More than politics
Winning the abortion battle
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Editor’s note: Joel Belz recently broke his hip and is recovering. In place of his usual column, we’re publishing this column, originally published on Feb. 1, 1988, written as a letter to a family friend born on Jan. 22 that year.
Since you had such a busy and traumatic day last week, you may not have a chance to read this for some time. I’ll understand but still hope you get around to it later.
Jan. 22 was a notable day for you, since it was at 10:16 p.m. that you gasped your lungs full of the first air they’d ever felt.
Your entry to the world came on a day of dark symbolism. I hope your future birthdays can always be happy. But you should know that they will always come on one of the saddest days on our calendar.
The battle is so much bigger than getting a 5-4 or 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court.
Always? Well, bluntly, that is what I’m writing you about. The prospects of Jan. 22 ever being anything but a national day of mourning are not good. Even if the U.S. Supreme Court should sometime in the next half-dozen years stun the nation and reverse the Roe v. Wade decision that opened the bloodgates of abortion, nothing could be done for the 20 million babies whose lives will already have been wasted.
Actually, it’s a statistical marvel you made it to Jan. 22 alive. Once you had been conceived here in the United States, your chances of drawing that first breath were no better than 7 out of 10. You would have been far safer going as a Marine to Vietnam. Sooner than you know, it will be your task to join us in correcting these terrible odds.
And what are the odds of our doing so? Pretty grim, I think.
While you’ve been spending the last nine months getting a bit of a head start on life, those of us on the outside have been locked in a pretty ferocious battle having to do with who sits on that same Supreme Court that in 1973 launched the process that made your survival so chancy. It’s hard to tell right now how all that might come out. But here’s the point: It really might not make any difference.
We’ve put a lot of focus on the Supreme Court because that’s where our abortion policy got so visibly off track. But the destruction brought about by that dreadful decision on your birthday in 1973 just may not be all that reversible—even if there were nine justices who wanted to do so. They would need incredible courage.
You’ve been born into a society where important policies are determined mostly by a majority vote. And majorities in human history have never distinguished themselves by worrying about principle. Our country has settled into a comfortable acceptance of abortion. It is an enormous convenience. My guess is that, as a society, we’d rather give up garbage disposals than our right to abortion on demand.
That’s a grisly thing to tell a week-old boy. Yet it is true.
Both the Biblical record and our own experience demonstrate that when people reject God and His standards, they are choosing the way of death. Sometimes that is a figurative way of looking at things. In the abortion debate here in the United States, it’s gone well beyond the figurative.
The battle is so much bigger than getting a 5-4 or 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court. It’s bigger than getting a Human Life Amendment passed by Congress and ratified by 33 states. Those are important objectives, and I favor them. But winning those political battles may be the easy part of your assignment. The much harder part will be to change the deep-down desires of the people the politicians represent. Don’t ever kid yourself into thinking politicians are the “bad guys” who never listen to the “basically good” people “out there.” The problem is that they should stop listening and start leading.
That’s why this memo is to you, not politicians. You are the symbol of another generation. It’s a long-term battle, one that means the reeducation of most of our population. It’s not something that will be turned around with a few strategic votes. It will happen instead in homes, churches, and classrooms where godly values begin once more to assume higher priority than personal preferences.
If it happens in your lifetime, it will not be because of clever political strategy. It will be, as always in such cases, because God’s mercy never quits.
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