The 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade is coming up next Thursday, and people are marking it in the usual ways – and in some unusual ones.
There will be, as in past years, somewhere upward of 200,000 people traveling to our nation’s capital to participate in the annual March for Life, and as usual, it seems safe to say their presence will be either downplayed or ignored in most of the major media.
Here in Maine, Saturday will mark another annual gathering, the Hands Around the Capitol rally, in which hundreds of Mainers will meet in Augusta to demonstrate their opposition to the court-authorized killing of unborn babies that the Roe decision established in 1973.
One would think 56 million dead babies would be enough for any nation to have to endure, and yet the killing continues.
And while those on both sides of the issue can count some victories since last year’s anniversary, it’s possible to feel joy for the pro-life cause. Let’s count off a few examples on both sides:
• Pro-abortion groups cheered this week when the Supreme Court decided not to hear an appeal of a federal circuit court ruling saying Arizona’s law restricting abortions after the 20th week of gestation was unconstitutional.
That means the law is going nowhere, at least in states under that circuit’s jurisdiction, unless a different circuit court with oversight over one of the dozen other states with similar laws lets that statute stand. That would give the high court cause to resolve the differing judgments.
But that’s not on the horizon right now, so chalk this one up for the forces of “choice.”
• On the other hand, the Guttmacher Institute, originally an arm of Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider (the group’s most recent annual report says it recommends one adoption for every 149 abortions it performs), reported this month that at the state government level, “More abortion restrictions were enacted in the 2011-2013 period than in the entire previous decade.”
Here’s the relevant paragraph:
“Twenty-two states enacted 70 abortion restrictions during 2013. This makes 2013 second only to 2011 in the number of new abortion restrictions enacted in a single year. To put recent trends in even sharper relief, 205 abortion restrictions were enacted over the past three years (2011–2013), but just 189 were enacted during the entire previous decade (2001–2010).”
This is nothing short of political plate tectonics, as a good portion of a continent drifts away from the abortion cause:
“In 2000, 13 states had at least four types of major abortion restrictions (limited bans on abortion itself, along with restrictions on insurers, providers and abortion-inducing drugs) and so were considered hostile to abortion rights; 27 states fell into this category by 2013.
“In contrast,” the report continued, “the number of states supportive of abortion rights fell from 17 to 13, while the number of middle-ground states was cut in half, from 20 to 10. The proportion of women living in restrictive states went from 31 percent to 56 percent, while the proportion living in supportive states fell from 40 percent to 31 percent over the same period.”
Yes, you read that right: Nearly six in 10 U.S. women now live in states that are substantially more pro-life than they were at the century’s turn.
On one level, that’s unsurprising: Polls show many more Americans are now willing to call themselves “pro-life” as opposed to “pro-choice” (Gallup, May 2012, 50 percent to 41 percent – the lowest ever for the “choice” choice).
But to see that shift reflected in law this quickly shows once again that the Roe decision, intended “to settle this issue once and for all,” turned it instead into a major issue that is a long, long way from being settled.
• Interestingly, the Supremes are also taking up an appeal of a Massachusetts law that imposes draconian penalties on abortion-clinic protesters for daring to exercise their free-speech rights within 35 feet of a clinic entrance.
Since Portland’s local ordinance is apparently modeled on the Bay State law, its constitutionality may hang in the balance as well.
• Finally, the Reuters news service came in for some well-merited derision this week when it published a story under this headline: “Pope, in nod to conservatives, calls abortion ‘horrific.’ ’’
So, Pope Francis criticizes a practice Christianity has opposed for 2,000 years only when he wants to mollify conservatives?
As I’ve noted before, many in the media so want the Catholic Church to be progressive (instead of, say, traditionally Christian?) that they wildly misinterpret the positions of a man who, while he plainly wants to bring people to Christ no matter what views they currently hold, remains constant in his faith.
The real headline is the same as always: “Pope still Catholic. Film at 11.”
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: