U.S. Pro-life Movement Stays Young

Family Research Council’s Pia de Solenni Views the Scene

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 24, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Young people are now the heart of the pro-life movement in the United States, says an analyst on life issues.

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, Pia de Solenni, a fellow of the Center for Human Life and Bioethics at the Family Research Council, outlined for ZENIT the prospects for the U.S. pro-life movement.

De Solenni was awarded the Pontifical Prize of the Academies by John Paul II in 2001.

Q: There are fewer abortions in the United States, and a more-or-less pro-life Republican Party controls Washington now. Yet the culture of death is being institutionalized elsewhere — note the Stanford University research center that aims to rely on human cloning. Where is the country going on the pro-life issue?

De Solenni: Thirty years after Roe v. Wade was decided, almost every American knows someone who has had an abortion or has been somehow involved in an abortion. As a result, pro-life issues are becoming mainstream.

Studies consistently show that Generation Y — 8 to 23 years [old] — is decidedly a pro-life generation which understands the decision to complete a crisis pregnancy as a confident and brave thing to do.

Single parenthood, for better or for worse, has lost the stigma once associated with it. Prime-time shows basing story lines on unplanned/inconvenient pregnancies generally do not even include the option of abortion — see NBC’s «Friends» and MTV’s «Real World.»

A recent Wirthlin Poll shows that 68% of the American public supports protections on the lives of the unborn. Last week’s CNN/USA Today poll showed 70% of Americans support a ban on partial-birth abortion as well as other abortion regulations.

Now we need to harness this pro-life shift in public opinion so that institutions like Stanford understand that any endeavor which does not respect the dignity of every human life will not be supported or tolerated. The voice of the more than two-thirds majority needs to be heard by donors and supporters at every institution, including Stanford University. Each person has the opportunity to make his or her voice heard within their various communities. All we have to do is seize that opportunity.

Q: What are the prospects for abortion restrictions in the new Congress?

De Solenni: We are cautiously optimistic. There are five pro-life legislative priorities facing the 108th Congress:

First, a ban on all forms of human cloning. President Bush has clearly stated that he opposes all forms of human cloning. Similarly, Senate Majority Leader [Bill] Frist has said that he will support a complete ban. Last March the House passed a complete ban on cloning. Unfortunately, the legislation never moved to the Senate and, hence, the process had to start over in this new session of Congress. The ban has already been introduced in the House where it is expected to pass. Then it remains to be seen if Senate leadership and the White House will be able to get it passed in the Senate.

Second, a ban on partial-birth abortion. This legislation passed in both the House and the Senate twice during the Clinton administration. It was vetoed both times by President Clinton. If it comes to a vote, we expect that it will pass, as it is a bipartisan issue with overwhelming support from both Republicans and Democrats.

Third, the Abortion Non-Discrimination Act. This legislation would protect doctors and medical institutions from being forced to offer abortion services. It has passed in the House before. We expect it to pass again. However, as with all of these bills, the question is whether or not we have Senate leadership which can generate positive results.

Fourth, the Child Custody Protection Act. This would prevent someone who is not the parent or guardian of a minor from taking her out of state — and into a state where neither parental consent or notification are required — for an abortion. In effect, it protects young victims of sexual abuse from the adult men who prey on them. This bill has also passed in the House and is expected to pass again. But we need Senate action to make it effective.

Fifth, the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. This legislation makes clear that when a pregnant woman is the victim of assault and her unborn child is injured or killed, that unborn child is also recognized as a victim in our legal system. This, too, has previously passed in the House, but never made the Senate floor.

Pro-life Americans must hold their elected representatives accountable to the pro-life views of those whom they represent — that is, write, call, fax and e-mail them. None of these bills explicitly attacks the «right» to abortion, but they would protect those who could be affected by abortion. These views are far from extreme. Beginning with our families, friends and daily contacts we need to communicate that these are mainstream views. Generation Y gets it, the rest of us can learn from them.

Q: How has 30 years of abortion affected the country’s psyche? Its family life? Relations between the sexes?

De Solenni: There’s been an undeniable increase in domestic abuse and family breakdown. Sexuality has come to be expressed in almost exclusively masculine terms. Motherhood has been divorced from feminine sexuality — and identity.

But coming out of this all are a new pro-life generation and movement that are motivated because of their lived experience. Every one of us has experienced the culture of death and the denial of authentic femininity and masculinity.

More than simply knowing the moral rules, so to speak, we have learned them through our experiences. It’s the school of hard knocks. It hurts, but it’s working. The culture of life will be built on our experiences and our refusal of the culture of death.

Q: Where do you see young people on the pro-life issue?

De Solenni: They’re the heart of it. Every one of them survived Roe v. Wade just by being born. They know that 42 million of their American brothers, sisters and friends are missing. Their commitments to pro-life values, including abstinence and chastity, witness the fact that they have not forgotten a single one of the 42 million dead.

Young people are developing a unique ability to be in the culture without being suffocated by it. They are mainstreaming positions that have wrongly been labeled extreme, conservative, etc.

Q: What was the biggest mistake of the U.S. pro-life movement? The biggest disappointment? The biggest success?

De Solenni: Like probably every human endeavor, the U.S. pro-life movement has at times given into egoism and disunity. We were committed to winning, but we took awhile to become seriously professional about our work.

As the movement grows, we’re losing our rough edges and we’re honing our skills to win the game. The fact that abortion is still an extremely divisive issue even after 30 years shows that the movement has been very successful.

We haven’t given up and we’re not giving in. I think, too, we’ve advanced because we’ve been able to start communicating that we’re just as concerned about women as we are about their unborn children.

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