The Pro-Life Movement: Illuminated by Technology

By Lisa Hendey

Editor’s note. This appeared Tuesday, the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, on the blog of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Lisa Hendey

Lisa Hendey

As we mark the dismal occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, my techy mind can’t help but ponder the changes the world has gone through since 1973. The year abortion-on-demand became the law of the land, the bar code was invented, the first handheld cellular call was placed, and laser discs were all the rage. It was also the birth year for both Google co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, geniuses whose lives would dramatically impact our own, and whose mothers chose life.

More recent technological developments have made the prospect of falling in love with our unborn children seemingly more compelling than it’s been since Elizabeth felt St. John the Baptist stir in her womb at Mary’s greeting.

Pregnant moms today have access to ultrasound technology that delivers high resolution, four-dimensional images of their unborn children. A search for “pregnancy apps” in the iTunes store reveals scores of apps that help parents track a baby’s developments from the moment of conception. One such app, Baby Center’s My Pregnancy Today [www.babycenter.com/my-pregnancy-today-app], provides images of fetal development designed by medical experts that help a mother watch a baby grow day by day.

Given tools like these, the typical pro-abortion arguments seem more difficult to defend than ever before. And it seems hardly coincidental that the advent of this technology coincides with statistical evidence of an increasingly pro-life culture. In 2009, a majority of Americans said they were pro-life, a first.

“I think technology that gives us a ‘window to the womb’ has had a significant impact on the abortion debate,” says Josh Brahm. “Between 3D ultrasound images and documentaries like National Geographic’s Biology of Prenatal Development DVD, intelligent people just can’t bring themselves to call an unborn child a ‘clump of cells’ anymore.”

Brahm also notes that pro-life activists aren’t the only ones making these assertions, that atheist Christopher Hitchens said that “unborn child” is a real concept “underlined by all the recent findings of embryology.” As someone who relentlessly savaged religion in favor of science and reason, it’s difficult to write off Hitchens as someone trying to cloud scientific fact with a religious agenda (anti-religious, sure…).

In addition to apps and ultrasound technology, social media have given the pro-life movement a significant boost. While only half of Catholics are even aware of the presence their church has online, it’s almost impossible to go on Facebook without seeing the endless stream of mom-to-be status updates, sonogram pictures, gender announcements, vlogs and other examples of pregnancy being celebrated, from its earliest weeks, as the joyful coming of another human being.

Ultimately, technology alone will not provide the answers we seek to the heartbreak of 55 million children lost to abortion. And yet armed with knowledge, with evidence, but most especially with conviction and compassion, we move forward. Each of us is called to be a part of the solution, to employ the tools in our hands, but especially the love in our hearts, to stem the tide of this tragedy.