Last week started out with many commemorating the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It ended Friday with people marching and assembling in cities (not hit by the wintery blast) to uphold human dignity of a different kind. While King was the face of the civil rights movement, it is unlikely the pro-life movement will ever have a single representative, but if they do, it will probably be the face of an anonymous woman who’s had an abortion.
The pro-life movement, much like King’s efforts for most of his life, has been marginalized. If you doubt this, consider the lack of coverage of previous March for Life events which have drawn hundreds of thousands to Washington D.C. Consider skewed reporting that casts pro-life legislation as burdensome and onerous to women. And whenever there is an attack on an abortion clinic, the media quickly imply the perpetrator is representative of the entire movement.
King dealt with similar challenges but the nonviolent response to the fire hoses and police dogs turned on peaceful protestors won the moral high ground. Such television broadcasts showing the demeaning of the personhood of an entire race gripped the nation’s conscience. Consequently, segregation slowly gave way to integration and civil rights protection. We celebrate King’s courage to today.
Yet, pro-lifers don’t have the emotional advantage of a visible class being abused and mistreated, that is, until last summer when undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress revealed executives of the nation’s largest abortion chain dealing in body parts like automakers deal in chassis and bumpers. The banal conversation of techniques used in order to profit the most from salvaged body parts gave the nation a glimpse behind the curtain of a secretive industry. It was the pro-life movement’s equivalent to hooded Clansmen burning a cross on the lawn of a black church.
Two bills in the state legislature—HB 61 and SB 7, would prevent any public funds, regardless of their source, from going to any agencies involved with abortion. If the bills passed, Kentucky’s two Planned Parenthood affiliates in Lexington and Louisville would lose $330,000.
The shroud abortion proponents are hiding behind is fraying and their defense of liberal abortion policies are ever so hollow. Now, public sentiment appears to be changing. A recent survey by Marist Polling found that 60 percent of Americans view abortion as morally wrong and 81 percent of Americans say abortion should be restricted to the first trimester of pregnancy and only allowed in extreme cases. The survey also found that only 12 percent of Americans support abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy. In other words, 88 percent favor some kind of restrictions.
This astounding change in the attitude toward abortion has largely been accompanied by the post-abortive women who’ve come forward with their stories and the lifelong hurt they’ve carried with them. I work with one of them and two serve on my board. All have come out of the shadows in recent years and openly share their story of pain and eventual healing. They are the new ambassadors of the pro-life movement. They will be the first to tell you that pain, guilt, and emotional baggage was something the the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t factor in when it struck down every state law restricting abortion 43 years ago.
According to a report released earlier this month by the Guttmacher Institute, 288 pro-life laws passed in various states across the U.S. But sadly, Kentucky was not in the mix. In fact, pro-life legislation has been killed in the Kentucky House for the past 12 years. This session could be different. Last Wednesday, the Kentucky state House signaled they’re finally embracing pro-life legislation after passing a procedural vote on the informed consent bill that requires the abortionist to actually meet in person with the woman before performing any procedures.
It’s a start. Yet Kentucky has a long road to travel to restore the sanctity of life. If we ever get there, it will be because sisters, daughters, cousins and friends hurt by abortion come forward and insist better options be made available to help other women avoid the heartache they’ve endured.
Richard Nelson is the executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center, a nonprofit public policy group in Kentucky. He resides in Cadiz with his wife and children.