Decline in abortion rate is great pro-life educational opportunity

We must pick up and use the fact that the abortion rate is declining, rather than get sidetracked into a fight about its immediate causes and consequences. Even if it were true (which I doubt) that the greater availability of contraceptives (rather than pro-life educational and law reform efforts) is the primary cause of this decline, and the greater use of contraceptives (rather than more babies being born) is its primary consequence, this trend would be extremely advantagous for the pro-life movement.

As Rachel MacNair has pointed out in her written works, especially in Achieving Peace in the Abortion War (2009),  the trend downward in abortions helps us in at least two ways:

First (whatever may be the cause of the decline in the abortion rate), the less important abortion becomes in peoples’ lives, the easier it will be to restrict it. The so-called “reliance interest” identified in Casey diminishes.
Second, if abortions decline, we can use that in a narrative that says that the American people are rejecting abortion. This narrative is useful in reaching those who want to jump on bandwagons (or “be on the right side of history”). But also, and perhaps more importantly, it can help us reach patriotic Americans (i.e., the overwhelming majority of Americans). As long as we are heard to be saying in effect “America is engaging in a holocaust in some ways worse than that of the Nazis”, good and loyal Americans will turn away, will refuse to hear a message so disturbing — or if they do hear and believe it, they may just lose heart. But with this decline, we can now say instead “Some American judges and politicians may still be pro-abortion, but the American people are realizing how tragic abortion is, and they are continuing to turn away from it.” Both narratives are true, in my judgment, but why not use the one that has the greater power to change minds and hearts? Non-violence builds on hope, not on despair.
Richard Stith

Richard Stith is a research professor at Valparaiso University in Indiana. Having received both his law degree and a doctorate in ethics from Yale University, he taught legal philosophy and comparative law at Valpo Law for 41 years. From Harvard and from the University of California, Berkeley, he holds degrees in political theory. He was for a year director of the Program in Biomedical Ethics at St. Louis University School of Medicine. He served for many years on the Advisory Council of the National Lawyers Association and on the Board of Editors of the AMERICAN JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE LAW and has taught and published on comparative law and legal philosophy in Spain, India, China, Ukraine, Chile and Mexico. In 2001, he became the first U.S. professor to be designated by the European Commission as teacher of a Jean Monnet Module (on the law of the European Union) and shortly thereafter was named the first Swygert Research Fellow in recognition of his scholarship. He is a consultant on the Academic Council for the doctoral program in law at the Universidad de Los Andes in Chile, where he has directed doctoral seminars. Professor Stith has served as a member of the national boards of University Faculty for Life and of the Consistent Life Network. He has been a speaker at national, state, and international right-to-life gatherings and has presented pro-life testimony by invitation before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution and to state and foreign legislative committees. Among his significant publications: “The Priority of Respect: How Our Common Humanity Can Ground Our Individual Dignity,” International Philosophical Quarterly 44 (2004): 165. Other works can be found at Email: [email protected]