The Most Pro-life President Ever Was…

George Herbert Walker Bush??

The greatest White House ally the pro-life movement ever had.

No, the competition isn’t especially strong, but a good case can be made that George H. W. Bush is in fact the most pro-life president we’ve ever had.

This is especially topical now that Romney has essentially wrapped up the Republican nomination. Romney is not especially trusted by conservatives, or by the pro-life movement. In his 1994 and 2002 political campaigns, he repeated again and again that he was emphatically pro-choice. His sudden conversion to the pro-life side around 2006 appears to be nothing more than the crassest sort of political opportunism.

The political life of George H. W. Bush followed a similar trajectory. He was one of the principal masterminds behind the Family Planning Act of 1970, and when he ran for president a decade later, he disclaimed any desire to see Roe v. Wade overturned. After becoming Reagan’s vice president though, Bush quietly switched to the pro-life position. In the 1988 Republican primaries, he managed to weather attacks from Jack Kemp and Bob Dole, whose pro-life bona fides were beyond question.

Two decades later, I still doubt that Bush ever had any truly deep philosophical opposition to legal abortion. And yet, I would say he compares favorably to any other president who has served since Roe v. Wade. The only real competition comes from Reagan and Bush Jr.

The Souter Pick

If it weren’t for one inexcusable and tragic lapse in judgment, the competition wouldn’t even be close. Nevertheless, the fact remains that Bush was responsible for putting David Souter on the Supreme Court – a terrible decision which had repercussions far beyond the narrow issue of abortion. Given the frequency of 5-4 splits on the Supreme Court these days, a good case can be made that the Souter pick was the single greatest misfortune to befall American conservatives in at least the past half century.

But what makes the Souter pick most tragic of all was its striking improbability. When you look at the list of those considered for Supreme Court slots during the Bush administration, Souter truly was the single turd amongst a collection of  diamonds. Clarence Thomas, in my opinion the greatest Justice of all time, was of course given the nod one year after Souter. Other candidates included Edith Jones, Laurence Silberman, Emilio Garza, and Kenneth Starr. Not even Reagan (who appointed O’Connor and Kennedy) or Bush Jr. (who wanted to appoint Harriet Miers and Alberto Gonzales) can compare in terms of overall quality of the pool of candidates.

Judge Edith Jones

In 2004, the aforementioned Edith Jones wrote a scathing critique of Roe. “The perverse result of the Court’s having determined through Constitutional adjudication this fundamental social policy, which affects over a million women and unborn babies each year, is that the facts no longer matter. This is a peculiar outcome for a Court so committed to “life” that it struggles with the particular facts of dozens of death penalty cases each year.” Fourteen years earlier, on the morning of July 23, 1990, Bush had narrowed his choice to Jones and Souter. In what he would characterize as a “very close call,” he chose Souter.

But what if God had been kinder, and this “close” choice had gone the other way? History would record that Bush replaced liberal giants Brennan and Marshall with conservative giants Jones and Thomas. It would have been an accomplishment for the ages, and it truly did  come agonizingly close to actually happening. Bush, I believe, deserves our sympathy rather than our condemnations. Even the greatest of statesmen can make one sadly crucial mistake.

The Rape and Incest Vetoes

Since the start of the Clinton administration, federal funding of abortion has generally been prohibited except when the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother, or resulted from rape or incest. Before then, rape and incest related abortions were denied federal funding as well. During the Reagan years, this reflected the will of Congress. Reagan did nothing except sign the bills into law.

But then in 1989, in the aftermath of the Webster ruling, Congress abruptly lurched in the pro-choice direction. Rape and incest were added to the mother’s life as allowable funding exceptions in the bills passed by Congress. Time after time, throughout all four years of his presidency, Bush vetoed these bills, and asked Congress to drop those exceptions. Time after time, Congress fell just short of being able to override these vetoes, and caved to Bush’s demands.

Even in the best of times, quibbling over abortions for rape and incest victims is pretty much political suicide. But to do so from 1989 to 1992, an era when many longtime pro-life stalwarts were abandoning ship, was truly a remarkable act of courage. That Bush never backed down in the face of overwhelming opposition is almost a miracle.

He talked a good talk, but didn't actually do much for the pro-life cause as president

Reagan and Bush Jr. make for interesting contrasts. Legislation to ban abortion during Reagan’s first term never got off the ground, in large part because Reagan gave it only the most tepid, halfhearted support imaginable. He was unwilling to go to bat for it. During his second term, Republicans in Congress did not even attempt to advance any major pro-life initiatives. George W. Bush, to his credit, got the partial-birth abortion ban into law, and twice vetoed attempts to fund embryonic stem cell research, but unlike his father he freely signed into law funding bills with rape and incest exceptions.


Would Mitt Romney be anything like George Bush as president? There’s no way to know for sure. On the one hand, we can pretty much rule out the possibility of him re-opening the war over rape and incest funding exceptions. On the other hand, the likelihood of him appointing another David Souter to the Supreme Court seems minimal – Supreme Court vacancies have become a much bigger deal than they were in 1990. My point is that there likely would not be much difference between a Romney presidency and a Santorum presidency. Certainly Romney is not ideal, but if the Bush presidency is any indication, even the most reluctant of pro-life converts can still do a lot.


What if Roe v. Wade were Overturned?

Which side would win in a democratic debate if Roe v. Wade got overturned?

As we recognize the 39th anniversary of the most controversial decision in Supreme Court history, there is one crucial question we cannot afford to leave unanswered: Just what would happen if Roe v. Wade actually did get overturned?

According to this rather demagogic ad from the 2008 presidential election, overturning Roe would result in women being sent to prison en masse. The creators of the ad are either shameless deceivers, or painfully ignorant. Right up until 1973, women never faced criminal penalties for obtaining illegal abortions – only the doctors did. And even today in the pro-life movement, those who desire to give abortive mothers jail time remain a fringe within a fringe. For a far more accurate idea of what America would be like if Roe were to be overturned, set your time machine to 1989, and then watch how debate on the issue played out over the subsequent three years.

At the beginning of the Supreme Court’s 1988-1989 term, Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe, predicted that his most famous ruling would be overturned during the term. “You can count the votes,” he told a law school audience. Indeed they could: the two original dissenters (Rehnquist and White) were still on the Court, and the three Reagan appointees (O’Connor, Scalia, and Kennedy) made five. Not only that, but shortly thereafter the Court agreed to decide an abortion related case out of Missouri called Webster v. Reproductive Health Services.

The Webster ruling, handed down on July 3, 1989, was very complex. Basically, four Justices appeared to take the position that Roe should be overruled, four Justices angrily huffed that Roe should be left alone, and O’Connor, alone in the middle, provided the fifth vote to uphold Missouri’s pro-life law, but asserted that the Court should not re-examine Roe at the present time. Without delving too much into to boring details, the most widely accepted interpretation of the fragmented Webster ruling was that it represented an invitation to pro-life states. Go ahead, the Court seemed to be saying, pass the biggest, baddest, most restrictive abortion law imaginable – even one outright outlawing the practice – there’s a great chance that you’ll be vindicated here at the Supreme Court.

In 1990 and 1991, pro-choice stalwarts William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall retired from the Supreme Court, ostensibly allowing President Bush to augment the anti-Roe wing of the Court even further. When the Court agreed to consider Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, the uncontested consensus was that Roe was finished. Except, as it turned out, it wasn’t. To the bewilderment of court watchers, O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter teamed up to save Roe. Four months later Bill Clinton was elected President, and within the year he had replaced Justice White with the pro-Roe Justice Ginsburg, securing Roe‘s safety for the foreseeable future.

But what about that three year period between Webster and Casey when it looked like Roe was doomed? What was the political discourse on abortion like then? Pro-lifers won’t like the answer, but history is history. When Webster was handed down, pro-choice became chic and pro-life became toxic overnight. A steady stream of previous pro-life politicians began announcing that they had changed their mind, and now supported a woman’s right to choose. Major elections actually turned on the issue. The Freedom of Choice act gained amazing momentum in Congress and came close to passing. Let’s take a more detailed year-by-year look at the “highlights” of the era.

1989: Governor Bob Martinez of Florida called for a special session of the legislature immediate after Webster was decided. He was roundly thrashed within the state for this move, and in the special session, not a single bill even made it out of committee. Only Pennsylvania passed any sort of pro-life bill, and it only introduced a few extra hoops to jump through rather than actually banning any abortions. In the New Jersey gubernatorial race, Republican Jim Courter abruptly switched to the pro-choice side, and still lost decisively. Meanwhile in Virginia, Marshall Coleman stuck with his pro-life stance, and managed to do what had been thought completely unthinkable in the late 80s: lose to a black Democrat in the south.

1990: Early on, the territory of Guam outlawed abortion except to save the life of the mother, but it was downhill from there. Among the states, only Utah, Idaho, and Louisiana seriously consider bans. Utah ended up postponing further debate until 1991. In Louisiana, Governor Buddy Roemer (yes, the fringe 2012 candidate for President) vetoed a bill without a rape and incest exception, and then vetoed the bill again when one was added. Idaho passed a bill allowing rape and incest exceptions. Democratic Governor Cecil Andrus vetoed the bill, and in the elections for state legislature in November, pro-choice candidates won majorities in both houses. Both Roemer and Andrus had previously considered themselves pro-life. Many other states considered more incremental legislation, although this too frequently got bogged down.

1991: In South Dakota, a ban passed by the House failed by one vote in the Senate. In Wyoming, a ban didn’t make it out of committee. In Alabama, the Senate just ignored a ban passed by the House. The North Dakota legislature passed a ban, but it was vetoed by Democratic Governor George Sinner. Utah actually did get a ban put into law, but it contained a rape an incest exception. Mormon doctrine allows abortions for rape and incest, but Roman Catholic and Southern Baptist doctrine does not, and accordingly, debate over those exceptions raged in the Louisiana legislature. Finally, the ‘purists’ were defeated, and a bill containing the rape and incest exceptions was passed – over yet another Buddy Roemer veto.

1992: Serious legislative attempts to overturn Roe dried up. Only Guam, Utah, and Louisiana have passed bans, and only Guam’s lacks a rape and incest exception. In the November elections, following the Casey decision, pro-choice candidates for President took 62% of the popular vote. With the help of EMILY’s List, 27 new women were sent to the United States Congress. All 27 of them, even the Republicans, were pro-choice.

In the 1994 elections, after the threat to Roe had abated, the pro-life movement came back in a big way. To this day, the movement remains on the offensive, much as it was from 1973 to 1989. But as the reader will see, during the one time it really mattered – from 1989 to 1992 – it was the pro-choice side which was on the offensive. Conclusion: it’s politically easy to be pro-life when there’s no chance that you’ll have to deliver on your right-to-life rhetoric, but hard when banning abortion is a realistic possibility. Some liberals, like this guy here, even want to see Roe overturned because they quite reasonably assume that it will benefit them politically in the long run.

And there is the conundrum for us in the pro-life movement. We can observe that pro-life sentiment is (arguably) on the increase, but you can bet that this sentiment would drop like a stone were Roe to be seriously jeopardized again, as it could well be if Obama loses this year. Abortion is not a question of changing laws vs. changing hearts. Both must be done. In order for laws to actually be changed in the wake of Roe‘s demise, hearts will need to be changed first. It would be the saddest thing in the world for Roe to be overturned, only for the pro-life movement to finally realize that all along, a democratic majority of Americans really did support a woman’s right to choose.

Spotty SCOTUS Scouting

In 1992, five Supreme Court Justices stared more than 20 million executions directly in the eye, and unblinkingly declared that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”

With those fulsome words, Roe v. Wade survived for another day. As I have previously written, even had Roe been overturned, the battle for the right to life would have been far from over. Roe is not, contrary to pro-choice propaganda, the be all and end all. The failure of Initiative 26 in Mississippi is quite tangible proof of this. But overturning Roe is a critically important first step, and the fact that the 1973 decision is still on the books is one of the pro-life movement’s greatest failures of the last forty years.

Who were those five Justices who saved Roe in 1992, and how did they make it to the Supreme Court? Were they liberal Democratic appointees, rammed through the Senate in a series of close votes? No, they were not. The chilling truth is that every last one was a Republican appointee. Four out of the five were appointed by presidents who publicly called for Roe to be overruled. Four out of the five were also confirmed in unanimous Senate votes. The lone exception, David Souter, had nine votes cast against his confirmation, but all were by pro-choice Democrats.

The case of Justice Blackmun is excusable. At the time of his nomination in 1970, abortion was just starting to become a judicial issue. Neither president Nixon, Senate Republicans, nor the nascent pro-life movement could have possibly foreseen how disastrous the appointment would turn out to be. But the pro-life movement’s apathy during later nominations is far less defensible.

The nomination of John Paul Stevens in 1975 represented the end of an era. It was the last nomination to largely escape the scrutiny of special interest groups. The confirmation hearing were short and perfunctory, and abortion was barely mentioned. It seems ridiculous now, but at the time passing a human life amendment looked easier to pro-lifers than getting an anti-Roe majority on the Court. Remember, Roe was a 7-2 ruling, and none of the 6 remaining pro-Roe Justices appeared likely to retire any time soon. But a bit of long-term thinking would have done a lot of good. In fact, it might not have even been all that long. Had Ford nominated a solid pro-lifer in 1975, and had Reagan nominated a solid pro-lifer in 1981, Roe may well have been overturned as soon as 1983, with Burger as the fifth vote due to lobbying from the two new pro-life Justices.

The confirmation of Sandra Day O’Connor in 1981 is perhaps the most tragic one of all, because it was the only time the pro-life movement even tried. O’Connor was a total cipher, but by sheer luck, she happened to go to the same church as Dr. Carolyn Gerster, a former president of the NRLC. Gerster knew all about O’Connor’s pro-choice votes as a member of the Arizona legislature, and made sure that Republican Senators knew about them. During confirmation hearings, Senators East of North Carolina, and Denton of Alabama grilled O’Connor about Roe, essentially giving her a choice of pledging to overrule it, or losing their vote.

Ronald Reagan, instead of reconsidering his nomination, reacted defensively, and his administration badgered several wavering Republicans into supporting O’Connor. Denton was the final holdout. Told he would look like a fool if he cast the only ‘no’ vote, Denton gave in against his better judgment. And thus with a whimper ended the first and only occasion when the pro-life movement has ever seriously opposed a Republican nomination.

The pro-choice lobby gave Scalia a free pass in 1986, but one year later, they showed how the politics of judicial selection are supposed to work during the confirmation hearings of Robert Bork. There was Ted Kennedy, less than an hour after Bork’s selection, grousing that his “America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions.” Then, there were many months of Ivy League academics testifying that Bork’s criticism of Griswold v. Connecticut demonstrated extremist tendencies.

After Bork went down in flames, Anthony Kennedy flew through with no discernible opposition from either party. Although the Bork nomination is often considered a low point in American political history, I happen to think the pro-choice interests groups had the right idea. With Supreme Court spots coming open so rarely, the ends justify the means, especially if it’s the difference between a Bork and a Kennedy. The pro-life movement should have fought Stevens, O’Connor, and Kennedy as strongly as the liberals fought Bork. Instead, Senators like Jesse Helms, Orrin Hatch, and Strom Thurmond voted for all of them.

The most pitiful performance of all came in 1990, when the first George Bush nominated David Souter. As a hospital trustee, he had voted to allow the performance of abortions back in 1973. Pro-life groups should have taken notice, but instead, it was pro-choice groups that lined up against his nomination. A poster commonly seen around DC that summer read “Stop Souter or women will die!” Never before or since have liberals so strongly opposed such a liberal nominee.

The abortion lobby flexed its muscle again in 1991, falling just short in its “high-tech lynching” of Clarence Thomas. But even with this rare pro-life victory, it was too little too late, and eight months later, Blackmun, Stevens, O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter were the five votes to reaffirm Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. At last, the fruit of pro-choice tenacity and pro-life docility in judicial nominations were on full display for all to see. But somehow, the message still failed to sink in.

When the anti-Roe Byron White was replaced by the pro-Roe Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 1993, only three Republicans voted against her. One year later, Stephen Breyer attracted nine ‘no’ votes, but most were based on his shady financial dealings rather than his support for a Constitutional right to abortion. For the vast majority of “pro-life” Senators in Congress, abortion was still apparently a negotiable issue when it came to confirming Supreme Court Justices.

As this fantastic and well-researched article on Live Action’s blog meticulously demonstrates, even John Roberts and Samuel Alito aren’t definite anti-Roe votes. Thus, even to this day, pro-life Senators remain content to let a nominee slide through, with no quality control whatsoever, as long as they were picked by a Republican president. In less than two years, Roe is turning 40 years old. Any strategy that fails for nearly 40 years, in my estimation, ought to be ditched. It is time, after decades of timidity during Supreme Court nomination, for pro-lifers to go on the offensive, just as liberals did against Bork and Thomas. After all, with Roe still on the books, it’s not like we have anything to lose.

Byron White: the Patron Saint of Neutrality.

Justice Byron White

If you’ve been around the pro-life movement for a fair amount of time, you’ve probably heard Roe v. Wade described as a “an exercise of raw judicial power.” You might even know that this quote comes from Byron White’s incisive dissent in Roe. But very little is known about the man himself, and that’s a shame, because Justice White was one of the most amazing men ever to sit on the Supreme Court.

After a stellar career as a superstar running back with the Pittsburgh Steelers, he went into law (how many NFL players can you say that about?), and eventually was offered a spot on the Supreme Court by President Kennedy in 1962. He retired in 1993 after 31 years of service, and died in 2002.

Today, White is primarily remembered for two opinions: his majority opinion in Bowers v. Hardwick, and his dissenting opinion in Roe v. Wade. Because of this, leftists often pigeonhole him as some sort of doctrinaire conservative – a Democratic president’s mistake just as Justice Souter was a Republican president’s mistake. In reality, Byron White was always a man in the middle, and could not be easily classified as either a conservative or liberal.

His time on the bench was dedicated to a near-total pursuit of neutrality and objectivity. Unlike Liberals like Warren or Brennan, or conservatives like Rehnquist or Scalia, White never had an overarching theory of how to decide cases like Originalism, or the “Living Constitution.” Unlike other Justices, who are addicted to sonorous phrases, and pompous displays of Constitutional moralizing, White never saw the Court as some grand tribune of American values. His philosophy was simple, direct, and unmistakable: the Court was there to decide cases and controversies, and to decide them correctly, in accordance with law and precedent.

In line with this, very few of his opinions are particularly memorable. He made a point of writing fast, rather than laboriously crafting opinions with an eye toward being anthologized in a textbook. Modest to a fault, but self-confident enough to completely ignores his loud critics in Ivy League academia, he was uniquely able to avoid the flattery that that often swayed other moderates like Powell, O’Connor, and Kennedy.

Like most Justices on the Court in 1973, White is reported to have favored the legalization of abortion. What separated him from his brethren was his unwillingness to read this policy preference into the Constitution. As I mentioned earlier, White was no Originalist, and was willing to let rights be added to the Constitution in limited circumstances. For example, in Griswold v. Connecticut, he agreed that married couples have a right to use contraception, even though such a right is nowhere to be found in the Bill of Rights. By 1965 however, Connecticut was the only state left that criminalized marital contraceptive use. In Justice White’s eyes, the American people had overwhelmingly come to a consensus that marital contraceptive use was a fundamental choice, and even if they never took the formal step of enshrining this consensus into the text of the Constitution, the consensus was still there.

Roe was a different story entirely. In more than half of the states, abortion was still illegal for any reason except to save the mother’s life, and there was anything but a national consensus over the question. In the absence of a consensus, the Court had absolutely no business declaring anything a new right. White’s approach might be termed, to coin a term, the “Lived Constitution” method. When Americans collectively, but informally, recognized a right, White had no problem ratifying it with a judicial decision. But the Court could never act as a vanguard, and go about declaring rights before the population was ready for them. As he said in his Roe dissent,

The Court apparently values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life that she carries. Whether or not I might agree with that marshaling of values, I can in no event join the Court’s judgment because I find no constitutional warrant for imposing such an order of priorities on the people and legislatures of the States. In a sensitive area such as this, involving as it does issues over which reasonable men may easily and heatedly differ, I cannot accept the Court’s exercise of its clear power of choice by interposing a constitutional barrier to state efforts to protect human life

Usually, when White was on the losing end of a decision, he accepted the outcome, and moved on. But Byron White never reconciled himself to Roe. Indeed, he saw it as the most fundamentally illegitimate decision of his entire 31 year career on the Court. And really, who can argue with him? The Court makes all kinds of controversial decisions which polarize the public, but usually the initial wave of outrage is forgotten after a few years (anyone remember Kelo v. New London?). Roe is completely unique in how long well-organized opposition to the decision has lasted.

It goes without saying that the Supreme Court is poorer without Byron White’s presence. I would trade him in a second for any of the partisan hacks appointed by Clinton and Obama. And, although I might have to think about it for two seconds instead of one, I’d certainly trade him for Anthony Kennedy, who in so many ways is White’s complete opposite in terms of judicial temperament. It certainly isn’t hard to figure out which one would be more likely to vote based on emotions rather than the law. I don’t mean to suggest that he was perfect; White certainly had his flaws, and did join the liberal wing of the Court in a number of 5-4 heart-breakers. But White deserves far more recognition than he has gotten for his jurisprudence of neutrality, and his abhorrence at imposing value preferences upon the nation.

The Irrelevance of Roe v. Wade

Roe v. Wade? Everyone knows about that one. It completely ignored the will of the people, and utterly denied democratic debate over the issue by judicial fiat. And today, more than 50 million babies have been legally killed because of Roe.

This, more or less, is the standard line of pro-lifers when they speak of Roe v. Wade. Like an epidemic’s Patient Zero, Roe is supposed to be the place where it all began, the epicenter of great genocide which continues to this day. But now, I want to make a claim that flies in the face of what much of the pro-life community has accepted as truth: Roe was nowhere near as anti-democratic as everyone continues to assume. And while legal abortion continues to exist under the aegis of Roe, the American people deserve much of the blame that has too often been reserved only for the Supreme Court.

The flag burning case of Texas v. Johnson is a good example of a truly anti-democratic ruling. 48 states protected the flag (Alaska and Wyoming being the exceptions, and by omission rather than commission), and public sentiment was overwhelmingly, lopsidedly, in favor of these laws. Several times, Constitutional amendments to overturn the ruling came close to passing, failing not due to lack of public support, but because of a small handful of stubborn Democrats in the Senate.

In contrast, by 1973 the American people had sent the Supreme Court plenty of signals that they had, at best, ambivalence toward abortion on demand. In four states – New York, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii – unrestricted abortion was already available. Critically, in New York, there was no residency requirement; before Justice Blackmun wrote so much as a single word of Roe, any mother in America with enough money for a round-trip plane ticket already had the option of legally having their unborn child killed.

Imagine for a moment that a small number of states today started giving mothers the right to put any children in their custody under the age of 16 months to death, and imagine that, like New York, one of them had no residency requirement. Do you imagine that the rest of the country would have sat by, and not done anything about it? If the public reaction to the Casey Anthony trial is anything to go by, I’d say no.

And yet, when these four states legalized abortion in 1970, nothing is exactly what the country did. On Capitol Hill, where endless debates raged about the death tolls in the Vietnam war, there was only deafening silence about the legal execution of infants here in the homeland. In 1972, a full two years after New York’s law, Representative John G. Schmitz finally introduced a Constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to life. Few noticed, and fewer still cared. It was the only human life amendment ever introduced prior to Roe.

Roe v. Wade had the misfortune to be announced on the same day that Lyndon Johnson died, but even then, the lack of negative reaction outside of the Catholic hierarchy was palpable. Within a year, dozens of Congressmen were reporting back that polls conducted in their districts showed clear majorities supporting Roe almost everywhere. Senator Birch Bayh held a series of committee hearings about a possible human life amendment, but most Americans were too transfixed by Sam Ervin’s Watergate committee hearings to pay any heed. At the end of 1974, Nelson Rockefeller, the man responsible for New York’s abortion law, was installed as Vice President.

Again, imagine that the Supreme Court had ruled that mothers had a fundamental right to kill any children of theirs under the age of 16 months. A Constitutional amendment undoubtedly would have been quickly ratified by the states, possibly even before the end of 1973. The supermajorities required to pass the amendment would have been irrelevant. Democracy is not halted by a single aberrant Supreme Court decision, and supermajorities are generally not hard to achieve if a right as fundamental as life has been ruthlessly and baselessly attacked.

And yet, no human life amendment has even come close to passing. Furthermore, even were the Supreme Court to reverse Roe, a large number of states would undoubtedly make abortion generally legal, and while several thousand lives would be saved due to the hassle of traveling to one of these pro-chioce states, the annual death toll would still likely be around one million.

Gary North, a leader of the fringe Christian Reconstruction movement, is one of the few pro-lifers I have ever come across who seems to understand the magnitude of the problem:

The problem is that the American community agrees with the Supreme Court of the United States. The general American public agrees that abortion should be legal.

Maybe it does not agree that the third-trimester abortions should be legal, but it is not going to throw out of office the civil magistrates who enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling. In fact, the Supreme Court has authorized third-trimester abortion and any other kind of abortion, but the public will not fight it. A handful of people have fought it, but the public refuses. The voting public will not vote out of office a man who is pro- abortion. In fact, time and time again, the public re-elects those people to office…

The problem is the community. The community approves. Let us not mince words: the United States electorate approves of abortion on demand. It will not bring political sanctions against those politicians who remain silent on abortion or who actively promote abortions. The problem is in the hearts of the people. (

Exactly right: The problem is in the hearts of the people.  Not a 40 year old Supreme Court ruling. Not the pro-choice lobby. Not the abortion doctors. The problem is the essential character of Americans. The result is something somber and ominous: genocide by consent of the governed.

For forty years, pro-lifers have been waiting for the dam to break; we’ve waited for the mass, nationwide awakening of conscience that would, at last, consign abortion to the dustbin of history alongside slavery and segregation. So far, it hasn’t happened. Forty years has produced little progress, and has conditioned us to leap for joy at the most ambiguous signs of hope, like when a poll shows 51% of Americans identifying themselves as “pro-life,” a term which really doesn’t mean anything. At times, a candid assessment of abortion in America looks bleak.

Nonetheless, I keep hoping, even when the night seems endless. Luke 1:37 shows the way: “for nothing is impossible with God.”