The movement to defund Planned Parenthood due to the atrocities revealed in the undercover videos (the fifth of which was just released) met a roadblock as the Senate was unable to bypass a pro-choice filibuster.
For many pro-life individuals that can be frustrating. I deeply understand the angst verging on despair that we can live in a world where those videos have been released and the organization behind them can continue to exist and even receive federal funding.
I recognize that, but I’m afraid many of us do not understand what it actually takes to accomplish something of great moral significance. We have been fooled into thinking that helping #PlannedParenthood or #AnotherBoy trend on Twitter is the extent of our work.
Yesterday, I tweeted:
— Aaron Earls (@WardrobeDoor) August 3, 2015
Yes, that was a shot against politicians who claim moral convictions, but follow polling (or money) instead.
But the other side of the coin for those of us who aren’t in politics is that great moral acts are rarely accomplished without great personal sacrifice. If we truly want to end the horrors that happen in a Planned Parenthood building, it will require more than social media activism.
I say that not to discount the impact social media can have, but to remind us that it is only one part of what will inevitably be a long, drawn out (possibly painful) process. To better understand this, we can look to the life of William Wilberforce.
As a member of the British Parliament, Wilberforce met James Ramsay as the American war for independence was winding down in 1783. Ramsay was a ship’s surgeon who had become a pastor and grew horrified at the treatment of slaves.
Ramsay wrote a book that exposed the British people to all that was happening in their name through the slave trade. For this, he was attacked and maligned by those who made a living on the backs of African slaves.
In 1787, after hearing from others and researching the subject himself, Wilberforce became convinced that he must do something to stop the English slave trade. He said this was a great object that “God Almighty has set before me.”
Hundreds of petitions flooded Parliament opposing the slave trade, the first grassroots human rights campaign.
While they could not yet outlaw slavery, they took the small win of improving conditions on British slave ships. This allowed them to chip away at the inhumane way the British treated slaves, but also the inhumane way they viewed slaves.
It raised the obvious question, “If they are worth humane treatment, does that then not mean they are human.”
In 1791, Wilberforce began introduced a motion to abolish the slave trade. It was easily defeated 163 to 88. But at each Parliament session for the next 16 years, he introduced a motion in support of abolition.
During those years, they had small gains and significant setbacks, but they never relented and continue to challenge the public and elected officials with the truth of slavery.
Finally, in February 1807, the House of Lords and House of Commons passed the bill. It received royal assent on March 25, 1807 and became British law.
But this only removed England from the slave trade. It did not end slavery in the British Empire—that took another 26 years of fighting and sacrifice on the part of Wilberforce and others.
Finally in July of 1833, after three months of debate, slavery was abolished and existing slaves were emancipated. From the introduction of the first bill to the passage of the final one, it took 42 years.
Three days after the bill was passed, Wilberforce died. But he died having given his life to secure the freedom and humanity of others. He died after he realized his goal.
Unlike Moses, Wilberforce was allowed into the Promised Land, but only for moment and only after his own 40 years of wandering through a wilderness of national apathy and aggression.
It will take time and work to end Planned Parenthood and stop the devaluing of human life in the womb. Hashtags and blog posts are a start, but they are not enough.
The efforts to end slavery were not accomplished by Wilberforce alone. They involved survivors of slavery speaking out. It took numerous exposés of the industry. And it needed normal average British citizens engaging in a sugar boycott (the largest import to Britain was slave grown sugar) to pressure businesses and politicians.
Prepare yourself for a lengthy effort because those who profit from the lives of others rarely give up easily. But we have hope.
We can look at the protracted efforts of individuals like Wilberforce who spent decades ending a practice that is acknowledged as morally repugnant to virtually everyone today. One day, the same will be said about abortion.
More importantly, I take comfort and courage in these words written to a group of counter-cultural individuals trying to live out their convictions in a city, region and nation that actively sought to not only hinder their efforts, but take their lives.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
This is a good work. There will be a harvest, but not the kind Planned Parenthood is after. The harvest will be of the saved lives of countless children. But we this comes only if we do not give up.
Even if, like Wilberforce, it takes our entire lives, we must not give up.