The abortion rate in America is the lowest since before Roe v. Wade legalized the practice in 1973.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the current rate of 12.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years is the lowest since 1971.
From a pro-life perspective, this is undeniably good news. But should this lead us to change our tactics in the work to prevent abortions?
With this news and previous stories like it, many Christians have taken this as an opportunity to step out of the public and political fight against Roe v. Wade and move toward easier cultural and political wins that could lead to a continued reduction of abortions.
I understand the thinking and share much of the sentiment behind it, but it tempt us to give up before the work is done.
We Should Be About More Than Fighting Roe v. Wade
We should expand the fight against abortion to include preventative measures like addressing poverty. A pro-life ethic should also work toward the improvement of life beyond the womb. Those should be part of our policy battle against abortion and the current dim view of human dignity.
We should work with pro-choice people of good faith in achieving shared goals of reducing the need for abortion. We can work together to achieve the “rare” aspect of the “safe, legal and rare” strategy popularized by former president Bill Clinton.
Even beyond those governmental measures, we should work to the change the hearts of people. Politics is not the ultimate solution to abortion.
Currently, large portions of the population are held sway by the narrative that personal empowerment should come at any and all costs. We have to tell a better story.
Positively, everyone should be shown how protecting life in the womb leads to an increase in human flourishing for everyone.
Negatively, we must work to remind people that the devaluing of life at any stage is a threat to the value of life at any stage.
My ultimate desire would be to see us so change the narrative that abortion is all but eliminated prior to any laws ever being changed, and the laws are changed to reflect the perspective of the citizenry.
But that final part is more than ceremonial. It matters what our laws say about life. Pro-life absolutely means more than outlawing abortion, but it doesn’t mean less.
But We Should Continue to Fight Roe v. Wade
We can celebrate the reduction of abortions and applaud many steps that reduce that number, but that should not deter our goal of eliminating them altogether.
Yes, we should work to create a culture where no one wants or needs an abortion, but part of achieving that goal is removing the legal protection of the practice.
It’s often said (and I’ve said it myself) that politics is downstream from culture. That is true, but it is oversimplification. More often than not, our laws do reflect what has already become accepted culturally.
However, laws also influence culture and push it in certain directions. They are not always reflective. Sometimes they can be aspirational—giving the country a moral vision to which we can aspire. That was definitely the case with slavery and Civil Rights laws.
Our country was not where it needed to be in those areas, but changes in our laws helped to move us in the right direction. In those cases, culture eventually caught up to the legal.
This has also been the strategy of the LGBT community. They have sought and won legal battles while large portions of the country—sometimes a majority—opposed their position.
But frequently, the popular opinion on those issues shifted toward the newly legal position.
That may very well be what happens with abortion. We may achieve political and legal victories before our culture recognizes them as such.
But in the midst of this, we can rejoice over any reduction in the number of abortions.
Having long term goals doesn’t mean you don’t value short term wins, it merely means you don’t try to convince yourself you’ve accomplished everything before you actually have.
Abolitionists rejoiced to end the slave trade, but only because that was a step in the process of ending slavery. There was still work left to be done.
Our situation is the same with abortion. Celebrate the reduction. Cheer restrictions, like the 20-week ban recently passed in Ohio, that can bring about more reductions.
But never lose sight that the end goal of the pro-life movement is not merely to lessen the number of lives lost by abortion; it is the full and total protection of life—including life in the womb.
That means our society and our laws reflect a culture of life. Until we have achieved that goal, work remains.