“We are the pro-life generation.”
“We are the generation that will end abortion.”
“I survived Roe v. Wade. Roe v. Wade won’t survive me.”
If you’re anywhere near the pro-life movement, read pro-life news, come to the March for Life or watch EWTN, you have seen and heard these brilliant slogans. At the March alone there is a sea of signs saying these things.
As a marketing device for firing up the younger generation, they could not be better. The whole generation of tweens, teens and twenties are needed to keep the movement going.
But I offer a cautionary note. What if they are not the generation that ends abortion?
What happens after many years and abortion is still with us? What happens when that slowly dawns on them in their thirties and forties? What happens then?
I don’t know who created these ideas and slogans, but they are used by charismatic, highly effective, true blue pro-life leaders who want to motivate youngsters who are more pro-life than their parents.
Any pro-lifer has to be a huge fan of Kristan Hawkins who took a good organization called Collegians for Life and turned it into a powerhouse called Students for Life of America with chapters on 700 campuses.
Or how about Lila Rose who sat in her UCLA dorm room and thought up making funny phone calls to Planned Parenthood and has utterly changed the debate about funding the abortion giant.
And then there is David Bereit who created 40 Days for Life that has put prayerful youngsters on the streets all over America, Canada and overseas.
Slightly longer in the tooth but no less effective is Bryan Kemper, founder of Rock for Life and now Stand True Ministries, who has a supernatural ability to communicate to youngsters.
Three things caused the great awakening in America on abortion. The partial birth abortion debate showed America what really happens in abortion. Pictures of our new brothers and sisters in utero showed America the baby is real. And hearing the stories of post-abortive women in the public square made America see that abortion was not painless for the woman. These things have done more than any other to change hearts and minds in America, including the hearts and minds of young people.
These young pro-life leaders have capitalized on this change and galvanized a majority of young people who now call themselves pro-life and who are getting active. Want a shot of courage? Go to the March for Life and see that this is a youth movement.
But what if the promises made to these young people do not come true? Or if they are slow to come true? What if theirs is not the generation that ends abortion? Elevated expectations that are not realized have a tendency to reap bitterness and even surrender. This happens in movements and also in human hearts.
Keep in mind what happened in the civil rights fight. Plessy v. Ferguson allowed for segregation in public facilities. This was not overturned until 58 years later in Brown v. Board of Education. In those long years advocates for civil rights did exactly what you are doing now; marching, educating, making speeches, praying, scrapping, even fighting. Even after Brown, though, great inequalities existed, particularly with the Jim Crow Laws in the south and de facto segregation in the north. Even now there is work to be done. And several generations entered into that fight. And the point is that it took decades and the work may never be done.
This is not meant as a criticism of anyone who uses these incredible pro-life slogans. They are great and I love seeing them. I am concerned though for what happens when they do not come true, or they take much longer for them to come true. The youthful slogans of a 22-year-old may taste bitter to a 35-year-old when they do not come true.
Will the Supreme Court rule that abortion is against the constitutional rights of unborn children? Not any time soon.
Will the justices overturn Roe and send the issue back to the states? God willing, that will happen in the lifetime of the young pro-life activist, but the fight is not over then, not by a long shot. A 50-state battle will then begin in earnest, and it will take many years to pass meaningful limitations in the red and purple states, but what about in the blue? In California, in New York, in Florida—where the vast majority of abortions now occur—what will it take to pass laws that protect the lives of these unborn children? It may well take more than a lifetime of work.
Jeanne Head of National Right to Life, one of our country’s great fighters for life got involved in pro-life when New York State legalized abortion, a few years before Roe. When Roe was handed down she thought it would be overturned in a matter of a few years. She was shocked when it wasn’t. Yet forty years later, now in her mid-seventies, she still fights. She hobbles into the United Nations and sits there sometimes all night long monitoring the debate over abortion and takes every opportunity to lobby friendly and not so friendly foreign delegations.
That is the resolve that young pro-lifers have to steel themselves for. Not just the long haul but the really long haul, a lifetime haul and the understanding one day they will relinquish the torch to yet another generation that believes they will end abortion.
Kristen Hawkins likes to say that she hopes to put herself out of business. We all share that hope. But my next hope is that if abortion does remains with us for decades to come, America will see Kristan and Lila and all of the rest still carrying the torch when they, too, reach 75. That is a life well lived.