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Back to the present

Understanding abortion in the past will help us fight it today

Associated Press/Photo by Rick Bowmer

Back to the present
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This special section is half about the past and half about the present. Every January for more than two decades WORLD has reviewed pro-life progress and regress over the previous year, but this year, as the rise of the Obama administration leaves some warriors for life pessimistic, we wanted to do more.

Over the next four years the composition of the Supreme Court is not likely to become better from a pro-life perspective. It may get worse. God's steadiness may produce a miracle, and man's inconsistency may produce a Souter in reverse. Two decades ago some insiders swore that Bush nominee David Souter, who lacked much of a paper trail, was pro-life. They were wrong, but we shouldn't count on Barack Obama making a similar mistake.

The Supremes, therefore, are unlikely to give the Roe v. Wade decision, now 36 years old, a midlife crisis. That, though, should not create pro-life despair. The first article in this special section shows how pro-life forces in the 19th century cut in half the surprisingly substantial abortion rate of 1860. The following two articles show how some African-Americans and Hispanics, the groups most preyed upon by present-day abortionists, are also fighting back against their tormenters by publicizing the death toll and offering compassion to mothers in crisis.

Thinking about both past and present, it's striking that as the abortion rate among white Americans climbed from 1830 to 1860, the rate among African-Americans probably remained low. Slave owners wanted their "property" to be fruitful and multiply, because that multiplied their wealth. Slaves generally also wanted children, both to give life and to have solace in their own lives.

Ironically, abortion rates now have flipped: Blacks make up 13 percent of the U.S. population but have one-third of all abortions. It's good that some black clergymen are fighting back, and that President Obama is a good role model of fatherhood.

A second set of past-and-present articles examines the selling of abortion from the 1950s through 1973, and the current battle against those peddling in Congress the mellifluously named Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA). Pro-abortion forces gained traction during the two decades preceding Roe v. Wade by ignoring or dehumanizing the unborn child, but since then, whenever the Court has allowed some slight room for protective legislation, some states have seized the opportunity.

The result is that numerous state laws now mandate waiting periods before having abortions, parental consent, informed choice, and bans on partial-birth abortion and on killing those infants who survive abortion. FOCA would wipe out choice by state legislatures. It would also leave unborn children (and their dads) with no choice. It would deprive many young women of the opportunity to make an informed choice.

The third set of articles tells the hitherto-unpublished story of how the pro-life movement two decades ago began pivoting from its tendency to focus only on the unborn child and not on their troubled mothers as well, and from tactics seen as extreme by most Americans. Today, as our concluding stories show, pro-life groups generally emphasize compassion and spotlight the willingness of abortionists to cover up statutory rape and disguise their agendas. Nor are we alone in America: The last page of our section reports some pro-life efforts around the world.

Our look at past and present suggests that those who defend life do not and will not give up, even though pro-abortion forces pressure them to conform. Last month Care Net, which has a national network of 1,100 pregnancy centers, publicized the story of Sandy Christiansen, medical director of Care Net Pregnancy Center of Frederick, Md., which offers free services every year to women facing unplanned pregnancies.

When Dr. Christiansen was an intern, her unwillingness to do abortions led to the chief resident denying her operating-room privileges. Later, when she would not perform an abortion on a patient whose baby was diagnosed with Down syndrome, another doctor accused her of abandoning her patient and shirking her responsibilities, even though she made arrangements with another physician to oversee the patient's care.

Happily, the Department of Health and Human Services last month issued regulations that strengthen existing laws and provide protection to pro-life physicians and other health-care professionals who conscientiously object to performing abortions or referring for them. Partisans of the left respect those who conscientiously object to shooting enemies: Will they also respect those who conscientiously object to killing the innocent?

That's one of the stories WORLD will be following over the next four years. What we all need to remember is that the abortion war has been going on not only since 1973, but for centuries. Given sin, it may be that abortion, like the poor, will always be with us-but not so much and not so many. Each life saved is a cause for rejoicing.

Saving unborn children, past and present

Lessons from the past

Pro-lifers in the 19th century overcame staggering abortion rates and saved lives; here's how they did it | by Marvin Olasky

Black genocide

African-Americans are fighting the high toll of abortion in their own community by developing compassionate alternatives | by Lynn Vincent

American girls

When it comes to abortion, some Hispanics are becoming a bit too assimilated | by Lynn Vincent

Selling abortion

Through academia, the press, and TV, pro-abortion forces peddled their cause | by Marvin Olasky

Lethal law

Federal Freedom of Choice Act may reverse some of the gains made against abortion on the state level | by Lynn Vincent

Pro-life pivot

The untold story of how movement shifted focus, changed its image, and saved lives | by Marvin Olasky

On the ropes

Undercover videos shot in Indiana Planned Parenthood clinics trigger firings, possible state probe | by Lynn Vincent

Still fighting

Election returns cannot keep down the pro-life movement | by Russ Pulliam

Life or death?

Group that fights breast cancer maintains troubling ties to Planned Parenthood | by Alisa Harris

Disunited nations

A statement of dissent at the UN, a victory in west Texas, and other pro-life news | by Alisa Harris

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is the former editor in chief of WORLD, having retired in January 2022, and former dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism.



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