(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
Partly due to their own hard work and partly due to events beyond their control, pro-life activists appear energized by new opportunities to reach the public with their message and advance legislation that limits abortions. Will 2013 be a watershed year for the pro-life movement? Some pro-life leaders interviewed by The Christian Post believe so.
Several recent incidents have become a sounding board for the pro-life message and pointed to flaws in pro-choice arguments, the interviewees said.
- In a Florida legislature committee hearing, Alisa LaPolt Snow, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of Florida appeared to condone the killing of a baby born alive after a botched abortion. Another Planned Parenthood spokesperson returned to the Florida legislature the same week to clarify that they do not support infanticide. Yet, the organization does support the killing of a fetus before it leaves the womb.
- The trial of Kermit Gosnell revealed the horrors of the late-term abortionist. He was sentenced to life in prison after the jury decided that he delivered live fetuses before snipping their necks. Yet, if Gosnell had killed the fetuses before delivering them, his actions would have been legal.
- After Ariel Castro kidnapped and held three girls for 10 years in a suburban Ohio home, he forced at least five abortions on one of the victims he impregnated by starving her and punching her in the stomach. He could be tried for the murder of those fetuses. Yet, it would not have been considered murder if he had taken his victim to an abortion clinic instead.
These cases are significant, Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, told The Christian Post, because they get the media to talk about the topic of abortion, a topic they would normally avoid. When the media begin covering the topic, it gets those Americans in what Hawkins calls the "mushy middle" to think about abortion, a topic they also would prefer to avoid.
Most people are conflicted on the issue of abortion, Hawkins explained, because they feel that abortion is wrong but "don't want to feel like they are passing judgment on women or they are condemning a woman for the circumstances in her life."
With the Gosnell trial, though, "people are forced to confront the icky factor of abortion, of what abortion really is. It's something people don't really want to talk about."
After exposure to the realities of abortion provided by the media, Hawkins continued, those in the "mushy middle" "start to see the logical fallacies of what abortion is really about," and the pro-life message gets through without "screaming or shouting or protests."
In addition to the Snow/Gosnell/Castro incidents, pro-life groups have recently brought additional attention to other Gosnell-like abortionists. Undercover videos have been a particularly potent tool in shining a light on what really takes place in abortion clinics. Recent videos have exposed abortionists Douglas Karpen in Houston and LeRoy Carhart in Nebraska.
"People are becoming aware that there's a lot more of these late term abortions than they realized," Douglas Johnson, legislative director for National Right to Life, explained in a Christian Post interview.
"The field of late-term abortions appears to attract a number of individuals with a troubled past – criminal convictions, malpractice lawsuites, licenses suspended – these are the types of individuals who gravitate to the practice of late-term abortions," Johnson said.
Live Action is one of the pro-life organizations that has used undercover videos. Since the Gosnell trial began receiving media attention, the organization has seen a spike in its Twitter followers and Facebook likes.
Additionally, the number of views of its undercover videos, posted on YouTube, are "unprecedented," according to Live Action President Lila Rose in an interview with The Christian Post. None of Live Action's previous campaigns have received as much attention as its current series, "Inhuman: Undercover in America's Late-Term Abortion Industry." At the time of this publication, one of those videos had been viewed over 222,000 times. 2013 has been a "game changing" year, Rose added, for the pro-life movement due to all the exposure thus far to the cause.
"It's absolutely a crucial time in the pro-life movement," she said, "because what we're seeing, in gripping and visual way, people are seeing the horrors of abortion and it's being reported."
The news reports, Rose explained, are important because people are better able to relate to a personal story.
"When the victims of abortion have a story and a face then people become horrified by it and that's what we're seeing happen more and more," she said.
The news accounts of Ariel Castro causing his victim to abort their children, for instance, is "a powerful story because even when the media does not want to cover abortion they can't help but to cover that crucial aspect of the brutal treatment of his victims and unborn children."
For Johnson, 2013 is reminiscent of 1997 is some respects. 1997 was also a watershed year for the pro-life movement. That was the year that Ron Fitzsimmons, head of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, admitted that he was dishonest when he said late-term abortions were rare and used primarily to save the lives or fertility of the mothers or to abort malformed babies. "I lied through my teeth," Fitzsimmons said at a press conference.
That incident eventually helped with the passage of the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, passed by Congress and signed by President George W. Bush in 2003.
Similarly, Johnson explained, the Gosnell trial points to the misinformation about late-term abortions. According to testimony in the trial, Gosnell was primarily conducting late-term abortions for the past decade. The number of late-term abortions he reported for state health records during that same period, though, was one. The state records, therefore, on the number of late-term abortions are obviously flawed.
The increased attention given to abortions, late-term abortions in particular, has led to at least one legislative action so far. There is a bill currently in the U.S. House of Representatives, recently passed out of committee, that would ban all abortions nationwide after 20 weeks. More legislative action at the state level may be on the way. According to Guttmacher Institute, 694 abortion related provisions were introduced in state legislatures in the first three months of 2013.