An Eventual Win for the Least among us

By Dave Andrusko

Retiring NARAL President Nancy Keenan

Retiring NARAL President Nancy Keenan

Anyone who reads NRL News Today or our newspaper, National Right to Life News, already is well aware that the President of NARAL Pro-Choice America had announced that she’d be stepping down next year. But as we get closer to 2013 and her resignation, Nancy Keenan is starting to receive the kind of isn’t-she-wonderful stories the “mainstream press” would never dream of affording to, say, the President of National Right to Life.

Yesterday there was a puff piece in The Hill newspaper, written by Sam Baker, with the headline, “Abortion-rights champion stepping down.” Early on there was this interesting insight from Keenan whose involvement precedes the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision:

“Almost 40 years later, the nature of the fight has changed — from a battle over the legality of abortion to a nationwide fight over access.”

More about that in a moment.

We’ve written about Keenan most often in the context of her honesty over the “next generation.” She understands what her movement’s many supporters in the media don’t—pro-abortionists are losing the “intensity” battle among the Millennials.

Keenan reminds us aging Baby Boomers that by 2020, Millennials will make up a staggering 40% of the voting population. She consoles herself with the notion that overall the Millennial generation is pro-choice, but acknowledges that “there is an intensity gap and there still has to be some connecting the personal to the political.”

How large is the intensity gap? A whopping two to one advantage for pro-life Millennials. According to Keenan, “About one in five pro-abortion-rights Millennials will vote primarily because of their stance on abortion” but “it will be the motivating factor for two in five Millennials who oppose abortion rights.”

Why the gap? Keenan offers the tired cliché embraced by her cohorts:  that the primary explanation is that “Women born after 1973 have never had any question about whether abortion is legal, and that has caused it to diminish as a motivating political issue.”

Keenan goes further. “Whoever is able to connect the personal to the political with this generation,” adding, “I think it’s kind of at a tipping point at 40 years.”

So with abortion’s legality settled “for now, anyway,” Keenan told Baker the pro-life victories in so many states mean they have “sweeping power to impose restrictions such as mandatory ultrasounds and waiting periods.” (This is the “access” question, mentioned above.)

“What is paramount is that people understand the importance of elections and the importance of electing people who share the pro-choice values,” she said. “That’s the bottom line.”

Pro-lifers agree, just as we do with Keenan’s assessment of the pro-abortion credentials of President Obama. His support is “unwavering” and “she’s not worried about Obama’s core beliefs,” Baker writes.

“I’ve spent time with him, I’ve talked to him,” Keenan said, “and I unequivocally believe he understands what’s at stake and really does share the value that women in this country should be making those decisions, and not any politician.”

Keenan, whose successor has not yet been chosen, will be retiring fairly soon after Obama’s second inauguration, which comes one day before the 40th anniversary of Roe. And as she approaches retirement there is one other point we’d agree with her about. She has “no illusions” that the Pro-Life Movement “will weaken their resolve any time soon.”

She told Baker, “They’re not going to go away. The intensity on that side will not go away. They come to this issue as young people who want to overturn Roe v. Wade, and they’re going to do everything in their power.”

Where she goes askew is in the first half of the following sentence: “That view might change as they grow older and reality hits and personal experience happens, but right now the personal intensity is pretty high on that side.”

Those of us who’ve been in the Movement since the 1960s and 1970s have long since “grown older.” Moreover we are quite familiar with “reality” (in the form of defeats) and have lived rich and challenging lives.

But that no more depletes our energy, our enthusiasm, and our determination than the changing of the seasons. Sometimes we lose, more often we win. What matters is the trajectory—and in our case, it is (because of you) in the direction of an eventual win for the least among us.

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