Keep on Keeping on with all the Wisdom that Experience has Instilled in us

By Carol Tobias, NRLC President

Editor’s note. This President’s column appears in the January edition of National Right to Life News, the pro-life newspaper of record. Please share this, and all the other news stories, commentaries, and editorials with your pro-life family and friends.

At the beginning of each year, many people look back at the previous year with fond memories while others may be glad that it’s over.  With New Year’s resolutions, we often try to think of things we want to do better or differently in the new year.

Naturally, I wondered if the pro-life movement needed to consider some resolutions, thinking of things to do differently or better.

I think that’s why a quote from author and journalist Hal Borland stuck out for me when I read it: “Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”

That’s certainly true of the pro-life movement. The calendar year has changed, but our efforts to save preborn babies and help their moms will go on unfailingly, just as they have year after year for many years.

Yes, new legislative sessions have begun or soon will; primary elections are almost upon us; and new opportunities to change hearts and minds will present themselves. But we will continue to educate about the humanity of the unborn child, appealing to both the head and heart. We will continue our fight to protect women who may, unknowingly, suffer physical or emotional consequences from their abortions.  We will continue to expose the lie told by abortion activists and their allies in the media that women will die if state laws don’t allow unrestricted abortion.

We will continue to oppose the Biden administration when it seeks to pull TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funds from pregnancy resource centers. We work on behalf of women as the Biden administration continues its unrelenting campaign to tear down even minimal safety protocols surrounding the abortion pill.    

We expect several states to have ballot measures which, if successful, would amend state constitutions to allow unlimited abortion, for any reason, through all nine months of pregnancy.  It’s an uphill fight—abortionist forces have access to a seemingly inexhaustible pool of funds—but our movement has learned from previous experience and is better prepared to fight those battles.

A shorter, but similar, version of the Borland quote is simply “keep on keeping on.”

We can try new ideas and activities and strategies even as our goal remains unchanged: We are determined to protect helpless unborn children.  And while we work to convince our fellow human beings that these little human beings have a right to life, we will protect as many babies as we can as soon as we can.

I am under no illusion that 2024 will be an easy year. It won’t. But we have gained wisdom from our experience.  

The pro-abortion crowd has been energized by the Dobbs decision which thankfully overturned Roe v. Wade. We must, and we will, match them with our greatest asset: the dedication and determination of pro-life people to never give up. 

Pro-life Rabbi Marc Gellman, who once spoke at our convention, summarized our motivation well. He reviewed a fascinating book that captures the essence of why pro-lifers do what they do.

Rabbi Gellman wrote in the journal “First Things” about the “righteous gentiles” – – those men and women who put their lives on the line to hide Jews from the Nazis. He wrote,

In The Altruistic Personality, their book about Christians who saved Jews during the Holocaust, Samuel and Pearl Oliner asked what distinguished the rescuers from the majority who did nothing or were complicit. Their conclusion was that they were not distinguished by educational level or by political views or even by attitudes towards Jews. They were, however, different in two critical respects: they were strongly connected to communities that had straightforward and unsophisticated understandings of right and wrong, and they had a powerful sense of moral agency and shame.

They said over and over again in interviews that they could not have lived with themselves – – and many said they could not have answered before God – – if they had not done what they had done.

The righteous gentiles of the Holocaust came from communities and families that had prepared the way for their courage by teaching them how to feel shame and therefore virtue and courage.

It is that understanding of right and wrong– the knowledge that every preborn child is a member of the human family, deserving of protection– that keeps us going.

We can always find ways to improve our activities so that they are more effective.  We are always open to new ways of communicating our message so it reaches new ears. But in the almost 50 years of Roe v Wade, and the last 18 months since Dobbs v Jackson, no one has found a “silver bullet” that will solve all our problems and win all our battles.

But the pro-life movement does consist of resolute, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth Americans fighting to make a critical difference in the lives of preborn babies and their mothers.  

2023 wasn’t an end; 2024 isn’t a beginning. To quote Borland again, “Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”