By Carol Tobias, President, NRLC
Editor’s note. The following are the remarks that opened the 2014 NRLC convention in Louisville, Ky.
This year’s theme is “Stand for Life.” We do that every day but we come together in Louisville to learn, to share, and to join together in our common goal of restoring legal protection for all innocent human life. We will return home, motivated and energized to grow the ranks of those who stand with us for Life.
Earlier this year, in February, we received some very encouraging news. The Guttmacher Institute released a report showing that the number of abortions in America has dropped dramatically from an all-time high of 1.6 million in 1990 to 1.06 million in 2011, a drop of more than 1/2 million abortions per year. That is still 1.06 million too many babies whose lives are lost, but we can be encouraged because more women are choosing life.
The abortion ratio, the number of abortions per 1,000 live births, has decreased. The abortion rate, the number of abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age, ages 15-44, is at its lowest level since 1973.
Last month, Guttmacher reported that the abortion rate for teens dropped 66% between its peak in 1988 and 2010 (from 43.5 abortions per 1,000 teens to 14.7 per 1,000 teens).
There are a number of reasons that more and more women are choosing life.
The right-to-life movement has worked, to the extent possible allowed by the courts, to enact laws that protect unborn children and offer support and life-affirming alternatives to their mothers. At the federal level, laws like the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, enacted in 2003, and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007, raised nationwide awareness to the gruesome and deadly reality of late abortions allowed under Roe and Doe. It is estimated that the Hyde amendment, which prevents the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortion in the Medicaid program, has saved upwards of one million lives since it was first enacted in 1976.
At the state level, a wide variety of laws, from parental involvement to women’s right to know to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, all are making a difference.
Your educational efforts are having an impact. Distributing literature at a county or state fair booth, sharing articles and pictures on Facebook or Twitter, writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, speaking to a group in your community– all that has an effect.
After years of being told that abortion was “the best choice” or “their only choice,” women are learning that there are alternatives to abortion that affirm their lives and the lives of their children.
Another reason the number of abortions is in decline is the use of technology to bring the face of the unborn baby into greater focus. Ultras technology has advanced to the point we can now see an unborn child smiling or pointing her finger or doing somersaults. A baby’s first picture is no longer the one where she is nestled in mommy’s arms. When you post an ultrasound photo of your unborn child or grandchild on your Facebook page or on Instagram, you are showing the world that a human being exists, not a being with the potential for being human.
Harrison Hickman, a one-time pollster for NARAL stated, in 1989, “Probably nothing has been as damaging to our cause as the advances in technology which have allowed pictures of the developing fetus, because people now talk about the fetus in much different terms than they did 15 years ago. They talk about it as a human being, which is not something that I have an easy answer on how to cure.”
And in the 25 years since then, we have 3-d and 4-d ultrasound to bring that baby into even greater focus.
And we certainly can’t overlook the tremendous work of pregnancy resource centers which help a pregnant woman during a time of uncertainty and possibly fright over the thought of the new life she carries. The support these centers provide has made a difference in countless lives.
The major, overall, reason that the number of abortions is in decline is YOU. Your persistence and determination to keep the issue alive, after 41 years of supposedly “settled” law, are making a difference.
A Gallup poll taken last month shows that nearly 60% of Americans believe abortion should either be legal in only a few circumstances or should be illegal in all circumstances.
Because we are resolved to Stand for Life and be a voice for the voiceless, this country knows that it’s wrong to take the life of an unborn child. Any woman who is contemplating an abortion knows that someone– a family member, a friend, co-worker, or neighbor– would urge her not to do it.
That is why abortion advocates have to promote contests to encourage women to speak about their abortion; to encourage others to make that same “choice”. These advocates are trying to make a mother’s decision to kill her unborn child as natural as an appendectomy or having a tooth pulled.
But they won’t succeed because the message of LIFE is just too strong.
The 2nd place winner of a video contest to “destigmatize” abortion wrote about her abortion in Cosmopolitan magazine, saying, “It will always be a special memory for me. I still have my sonogram, and if my apartment were to catch fire, it would be the first thing I’d grab.” Why? If she had a tooth pulled, she wouldn’t grab the tooth before running out the door.
Hollywood made a movie, a romantic comedy, in which the “heroine” gets an abortion. The movie title? “Obvious Child.” Now, if you were going to make a movie and the story includes the death of an unborn child, wouldn’t you think of a title a little more subtle than “Obvious Child”?
It’s like they can’t help it. Life just bursts forth; Life is too strong to hide or deny.
The late Bob Casey, former governor of Pennsylvania, said,“…abortion has not, and never will, take a permanent place in our culture. In a country whose whole reason for being is to affirm the goodness and the equality of all human life, how could such a thing ever fit in? This, I think, explains why other societies have pretty much accepted abortion with little argument. But here, in this country… it tears at our soul. You see, other countries can accept it for the simple reason that other countries are not America. We have a … calling…. No other country began with a promise on its sacred honor to love and protect all human life equally.”
Whether that life be an unborn child, or an elderly or disabled person, we Stand together to love and protect all human life equally.
Many of our efforts are geared toward the devastating effects of abortion. But National Right to Life is equally concerned with assisted suicide, rationing of life-saving medical treatment, and other forms of euthanasia. If you aren’t as familiar with these issues, please take advantage of the various sessions offered in the coming days to learn more about the threats posed to the weak and vulnerable persons already born.
For those of you who work with our state affiliates and chapters, thank you linking arms with us as we stand for life. Thank you for everything you do throughout the year.
There are women here who have had an abortion; I thank you for coming. Some of you are comfortable publicly sharing your experience, many of you are not, and that’s okay. We are pleased that you are here.
For those who work with the pregnancy resource centers, thank you for being here and for the hands-on support you give to moms and their babies.
For the bloggers and Tweeters and everyone else here, thank you for joining us.
And I say a special thank you to the young people who are here, standing for Life. If you are here for the National Teens for Life convention, if you are a contestant in the oratory contest, an intern with National Right to Life, or one of our summer Academy students, please stand up.
This is the reason we will win this battle. In greater and greater numbers, the post-Roe generations, our younger people, are rejecting the idea of abortion on demand. A 2010 Gallup poll found “Support for making abortion broadly illegal growing fastest among young adults.”Young people– bold, intelligent, compassionate, energized– are, and will continue to be, a voice for the voiceless.
We have three days together to learn and to share. May God bless this time, that we be strengthened and motivated to continue our Stand for Life.