How Far We’ve Come

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. As part of our year-long “Roe at 40” series, I thought this editorial from the December 2002 issue of National Right to Life News might fit right in. It was both a look back and a look forward, a reminder of how far we had come and how far we had to go. If you are not a subscriber to NRL News, please call us at 202-626-8828.

NRLC-gotomeetings-pic-V2Sometimes kids say the darndest (and most revealing) things. There we were just finishing up supper when out of the blue my youngest daughter begins to tell me about a writing assignment she’s just completed for school.

It’s one of those exercises that ask the student to read a statement and then explain why they agree or disagree. Evidently the observation they were to respond to was along the lines of you can’t be a hero unless you’re experiencing fear.

“I disagreed,” my eighth-grade daughter said. “What you guys do about abortion doesn’t make you afraid.”

As I recalled this later, her remarks sparked several related thoughts. To begin with, while it’s true pro-lifers do not ordinarily face situations in which we are convinced physical violence is imminent, that does not mean that we never experience fear.

I remember like it was yesterday two incidents that go all the way back to the 1970s. I was in graduate school, working full time, and had time to be only marginally involved with a campus group called “Save Our Unwanted Life.”

Like every other group, we had to send a representative to the student-run organization which had wide (if not complete) discretion to dole out monies to petitioning student groups, money that was came out of the fees all students paid when they registered. I drew the short straw. When I spied the president I knew I was in deep, deep trouble.

For those too young to remember, in those days pro-life groups on secular campuses were as rare as hen’s teeth. Ultra left-wing, militant (with a capitol M) pro-abortion feminists ruled the roost. They were not shy about letting anyone who dared to differ (particularly men) know that we had no business uttering a single word on the abortion issue.

Luckily for me, they didn’t have clubs close at hand. (Years later I remember thinking of my experience when I saw the film, “Cool Hand Luke.” Remember the part where they pulverize Paul Newman, after which the “captain” looks at the prisoners and observes by way of explanation, “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.”)

Well, surprise, surprise, we didn’t get the money. But what sticks out in my mind is the memory of the cadre of women who surrounded the group’s president. Man, if looks could kill, I would’ve been pushing up daisies.

The second incident involved my participation in Minneapolis city politics, in the Democratic Party, to be specific. (In Minnesota, the party is called the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party–or DFL.)

We had a bizarre system which parceled out voting privileges at various meetings and conventions based on what percentage of a given assembly your group (called a subcaucus) constituted. At the time pro-lifers were very active outstate in the DFL but nearly invisible in the city of Minneapolis. Not surprising, for in those days DFL-style politics made the Communist Chinese seem like right-wingers.

As I remember it, those who would represent a given subcaucus were questioned by some party officialdom, presumably to ensure that we were not closet Republicans. The particulars escape me but the grilling/interrogation I went through was so physically intimidating, so filled with snarling hostility, so who-let-you-in? inquiries that it literally made me physically ill. I left pale and shaken and much wiser.

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But this is nothing compared to what pro-lifers have told me about their experiences. For instance, how, if they voiced pro-life sentiments, promotions suddenly became harder to get. Or how the protests of pro-life union members when union officials promoted abortion using everyone’s dues went unheeded (if not worse).

Then there are the stories of the scorn and the derision that popped up in so many social situations (where it was assumed everyone was pro-abortion) when the pro-lifer dared to utter a mildly dissenting view. And so on.

So, what I’m saying is two-fold. While I fully understand it’s still no bed of roses today, there was a time when pro-lifers, as individuals, were so despised, so marginalized, so universally dismissed with a scornful wave of the hand that it took enormous courage, persistence, and toughness just to keep from giving up. Politically we had yet to bulk up. But all that has changed. Let me briefly illustrate.

We have more and more opportunities to have our opinions heard and defended in the public square. We have lots and lots of pro-life commentators.

Talk show radio hosts are openly sympathetic, in many cases. Vibrant pro-life groups are springing up on campuses, including in such unlikely places as Harvard and Berkeley, hotbeds of pro-abortion orthodoxy.

Mainstream Protestant denominations, once the playpen of pro-abortionists (thanks to their control of the national headquarters), are gradually coming around. And that’s (a) because of the work of fearless pro-life individuals, and (b) because of the inherent instability of a situation where a denomination’s official stance on abortion is so at variance with the views of the people in the pews.

And while being pro-life still won’t get you invited to parties thrown by the “best” people, it doesn’t carry the threat of complete social ostracism it once did.

Why all these positive breakthroughs? Because you refused to let anything or anyone stop you then, or now.

As a result we are the wave of the future–not just politically–and the pro-abortionists know it. That is why you can be sure the level of hysteria will on occasion be off the Richter scale.

Power establishments rarely go quietly into the night. For decades the Abortion Establishment had its way. Those days are ending.

It is only a matter of time before we carry the day for unborn babies and their mothers. And that’s a very nice way to end 2002.