there was room for compromise and negotiation. However, once abortion moved from being a question about public policy to being a question about fundamental rights, both sides left the negotiating table.
Recently the pro-life movement has been emboldened by support from President Trump and the pro-abortion movement has been emboldened by new abortion laws in states like New York and Virginia. Neither side is backing down.
If President Trump gets another Supreme Court pick, the question of abortion’s legality could go back to the states. This will not settle the matter. Although the geographical divides are not as clear as they were in the Civil War—there will be no North and South—the moral divide is just as bitter. Abraham Lincoln once said the South would not be content until the North admitted that slavery was a positive good. Today, neither side will rest until the other concedes the morality of their cause.
The pro-lifers will continue to argue for the “sanctity of human life,” while the pro-choicers will argue for a woman’s ultimate autonomy over her own body. The two sides cannot be reconciled. There isn’t a heartbeat, a fingerprint, proof of an unborn baby’s pain or cognitive awareness that will convince the most hardened leftists that abortion is evil, nor are there any feminist philosophic suppositions about womb slavery that will convince a pro-lifer that abortion is a right instead of a crime.
This all means the question of abortion’s morality cannot be settled by talking about abortion. If common ground is to be had, the conversation will need to go deeper. Unless there is agreement on the fundamentals, there won’t be agreement on anything that follows. The country must once again come to an agreement on the definition of justice. This must be our starting place.