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EDITOR’S NOTEBOOK: Has The Pro-Life Movement Lost Its Way?

March for Life provides moment for reflection

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Editor’s Note:  Most Saturdays we will feature this “Editor’s Notebook” column. MinistryWatch President Warren Smith will offer his opinion on stories in the week’s news or, sometimes, offer a behind-the-scenes look at how and why we do what we do.

Today is the annual March for Life in Washington. The event has me reflecting both on my own career in journalism and on the pro-life movement.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the life issue gave me my career in journalism. I was happy in my corporate career in 1993. I worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, the global accounting and consulting firm. I had a corner office on the 34rd floor of the Bank of America Corporate Center in Charlotte, N.C. I was a Christian, and pro-life, but I had a demanding job and small children. Anything resembling activism would have to wait.

Then I read a news article saying the state of North Carolina spent about $1.5 million per year to pay for the abortions of about 5,000 poor women. My tax dollars paid for these abortions. I was complicit. That article, for reasons I can’t fully explain, radicalized me.

So I started a small newsletter called “The Charlotte Christian News” in November of 1993, and that began my slow transition from the corporate world to the world of Christian journalism. Thirty years, ten books (some of which deal explicitly about the abortion issue), and a couple of jobs later, I am still covering the life issue.

And it seems to me that the pro-life movement has lost its way.

Sure, there are outward signs of success. Roe v. Wade was overturned. Roe was a bad decision and overturning it was a good thing. But – as I have written elsewhere — we are now discovering that how one wins is as important as what one wins. The tactics and political liaisons of some in the pro-life movement alienated many undecided Americans. The pro-life movement can’t dismiss or disdain these people. If we really want to end abortion, we need to persuade them, not alienate them.

We are now beginning to see this alienation in some of the long-term polling that has been done on this issue. After years when Americans were closely divided on the morality of abortion or leaned against it, a slight majority in 2022 said they consider it morally acceptable. That continues in the 2023 poll, as 52 percent say abortion is morally acceptable and 41 percent call it morally wrong.

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Worse still, after years of decline, the number of abortions in America are now once again on the rise. (The growth in chemical abortions likely means we are dramatically undercounting the number of abortions.) Planned Parenthood’s fundraising has exploded. In July of last year, Gallup issued a new report that expressed the rapid turnaround in sentiment about abortion:

The pro-life movement won the battle over Roe. But it is losing the war for the hearts and minds of Americans. It has formed liaisons of convenience with politicians that most Americans consider to be immoral and obnoxious, who claim to be pro-life to consummate political transactions.

I am not just talking about Donald Trump, though he is an obvious example. As I have documented elsewhere, during the Trump Administration, funding for Planned Parenthood reached an all-time high, and Planned Parenthood’s private fundraising more than doubled. Planned Parenthood’s annual budget (about $2 billion) now dwarfs the combined budget of all 3,000 pregnancy resource centers combined.

Telling The Truth

For decades, the pro-life movement was slowly but surely winning the hearts of minds of Americans. Why? Because we told the truth and we acted with compassion. Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs) have served millions of women and their families. Ultrasound machines let women see what their hearts knew to be true.

Today, by contrast, the pro-life movement has become far too willing to fudge the truth for political or public relations wins. Christians should be a set-apart people, the Bible says. We can praise and support a political party when it does the right thing, but we must be in a position to criticize it when it does not. In all cases, we should tell the truth.

The news organization Axios recently published a chart showing that just 27 percent of Americans identify as Republicans, the same percentage that identify as Democrats. But a whopping 43 percent identify as independents. These are the people who stand in the middle and look left and right and ask: Who do I believe? Who is telling the truth?

These are the people we will have to persuade if we want to make abortion in America not merely illegal, but unthinkable.

Editor’s Note:  MinistryWatch recently created a pro-life category in its MinistryWatch 1000 database. To see how your favorite pro-life ministry rates, click here. To suggest ministries that we should add to this category, email Warren Smith at [email protected]


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Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.