If any two issues illustrate the awesome power of public relations campaigns to define important cultural and policy debates, they are abortion and gay marriage. By cleverly framing these highly controversial questions in terms of human rights and social "progress," advocates have cultivated a social environment in which opposition to either makes you a bigot and/or a misogynist. So effective has this strategy been that those who might privately subscribe to orthodox views about the sanctity of human life or the constituency of marriage cannot say so out loud for fear of appearing intolerant. Young people, in particular, want to feel like they are in sync with the ideological tides of their generation. They want to stand on the "right side of history." It's not simply that they want others to view them this way, they want to view themselves this way.
This phenomenon may explain the results of a recent Gallup poll showing that a decisive majority of the American public are pro-life – they just don't realize it. On the surface, the latest survey of public opinion on abortion indicates that the pro-choice position is gaining ground:
"The Gallup survey found that half of Americans identify themselves as 'pro-choice' on abortion, surpassing the 44% who identify as "pro-life." Gallup says 'This is the first time since 2008 that the pro-choice position has had a statistically significant lead in Americans' abortion views.'"
A closer look at the data, however, reveals that some who describe themselves as "pro-choice" actually oppose abortion in all but the rarest of circumstances:
"When asked when abortion should be legal, 55 percent of Americans oppose all abortions or say abortion should only be legal in a 'few circumstances,' typically defined as cases such as rape, incest or if the life of the mother is in danger. Since those cases constitute, at most, 1-2 percent of all abortion cases, Gallup's numbers confirm 55 percent of Americans oppose 98 percent or more of the 1.1 million abortions that take place annually in the United States."
This is encouraging news. Whether or not people recognize it or admit it, the pro-life position has majority sentiment on its side. Advocates for life should take this news as a challenge. We need to revolutionize the way we talk about abortion so that people can say out loud and with their heads held high that they oppose the voluntary killing of unborn infants. Defending the defenseless shouldn't be a cause for shame, it should be the obvious conclusion of every moral, rational, responsible person in a free society.
How did we get to this point? Quite simply, ours is a society that worships at the altar of individualism. Once a hallmark of the rugged American character that built this nation, individualism has come to mean "prohibition from any and all moral judgments regarding the choices and activities of others." There was a time when most people recognized – whether or not they were able to articulate it – their contingency as created beings. They believed that they had duties, both to God as their divine creator, and to their fellow man. Ontology mattered. In other words, vocations carried with them duties, duties that a person of character did not neglect or ignore. To be a husband or a wife meant something particular, as did the vocation of father and mother, son or daughter. Fulfillment of these ontological vocations were held to be more important than individual feelings or desires. As a member of the human community, it was understood and expected that people bind themselves to these duties. Shirkers were shunned, sometimes even punished, for ignoring this.
Today, all a mother needs to say in defense of her choice to kill her child is "my body, my choice." Motherhood, that once revered office, has been reduced to a mood. One either "feels it" or she doesn't. And no one is permitted to judge. All this under the aegis of "privacy rights" and those misty constitutional "penumbras and emanations" that apparently sanction the killing of innocent unborn children in the name of liberty.
Never mind that most people know IN THEIR GUT that abortion is wrong. Most people recognize that killing a baby merely because he or she wasn't planned and isn't wanted is a heinous excuse for killing a baby. Every time we as a society ooh and ahh over the birth of a child, be it the latest Royal Baby, Hillary Clinton's granddaughter, or Beyonce's Blue Ivy, we are tacitly acknowledging that the arrival of a new person on this earth is a universal cause for celebration. Children are, indeed, a blessing. They are innocent of their conception. They didn't choose to be conceived, and they bear no responsibility for the inconvenience posed to the mother. They are just children – needful, precious creatures that must rely on the grace and love of their mother and other caregivers for the very air they breathe. This holds true whether or not they were the result of meticulously orchestrated conception efforts or the result of a drunken one-night-stand.
Those of us who have the opportunity to speak out or act in support of life must redouble our efforts to make the case for life. With earnestness, honesty, and respect, we must persist in our message that every member of the human family is worthy of our respect and protection under the law. Yes, human beings are endowed with unalienable rights, but we are also charged with profound responsibilities. We are responsible for caring for the least among us. We are bound by blood to care for and support our kin, including our unborn children. Fulfilling these human duties is fundamental to our membership in the family of man, and we eschew these truths at the cost of our souls and the health of our society.
A majority of the American people already know all this, but they have been so long cowed and intimidated by the rhetoric of "choice" that they doubt the rectitude of their moral compass. They just need someone to remind them that it is they, and not the pro-choice cohort, who are standing on the right side of history.