The landscape confronting the abortion movement has changed significantly. The abortion movement has a hidden self-destruct mechanism. Having worked strenuously to sustain itself as "the women's movement," they now face a problem that originates with, well, women themselves.
Look at the data: abortion in America is on the decline. After Roe v. Wade, abortions remained consistently high at more than 1.55 million abortions annually throughout the 1980s. But after hitting a high of 1.6 million in 1990, the trend declined throughout the 1990s, reaching a new low of 1.3 million in 2000.
What's going on?
The answer starts with the cumulative power of the numbers. From 1972 to 2000, the number of abortions in the United States alone totaled more than 40 million, eliminating the equivalent of the entire population of Spain (40.2 million).
The terrible tsunami that struck Southeast Asia offers sobering perspective on the scale of abortion: If the killer wave had engulfed the entire island of Java in Indonesia (where the northern province of Banda Aceh was decimated), with its population of 19.9 million, the victims would still number less than half the total of the American death toll from abortion.
In the wake of the tsunami, authorities have noted that at least one-third of the over 200,000 dead or missing are children. Stories of babies swept from their frantic mothers' arms broke our hearts. Early stories that speculated on the complete annihilation of some island tribes left us stunned and horrified.
These images carry the tsunami impact one step further: Once the waves claim their victims and recede, the survivors stand on the beach and grieve.
And so it is with abortion.
While we may analyze "trends" and look at abortion in the aggregate, each and every abortion "statistic" is a tragedy for one, lone, individual woman. She experiences the reality of her loss and, for many, haunted dreams. This is one of the animating passions of the pro-life movement: the consequences of abortion, for women themselves, cannot be swept away.
The abortion movement has worked assiduously to present a dispassionate, clinical view of abortion. It has refined a soothing narrative that emphasizes a value-neutral tale of difficult, yet necessary "choices." Dr. Warren Hern, who performs partial-birth abortions (euphemistically called late-term abortions) describes termination as an "interruption" of a pregnancy and reassures his readers that "psychological studies consistently show that women who are basically healthy can adjust to any outcome of pregnancy."
Hern and other seemingly benevolent abortion demi-gods offer a woman the opportunity to erase her "mistake" and get on with her life, as though nothing happened.
But something will have happened. As the virulently pro-abortion stand-up comic Margaret Cho said, with callous poignancy, about her own abortion, "The tenant was evacuated." And that is something a woman does not soon forget.
This is the engine of the self-destruct mechanism. The abortion movement has a new antagonist: the post-abortive woman. Along with the newly-matured "blogosphere," websites and outreach organizations have sprung up using the power and reach of the Internet to get the message to women -- from other women -- that the abortion "choice" is more than an interruption in their lives.
In tragic irony, survey data indicate that a sizeable percentage of women seeking abortions believe that they "didn't have a choice." On a Web site, Rachel's Vineyard, devoted to helping women who grieve their abortions, one woman named Patti states in sorrow that abortion is "a choiceless choice." Patti's boyfriend drove her to her appointment, and then, when she walked out in tears unable to go through with the abortion, he forced her to return a second time.
Why are abortions declining? It may just be that a post-choice message is spreading. Marguerite writes, "[M]y abortion has left me with a feeling of emptiness. ... I just keep picturing my baby." Lori writes, "My abortion has left me empty, alone and in despair." Even cynical Cho revealed in a blog that her abortion left her feeling "hollowed out and alone."
You can't sustain a movement on hollowed-out emptiness. This is the catch-22 confronting the abortion movement: As women experience abortion for themselves, the truth cannot be contained. Witness the development and growth of the Silent No More campaign of post-abortive women, determined to help others avoid the choice they regret.
Call this the "post-choice" movement. It's the wave of the 21st Century.
Dr. Crouse is senior fellow of Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute.