Report on the Pro-life Movement in North America
Janet A. Morana
Executive Director, Priests for Life
Co-Founder, Silent No More Awareness Campaign
Given at the Pontifical Council for the Family
March 26, 2010
Introduction: A Diverse Movement
The pro-life movement in North America is composed of a stunning number
and variety of groups large and small, spanning all ages, professions,
creeds, ethnic groups and political affiliations. Literally thousands of
groups are active in some aspect of fighting abortion and promoting the
Culture of Life.
One of the reasons for this wide variety is that the goal of the pro-life
movement is so basic and fundamental: the preservation of life itself.
Because life itself is prior to any other rights or traits, no matter how
diverse they may be, it stands to reason that a cause that seeks to protect
the right to life will find adherents across that wide and diverse spectrum
of human interests. In this sense, the presence of so many groups is a good
and healthy sign.
Another reason for the wide variety of groups is the nature of abortion.
It is the intersection of many trends in ethics, medicine, law, psychology,
sociology, religion, politics, and numerous other disciplines. Any one of
the many dimensions of abortion can easily demand a lifetime of research and
labor. Therefore, there need to be different groups which address different
dimensions of abortion: medical groups, religious groups, pregnancy centers,
post-abortion groups, legal groups, political groups, youth groups, media
efforts, and so forth.
Signs of Progress
There is a growing sense in North America that we are
closer to achieving our goal of winning the fight to end abortion and
restoring protection to children in the womb than most people think.
Here are some of the reasons we believe that.
Sign 1: The survivors
The surest sign of our ultimate victory is the strong
and ever-growing involvement of young people in all aspects of the fight to
end abortion. And if you ask them why they've joined our fight, they
will tell you: It could have been me! In speaking up for the unborn,
the youth of North America are also speaking up for themselves.
This is an awareness and motivation that abortion advocates can do nothing
to stop. And as a result, our pro-life movement receives a new
strength and motivation each day from these survivors.
Sign 2: The flow of conversions
Another reason for confidence is simply to look at the
flow of conversions. In which direction does it go? It goes from
pro-abortion to pro-life. There is, for example, an international
organization of former abortion providers called the Society of
Centurions. These men and women to whom I have the privilege of
ministering once served as doctors, nurses, technicians, security guards,
and other roles to operate abortion mills. Now they have repented of their
killing and become pro-life. Some of them like Dr. Bernard Nathanson ,
one of the founders of the abortion industry in the United States, and Norma
McCorvey, the Jane Roe of Roe vs. Wade have high-profile testimonies.
But most of them try to get on with more normal lives in the privacy of
their own communities.
Since when, however, have you heard of an organization
of former pregnancy resource center directors who have repented of saving
babies and are now pro-abortion? It just doesn't happen. With
the notable exception of politicians individuals notorious for abandoning
their principles in exchange for votes or praise from media elitists the
flow of conversions is in one direction ... and that is from death to life.
Sign 3: I regret my abortion
Another clear sign of progress is the wave of women and
men across the world who are speaking out about how they regret having their
child killed by abortion. The Silent No More Awareness Campaign a
joint project of Priests for Life and Anglicans for Life provides these
women and men an opportunity to share their testimonies. The campaign is
active throughout North America and in several other countries of the world.
The Campaigns goal is first of all to extend the
opportunity for healing to all who have lost a child to abortion. The
Campaign likewise aims to raise awareness of the harm abortion does to
women, and to provide, to those who are ready to do so, the opportunity to
share publicly their testimony of pain and of healing.
These testimonies are shared in Churches, on television
and radio programs, on the internet, and at public gatherings all around the
world. Others, who regret their abortion but do not feel called to speak
publicly, are nevertheless letting themselves be counted by registering
anonymously with the Campaign. This can be done online at
As Jennifer O'Neill, the campaigns National Celebrity
Spokeswoman says, Experience trumps theory. These men and women are
living testimony that abortion doesn't work. Instead of solving a
problem, abortion creates more problems of its own. Best of all, there
is nothing abortion advocates can do to stop this tidal wave. In fact,
it puts them in quite a dilemma. For decades now they have been
saying, Listen to the voices of women! Now, if they practice what they
preach, they hear those women's voices repudiate the lie of abortion.
Sign 4: Fewer doctors ... fewer mills
Over half of the United States freestanding
abortion clinics have closed since 1993 ... from over 2,000 at that time to
roughly 740 today. That's because, no matter how much money, political
strength, and media access the abortion movement has built up, they have not
succeeded in removing the indelible stigma that is attached to abortion.
In fact, the abortion industry's greatest fear is not that Roe v. Wade will
be reversed. Rather, it is that abortion will remain legal but there
wont be any doctors to do it. About 86% of counties in the US do not
currently have an abortionist. Fewer and fewer doctors even if they
consider themselves pro-choice want to perform the procedure. They
consider abortionists to be the losers of the medical profession, and they
are right. Abortionist Herbert Hodes summed it up in Glamour magazine in
September of 1991 when he said: That's how the anti's are going to
win. They are going to win by attrition, because fewer and fewer
doctors will perform abortions.
One of the most encouraging facts about the pro-life effort in North
America is that as the abortion mills close, the pregnancy resource centers
continue to open, and they number over 2300. The centers used to be
called crisis pregnancy centers and were often advertised with the promise
of free pregnancy tests. Now, the more common term is pregnancy resource
centers (PRCs), and the range of services provided goes far beyond pregnancy
testing, and includes the services of fully licensed medical clinics.
Moreover, these centers do not just operate on their own with the support
of their local communities. Rather, there are large well-organized networks
of pregnancy centers, such as Heartbeat International, Care Net, and the
National Institute of Family and Life Advocates. Under these umbrellas, the
centers are united by a commitment to professional standards of care, expert
training programs, and joint efforts to make sure everyone knows exactly
where to turn for alternatives to abortion. Heartbeat and Care Net operate
the Option Line, a national telephone hotline by which the caller is
connected with the center closest to where he/she lives.
Every day in the United States pregnancy resource centers assist an
average of 5,500 Americans, and 29 of every 30 people engaged in pregnancy
center work are volunteers.
Aside from the pregnancy centers, more and more
Churches are operation the Gabriel Project. This is an effort to fully
activate Churches of all denominations to announce to the community that
alternatives to abortion are available through the local congregation, and
to train members of the congregation to assist those who need alternatives
Sign 5: Legal evidence mounts
In US Constitutional history, the rights of groups that
have been oppressed such as African Americans, children, women, and workers
have eventually been vindicated. As Courts heard more evidence of the
harm that was done to these groups, they reversed prior Court decisions.
From slavery to workers rights to segregation to child labor laws,
eventually the Courts get it right. Now it is time for the embryonic
moment ... the recognition that the rights of the Constitution apply to the
unborn child. In various cases, the evidence of the unborn child's
humanity, as well as of the harm abortion does to women, is being introduced
in court. In fact, a federal court has upheld a recently passed law in
the state of South Dakota that requires an abortionists to tell his patient
that the abortion will destroy a whole, separate, unique, living human
being. The abortionist has to use those exact words!
Moreover, a current phenomenon in many states is to
introduce personhood amendments to the state constitutions, affirming the
personhood of the unborn child from the moment of conception. The
expectation is that these will be challenged in court and that this will
provide the opportunity to make the case for the child's humanity.
Even in the absence of these judicial and legislative
victories, the fact remains that the unassailable scientific evidence of the
humanity of the unborn that is introduced into the court record becomes
material that future cases can invoke.
Abortion advocates want abortion to have the privileged
status accorded by Courts to freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Abortion advocates insist that courts use very strict standards for
constitutional review of any legislative efforts to respect unborn human
life, and that if a law regulating abortion might be unconstitutional even
in a rare and hypothetical circumstance, the whole law should be thrown out.
In 2007, the US Supreme Court rejected this approach in its Gonzales
decision. The Court sent the message that it will not strike down
abortion regulations simply because they are abortion regulations. Nor can
the courts strike down abortion laws based merely on abortion proponents
speculative claims. The Court reaffirmed that states have legitimate
interests in protecting fetal life and the health of women.
Sign 6: Abortion research
Another motive for confidence is the growing mountain
of medical, psychological, and sociological evidence that abortion harms
women, men, and families. Websites like www.AfterAbortion.org provide
an excellent starting point for surveying this growing mountain of evidence.
Most telling of all is the fact that even those researchers who identify
themselves as pro-choice are coming to this conclusion ... and publishing
their research despite the objections and criticism of the abortion
industry. This growing body of evidence is one of the ways that
abortion will eventually destroy itself. The more abortion continues,
the more it reveals itself as an enemy of the human family.
Sign 7: No more arguments
Another sign of victory is that the other side has run
out of arguments. In the years leading up to the legalization of
abortion, its advocates assured everyone that legalized abortion would
reduce child abuse, strengthen family life, and improve society. But
all the evidence shows that after three decades of legal abortion, all these
problems have gotten worse. Moreover, all the arguments from medicine,
science, psychology, sociology, law, ethics, and religion support the
pro-life view. Finally, supporters used to call abortion a decision
between a woman and her doctor. Now they say its a decision between a
woman and her God. When abortion supporters run out of
arguments, they appeal to God in order to end debate. We in the
pro-life movement also appeal to God ... not as the substitute for other
arguments, however, but rather as their foundation.
Sign 8: Even in politics&
We even see evidence of pro-life progress in the
political arena. Voters for whom abortion matters in their decision
-- over a third of the voting population -- vote in favor of pro-life
candidates by a two to one margin. This pattern proved true even in
the 2008 elections in the United States. Post-election polling showed 34% of
the electorate took abortion into consideration in their voting decision.
Only 9% of those 34% voted pro-abortion, while the other 25% voted pro-life.
Each election cycle, pro-life political action
committees succeed in electing most of the candidates they endorse. In the
elections of 2006, for example, the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List won 17 of
the 29 races it backed, for a success rate of 59%, whereas the pro-abortion
Emily's List won only 13 of the 30 races it backed, for a 43% success rate.
In those races where Emily's list candidates faces off against candidates
supported by the National Right to Life (NRLC) Political Action Committee,
the NRLC PAC won 14 out of the 18 races! Moreover, the NRLC PAC had an
overall success rate of 53%.
Voters behavior on the abortion issue continues to be
an advantage to our pro-life side as surveys show that the intensity of
motivation for the pro-life side is stronger. Opinion polls also show
that newer, younger voters are more pro-life and want to see abortion
eliminated or more highly restricted.
Sign 9: Legislation galore
As for public policy, Canada has literally no law on
abortion at the present time, and therefore it continues unabated. In the
United States, the central holding of the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe
vs. Wade is still in place, allowing abortion at any time of pregnancy
and for any reason. Since 1973, however, the courts have recognized the
rights of the states to place certain regulations in place. For example,
parental involvement laws in place in many states require parents to either
be informed of or consent to the abortion of a minor-aged daughter before it
can be performed. Informed consent laws require that the woman seeking
abortion be given accurate information about the development of the child,
the alternatives to abortion, the risks of the procedure, and other facts.
Clinic regulation laws apply to abortion facilities the usually absent,
basic standards of medical practice, such as the requirement that there be
emergency medical equipment on hand. Fetal homicide laws recognize that when
the unborn child is killed by an act other than abortion, that is a
punishable offense. This leads to the cognitive dissonance of a situation in
which a woman can be in a car on her way to have her child killed by
abortion, and if the car is struck by a drunk driver and the child dies as a
result, the drunk driver can be charged with the death of that very same
child she was going to have legally killed! Born alive laws provide
protection for children born after a failed abortion attempt. Bans on
partial-birth abortion prevent the birth process from being used as an
instrument of killing. And most recently, ultrasound laws require
abortionists in some states to provide the patient with an opportunity to
see her unborn child by ultrasound.
On the federal level, for the first time, the
United States banned an abortion procedure, namely, partial-birth abortion.
The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act protects the unborn from being killed
after a failed abortion. The Unborn Victims of Violence Act protects
the unborn from acts of violence other than abortion.
Sign 10: Corruption uncovered
A key reason we are winning is that abortion destroys
itself. The evil inner workings of abortion are being exposed for all
to see ... and as more and more crimes become visible, the abortion movement
loses supporters. These crimes include medical malpractice, sexual
abuse, injury and death that routinely occur in so-called safe and legal
abortion clinics, doctors not sterilizing instruments, anesthesiologists who
have no training in anesthesia, abortions committed on women who were not
pregnant, falsifying medical records, and much more. What's more, the
abortion industry creates a safe haven for sexual predators. Details
are available at www.ChildPredator.com. Beyond the abuse of the
patients, abortion clinics are rampant with violations of employment laws
meant to protect workers and the work environment. A long list of
details can be seen at www.ClinicWorker.com. What all this means is
that the abortion industry is highly vulnerable to negative public opinion
and to legal action having nothing to do directly with the legality of
abortions. Clinics can be closed and are closing and abortionists
being jailed for reasons having nothing to do with what people think about
abortion ... but rather for reasons related to malpractice, abuse, and other
The Strategic Thinking of the Movement
Along with these signs of progress, lets consider for a
moment what the pro-life movement in North America sees as its strategic
plan going forward.
Much of the public has been convinced of both sides of
the abortion argument at the same time. To quote pro-life strategist Michael
opinion on abortion has been stable for the past generation: about 15 to 20
percent are firmly and consistently prolife; about 15 to 20 percent are
firmly and consistently proabortion; and about 60 to 70 percent are
conflicted, by definition, believe that abortion is a bad thing. (Most of
them even agree that abortion is the equivalent of murder.) But they also
believe abortion must remain legal (at least in general) because they fear
the consequences of ending legal abortion.
conflicted tend to think the problem is to balance the good of the unborn
child against the good of the mother. They know abortion is bad for the
babies, but they think it is somehow good for the mothers. They consider it
prowoman to support legal abortion.
Therefore, pro-life groups engage in the multifaceted
task of making it clear that abortion is never truly necessary, showing that
abortion is worse than the alternatives, and providing the kind of service
that demonstrates that the needs of the mother and the child can be served
together and in fact reinforce each other.
One of the strategies that accomplishes this is an
educational, legislative, and legal approach that reveals that the real
conflict is not between mother and child, but rather between the family on
one side and the abortion industry on the other. For example, legislation
and education about a woman's right to know about the development of her
child and the alternatives to abortion, or litigation assisting women to
recover damages when harmed by malpractice in abortion clinics, helps to
achieve this goal and place us on the side of women and against the abortion
industry. This helps move public opinion in the right direction.
St. Paul gives us a game plan in Ephesians 5:11 when he
says, Have no part in the fruitless works of darkness, but rather, expose
them. A key reason abortion continues is that it is hidden. When we expose
it to the light of day, the conscience which the vast majority of people
still have will be quick and certain in its rejection of this evil.
Pro-life groups in the US and Canada are exposing
abortion and its destructive effects in a number of ways:
One of the most successful efforts is to simply show
the public what an abortion looks like. Imagery of aborted babies on the
internet, on signs in public demonstrations, on displays on college
campuses, and even on the sides of large trucks or pulled by tow-banner
airplanes are changing peoples minds in great numbers and with great speed.
The damage done to both mother and father is revealed
through the testimonies, of which we have already spoken, and also through
undercover investigations of the abortion industry and appropriate
litigation that reveals the rampant malpractice going on. Abortion is the
largest unregulated surgical industry in North America.
The damage abortion does to the entire family is being
revealed through the research of psychologists and psychiatrists. For
instance, Dr. Phillip Ney, a Canadian psychiatrist who has done massive
research into the impact of abortion, holds that there is nothing more
damaging to the family than abortion. He points out that an abortion
distorts the mothers ability and indeed the ability of the human species to
respond properly to the helpless cry of its own young. Having met that
helpless cry with the violence of abortion, we are less able to respond to
that cry the next time, not only in regard to the unborn child, but to other
members of the human family.
The damage abortion does to the wider society is
illustrated dramatically by the case of Terri Schiavo, a disabled Florida
resident who was neither dying nor terminally ill, but was murdered in 2005
by being deprived of food and water.
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for
Life, was present at her bedside during her final hours, and tells the
moving story of how, inches from Terri's parched lips, was a vase of
flowers, filled with water.
This case activated a lot of people to get involved in
the pro-life movement. Because of her death, the slippery slope argument no
longer has to be made. Now it is simply a matter of empirical evidence.
Terri would not have been killed had 42 million unborn children not been
killed first, and her death reminds us that we cannot take protection away
from the unborn and keep it for ourselves.
The impact of abortion on the economy, on national
security, and on our ability to credibly advance other causes of social
justice is also the object of study and commentary within the pro-life
Overall, one can summarize the situation by saying that
abortion continues because of a) supply: the people and facilities
actually carrying out the procedure, b) demand: the people going to
those facilities each day for abortions, and c) license: the fact
that this activity is legally permitted and protected.
We have found, for reasons indicated above, that the
weakest link is that of supply, because abortion has not lost its stigma
within the medical profession and the general public. This leads to fewer
abortion mills, abortionists, and abortions.
The two preconditions to ultimate prolife political
victory are that 1) the number of abortions must be greatly reduced; and 2)
the conflicts of the confused must be resolved in favor of life. Legal
protection of the unborn and vulnerable can be attained only when there is a
firm and very broad consensus in favor of the right to life, and that can
happen only when abortion is relatively rare. That's what the strategies and
dynamics outlined above are accomplishing.
There are a few other dynamics worth noting in the
pro-life situation in North America.
Grassroots pro-life volunteers remain largely
disappointed with what is seen as a lack of courage and activism on the part
of the institutional church (of every denomination). They agree that the
heavy lifting of the pro-life movement is being done by independent
organizations rather than by the official structures of the Church. A large
part of this problem is that the institutional Church is given
overly-restrictive legal advice by its attorneys; a related problem is that
there are many practical alliances between Church leaders and pro-abortion
political parties. A third source of this problem is that those entrusted
with pro-life work in the institutional Church structure often isolate
themselves from the wider pro-life movement and are, to that extent, out of
touch with many of the strategies and tactics that work, such as the use of
graphic images of aborted babies.
After summarizing the work he and his colleagues did to
launch the abortion industry, Dr. Bernard Nathanson has said to the clergy,
"We would never have gotten away with what we did if you had been
united, purposeful, and strong." The pro-abortion forces still know that the
biggest obstacle in their way is the Church of Jesus Christ. Only the Church
has the Divine guarantee that it will conquer the Culture of Death.
Given its vast system of communication, and the fact
that those attending church regularly are statistically the most likely to
be pro-life and therefore to do something about it, on a natural level alone
it is evident that all that the pro-life movement wants to do will benefit,
and in fact stands in need of, the resources that can be generated from the
members of the Church. Combining this with the supernatural gifts of truth
and grace which belong to the Church, it is clear that the full activation
of the Church is a critical step for ending abortion. This does not
primarily mean creating new structures. It simply means infusing the
existing structure with greater vigor and effectiveness.
Both in the United States and Canada, an effective
response to that need has been the association Priests for Life. By working
within the structures of the Church to strengthen the Church's response to
abortion and euthanasia, Priests for Life has activated both the clergy and
those who want to support them. This association has articulated not only a
pro-life strategy, but a pro-life spirituality, in which
people can make public profession of promises as Missionaries of the Gospel
of Life. By living this spirituality, the faithful are helped to keep their
pro-life activism rooted in their faith, and to allow their faith to lead
them to pro-life activism.
On another note, pro-life activists today tend to be
more opposed to the death penalty than a decade ago. At the same time, they
rightly understand the difference between the death penalty (which has
theoretical justification in some circumstances) and abortion (which never
has any justification). The growing No of the pro-life movement to the death
penalty is based in part on the awareness that it is harder to convince
society not to solve problems by throwing away children when it is trying to
solve problems by throwing away prisoners. Of course, the converse is also
Speaking of connection between different issues,
pro-life people of all denominations are also more aware of the link between
abortion and contraception, and this link is being mentioned in more
documentation, such as the US Bishops Pastoral Plan for Pro-life Activities.
Pro-lifers who see this link, however, are not always precise regarding the
nature of the link. John Paul II described it as a relationship of fruits of
the same tree. In other words, its not that abortion comes from
contraception, but that they both come from the same tree (consisting of a
perversion of freedom, relativism, a loss of the sense of God, and other
problems). He also pointed out that the evils of abortion and contraception
are distinctly different in nature and degree (except, of course, when the
contraceptive actually causes an early abortion).
One of the dynamics currently in the pro-life movement in North America
is a growing sense of unity and collaboration among the groups. Infighting
among the groups was much more common, and collaboration more difficult, 25
years ago. While there have always been efforts to assist groups to
strategize and work together many of those efforts having been led by
representatives of the Church -- there has been an increase in such
activity, and with greater fruit, in recent years. Last month, in fact, as
part of the preparation for today's meeting, Priests for Life convened a
national summit of pro-life leaders in the United States. In that Summit
there was a remarkable consensus among the leaders about what some of the
next steps should be for the movement steps that all the groups can assist
Among those steps are an emphasis on involving more African Americans in
the effort to end abortion. Dr Alveda King is the niece of Martin Luther
King, Jr. ,and works full time against abortion as part of the Priests for
Life pastoral team. She and many other African-American leaders are helping
their community to realize that it shares disproportionately in the numbers
of abortions in North America, and that the work of Planned Parenthood is a
continuation of the eugenics movement. All the pro-life groups want to help
in this effort in some way.
Furthermore, the leaders are united in their consensus that the voice of
the experiences of women and men who have lost children to abortion must be
given a greater platform.
Finally, the leaders agree that all the activities legally opened to them
to mobilize the People of God in their political responsibilities to build
the culture of life in the voting booth should be a matter of priority.
Above all else, the most important update on the
pro-life movement is that we are winning the battle because we have
already won! There is one among us who holds the keys of death
and of hell. Jesus Christ is Risen from the dead!
Although thought to be overwhelmed by the agents of death ... He trampled
death by His death. As a result, death has been robbed of its power.
Therefore, our pro-life movement does not simply work for victory ...
we work from victory!
Victory is our starting point. We joyfully
proclaim to the world that Christ is Risen, We do not cower
before the culture of death and wonder how we will ever
overcome it. Rather, we stand before it with victorious confidence and
Begone! You have no room here! No place
No further authority to menace the human family.
Your Kingdom has been conquered and Christ reigns