United States pro-life movement
The United States pro-life movement (also known as the United States anti-abortion movement or the United States right-to-life movement) is a social and political movement in the United States opposing on moral or sectarian grounds elective abortion and usually supporting its legal prohibition or restriction. Advocates generally argue that human life begins at conception and that the human fetus (and in most cases the human embryo) is a person and therefore has a right to life. The pro-life movement includes a variety of organizations, with no single centralized decision-making body. There are diverse arguments and rationales for the pro-life stance. Some anti-abortion activists concede arguments for permissible abortions in exceptional circumstances such as incest, rape, severe fetal defects or when the woman's health is at risk.
Before the Supreme Court 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion views predominated and found expression in state laws which prohibited or restricted abortions in a variety of ways. (See Abortion in the United States.) The anti-abortion movement became politically active and dedicated to the reversal of theRoe v. Wade decision, which struck down most state laws restricting abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy. In the United States, the movement is associated with several Christian religious groups, especially the Catholic Church, and is frequently, but not exclusively, allied with the Republican Party. The movement is also supported by non-mainstream pro-life feminists. The movement seeks to reverse Roe v. Wade and to promote legislative changes or constitutional amendment, such as the Human Life Amendment, that prohibit or at least broadly restrict abortion.
The "pro-life" concept is at times used synonymously with the concepts of "right to life" and "culture of life", and can also refer to a prohibitive or restrictive position on the issues of euthanasia, embryonic stem-cell research, and capital punishment, as well as other life issues.
On the other side of the abortion debate in the United States is the pro-choice movement, which argues that a woman is the only person with a right to make a decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.
- 1 History
- 2 Overview
- 3 Views in opposition to abortion
- 4 Legal and political aspects
- 5 Controversies over terminology
- 6 Types of advocacy
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
In the late 1960s, a number of organizations were formed to mobilize opinion against the legalization of abortion. In the United States, the National Right to Life Committee was formed in 1968, while in Australia, the National Right to Life formed in 1970.
The description "pro-life" was adopted by the right-to-life (anti-abortion) movement in the United States following the Supreme Court 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, which held that a woman may terminate her pregnancy prior to the viability of the fetus outside of the womb and may also terminate her pregnancy "subsequent to viability ... for the preservation of the life or health of the mother." The term "pro-life" was adopted instead of "anti-abortion" to highlight their proponents' belief that abortion is the taking of a human life, rather than an issue concerning the restriction of women's reproductive rights. The first organized action was initiated by U.S. Catholic bishops who recommended in 1973 that the U.S. Constitution should be amended to ban abortion.
Roe v. Wade was considered a major setback by anti-abortion campaigners. The case and the overturning of most anti-abortion laws spurred the growth of a largely religious-based anti-abortion political and social movement, even as Americans were becoming, in the 1970s and 1980s, increasingly pro-choice. The first major pro-life success since Roe's case came in 1976 with the passing of the Hyde Amendment prohibiting the use of certain federal funds for abortions. In Harris v. McRae, pro-life advocates won a 1980 challenge to the Hyde Amendment. That same year, the pro-life movement gained control of the Republican Party's platform committee, adding pro-life planks to the Republican position, and calling for a Human Life Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, banning abortion. Two pro-life U.S. Presidents – Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush – were elected.
That the pro-life movement is bigger is a given. It’s also younger, increasingly entrepreneurial, more strategic in its thinking, better organized, tougher in dealing with allies and enemies alike, almost wildly ambitious, and more relentless than ever. Pro-lifers have captured the high moral ground, chiefly thanks to advances in the quality of sonograms. Once fuzzy, sonograms now provide a high-resolution picture of the unborn child in the womb. Fetuses have become babies.
Barnes also discussed the rise in opposition to abortion among the younger generations, especially the millennials, the prevalence of crisis pregnancy centers, and the rejuvenation of old pro-life groups, such as Students for Life, and the rise of new ones, such as 40 Days for Life and Live Action. Lisa Miller of The Washington Post wrote about the younger, more feminine face of the pro-life movement with the rise of leaders such as Lila Rose of Live Action, Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List, Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life, Penny Nance of Concerned Women for America, and Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life, all "youngish Christian working mothers with children at home" who offer a pro-life perspective on the women's rights aspect of the abortion issue instead of focusing exclusively on the fetus.
The pro-life movement has been successful in recent years in promoting new laws against abortion within the states. The Guttmacher Institute said eighty laws restricting abortion were passed in the first six months of 2011, "more than double the previous record of 34 abortion restrictions enacted in 2005—and more than triple the 23 enacted in 2010".
Before Roe v. Wade, the United States right-to-life movement consisted of lawyers, politicians, and doctors, almost all of whom were Catholic. The only coordinated opposition to abortion during the early 1970s came from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Family Life Bureau, also a Catholic organization. Mobilization of a wide-scale pro-life movement among Catholics began quickly after the Roe v. Wade decision with the creation of the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). The NRLC also organized non-Catholics, eventually becoming the largest pro-life organization in the United States. Connie Paige has been quoted as having said that, "[t]he Roman Catholic Church created the right-to-life movement. Without the church, the movement would not exist as such today."
Before 1980, the Southern Baptist Convention officially advocated for loosening of abortion restrictions. During the 1971 and 1974 Southern Baptist Conventions, Southern Baptists were called upon "to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother." W. Barry Garrett wrote in the Baptist Press, "Religious liberty, human equality and justice are advanced by the [Roe v. Wade] Supreme Court Decision."
By 1980, conservative Protestant leaders became vocal in their opposition to legalized abortion, and by the early 1990s Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition of America became a significant pro-life organization. In 2005, Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said that making abortion illegal is more important than any other issue.
The pro-life movement includes a variety of organizations, with no single centralized decision-making body. There are diverse arguments and rationales for the pro-life stance.
There are many socially conservative organizations in the U.S. that support the pro-life movement. Some groups focus solely on promoting the pro-life cause, such as the Susan B. Anthony List, National Right to Life Committee, Americans United for Life, and Live Action, among many others. Other groups support not only the pro-life cause but the broader family values cause, such as Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, American Family Association, and Concerned Women for America, among many others.
Pro-life individuals generally believe that human life should be valued either from fertilization or implantation until natural death. The contemporary pro-life movement is typically, but not exclusively, influenced by Conservative Christian beliefs, especially in the United States, and has influenced certain strains of bioethical utilitarianism. From that viewpoint, any action which destroys an embryo or fetus kills a person. Any deliberate destruction of human life is considered ethically or morally wrong and is not considered to be mitigated by any benefits to others, as such benefits are coming at the expense of the life of what they believe to be a person. In some cases, this belief extends to opposing abortion of fetuses that would almost certainly expire within a short time after birth, such as anencephalic fetuses.
Some pro-life advocates also oppose certain forms of birth control, particularly hormonal contraception such as emergency contraception (ECPs), and copper IUDs which prevent the implantation of an embryo. Because they believe that the term "pregnancy" should be defined so as to begin at fertilization, they refer to these contraceptives as abortifacients[non-primary source needed] because they cause the embryo to starve. An embryo gets its nourishment off the uterine wall and "dies" if not attached. The Catholic Church endorses this view,[non-primary source needed] but the possibility that hormonal contraception has post-fertilization effects is disputed within the scientific community, including some pro-life physicians.[non-primary source needed]
Attachment to a pro-life position is often but not exclusively connected to religious beliefs about the sanctity of life (see also culture of life). Exclusively secular-humanist positions against abortion tend to be a minority viewpoint among pro-life advocates; these groups (such as Secular Pro-Life) say that their position is based on human rights and biology, rather than religion.[non-primary source needed] Many holding the pro-life position also tend toward a complementarian view of gender roles, though there is also a self-described feminist element inside the movement.[non-primary source needed]
Moreover, conservative publications, such as American Thinker, cite studies such as a comprehensive review of literature published in the British Journal of Psychiatry which suggests that, among women, "there is a significant increase in mental health problems after abortion." However, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists responded to the review with a position statement in which they said that three previously published systematic reviews and the RCOG guideline development group (who reviewed all available literature up to February 2011) have concluded that women who have an abortion are not at increased risk of mental health problems when compared with women who continue an unintended pregnancy. Furthermore, they questioned the fact that while the paper’s findings pointed to increased substance misuse and suicidal behaviors among the groups of women, the research did not fully examine if these women had pre-existing mental health complications such as dependency issues and mood disorders before the abortion.
Views in opposition to abortion
The variety in opinion on the issue of abortion is reflected in the diverse views of religious groups. For example, the Catholic Church condemns every procured abortion as morally evil, while traditional Jewish teaching sanctions abortion if necessary to safeguard the life and well-being of the pregnant woman.
Much of the pro-life movement in the United States and around the world finds support in the Roman Catholic Church, Christian right, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Church of England, the Anglican Church in North America, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). However, the pro-life teachings of these denominations vary considerably. The Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church consider abortion to be immoral in all cases, but permit acts which indirectly result in the death of the fetus in the case where the mother's life is threatened. In Pope John Paul II's Letter to Families he simply stated the Roman Catholic Church's view on abortion and euthanasia: "Laws which legitimize the direct killing of innocent human beings through abortion or euthanasia are in complete opposition to the inviolable right to life proper to every individual; they thus deny the equality of everyone before the law."
The National Association of Evangelicals and the LDS Church oppose abortion on demand. However, the NAE considers abortion permissible in cases with clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, dire threat to the life/physical health of the pregnant woman, or when a pregnancy results from rape or incest. The Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality (TUMAS) was formed in 1987 to further the pro-life ministry in The United Methodist Church. The Southern Baptist Convention believes that abortion is allowable only in cases where there is a direct threat to the life of the woman. Other Mainline Protestant denominations in the United States, such as the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the United Church of Christ, are pro-choice.
Consistent life ethic
Supporters of the consistent life ethic also oppose abortions as one of the acts that end human life. In 1979, Juli Loesch linked anti-abortion and anti-nuclear weapons arguments to form the group Prolifers for Survival. In 1987 this group defined an ethic of the sanctity of all life, and formed the group Seamless Garment Network. This group was against abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, militarism, poverty and racism. Beginning in 1983, American Catholic Cardinal Joseph Bernardin argued that abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and unjust war are all related, and all wrong. He said that "to be truly 'pro-life,' you have to take all of those issues into account." Paul M. Perl studied 1996 voter statistics and found that the consistent life ethic is difficult for religious leaders to promote because it combines the generally conservative anti-abortion stance with a liberal social attitude.
Legal and political aspects
The United States Republican Party platform advocates a pro-life position, though there are some pro-choice Republicans. The Republican group The Wish List supports pro-choice Republican women just as EMILY's List supports pro-choice Democratic women. The Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) is dedicated to "increasing the percentage of pro-life women in Congress and high public office," and seeks to eliminate abortion in the U.S. The Democrats for Life of America are a group of pro-life Democrats on the political left who advocate for a pro-life plank in the Democratic Party's platform and for pro-life Democratic candidates. Former vice-presidential candidate Sargent Shriver, the late Robert Casey, a former two-term governor of Pennsylvania, and former Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich), a former leader of the Democratic pro-life caucus in the United States House of Representatives, have been among the most well-known pro-life Democrats. However, following his vote in favor of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Marjorie Dannenfelser of the SBA List reported that her organization was revoking a pro-life award it had been planning to give to Stupak, and pro-life organizations accused Stupak of having betrayed the pro-life movement.
The New York Times reported in 2011 that the pro-life movement in the United States has been undergoing a disagreement over tactics. Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, the movement has usually focused on chipping away at Roe through incremental restrictions such as laws requiring parental consent or women to see sonograms, restricting late-term abortions, etc., with the goal of limiting abortions and changing "hearts and minds" until there is a majority on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. However, some activists are calling for "an all-out legal assault on Roe. v. Wade", seeking the enactment of laws defining legal personhood as beginning at fertilization or prohibiting abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detectable at six to eight weeks in the hope that court challenges to such laws would lead the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. They believe that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who nearly decided to overturn Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, is open to rethinking Roe. Others fear that the Court would not only strike down the laws in question but other state laws as well, and take the opportunity to solidify the ruling in Roe. Evangelical Christian groups tend to be in the former camp and Catholic groups in the latter.
Controversies over terminology
Pro-life advocates tend to use terms such as "unborn baby", "unborn child", or "pre-born child", and see the medical terms "embryo" and "fetus" as dehumanizing. Pro-life individuals may also prefer to refer to the pregnant woman as a "mother", while some pro-choice individuals consider this inappropriate, and some in the medical community may see its usage as insensitive and biased in certain narrowly defined contexts.
Both "pro-choice" and "pro-life" are examples of terms labeled as political framing: they are terms which purposely try to define their philosophies in the best possible light, while by definition attempting to describe their opposition in the worst possible light. "Pro-choice" implies that the alternative viewpoint is "anti-choice", while "pro-life" implies the alternative viewpoint is "pro-death" or "anti-life".
The Associated Press encourages journalists to use the terms "abortion rights" and "anti-abortion". In a 2009 Gallup Poll, a majority of U.S. adults (51%) called themselves "pro-life" on the issue of abortion—for the first time since Gallup began asking the question in 1995—while 42% identified themselves as "pro-choice", although pro-choice groups noted that acceptance of the "pro-life" label did not in all cases indicate opposition to legalized abortion, and that another recent poll had indicated that a plurality were pro-choice. A March 2011 Rasmussen Reports poll concluded that Americans are "closely divided between those who call themselves pro-life" and those who consider themselves as "pro-choice". In a February 2011 Rasmussen Reports poll of "Likely U.S. Voters", fifty percent view themselves as "pro-choice" and forty percent "say they are pro-life". In a July 2013 Rasmussen Reports poll of "Likely U.S. Voters", 46 percent view themselves as "pro-choice" and 43 percent "say they are pro-life".
Types of advocacy
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Pro-life advocacy involves a variety of activities, from promoting the pro-life position to the public in general, lobbying public officials, or attempting to dissuade individual women to forgo abortions. Some efforts involve distributing literature, providing counseling services, conducting public demonstrations or protests and private or public prayer.
Demonstrations and protests
- Mass demonstrations: every year, American pro-life advocates hold a March for Life in Washington, D.C., on 22 January, the anniversary date of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the United States. Similar events take place on a smaller scale in other U.S. cities, such as the Walk for Life in San Francisco, California. In Spain, over a million people took part in a demonstration on 17 October 2009 protesting the legalization of abortion. On a lesser scale, the Paris March for Life gathers thousands of French pro-life marchers every year in January. Also, thousands of Pro Life supporters hold a march for life in Ottawa, Canada every May, the anniversary of R v. Morgertaller
- The life chain: The "Life Chain" is a public demonstration technique that involves standing in a row on sidewalks holding signs bearing pro-life messages. Messages include "Abortion Kills Children", "Abortion stops a beating heart" or "Abortion Hurts Women". Participants, as an official policy, do not yell or chant slogans and do not block pedestrians or roadways. Many Right to Life chapters hold Life Chain events yearly and the annual worldwide 40 Days for Life campaigns also use this technique.
- The rescue: A "rescue operation" involves pro-life activists blocking the entrances to an abortion clinic in order to prevent anyone from entering. The stated goal of this practice is to force the clinic to shut down for the day. Often, the protesters are removed by law enforcement. Some clinics were protested so heavily in this fashion that they closed down permanently. "The rescue" was first attempted by Operation Rescue. Ever since President Bill Clinton signed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act into law, the rescue has become prohibitively expensive, and has rarely been attempted.
- The truth display: In conducting a "truth display", protesters publicly display highly-magnified pictures of aborted fetuses. Some pro-life groups believe that publicizing the graphic results of abortion is an effective way of making their case. The Pro-Life Action League has used this form of activism in its Face the Truth displays. Members of one group, Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, have been jailed numerous times for these types of displays which they set up both legally and illegally on university campuses. "Truth displays" are a controversial tactic, including within the pro-life movement.
- Picketing: The majority of the facilities that perform abortions in the United States experience some form of protest from pro-life demonstrators every year, of which the most common form is picketing. In 2007, 11,113 instances of picketing were either reported to, or obtained by, the National Abortion Federation.
- Sidewalk counseling: "Sidewalk counseling" is a form of pro-life advocacy which is conducted outside of abortion clinics. Activists seek to communicate with those entering the building, or with passersby in general, in an effort to persuade them not to have an abortion or to reconsider their position on the morality of abortion. They do so by trying to engage in conversation, displaying signs, distributing literature, or giving directions to a nearby crisis pregnancy center.
- The "Chicago Method" is an approach to sidewalk counseling that involves giving those about to enter an abortion facility copies of lawsuits filed against the facility or its physicians. The name comes from the fact that it was first used by Pro-Life Action League in Chicago. The intent of the Chicago Method is to turn the woman away from a facility that the protesters deem "unsafe", thus giving her time to reconsider her choice to abort.[non-primary source needed]
- Crisis pregnancy centers: "Crisis pregnancy centers" are non-profit organizations, mainly in the United States, established to counsel pregnant women against having an abortion. These centers are typically run by anti-abortion Christians according to a conservative Christian philosophy, and often disseminate false medical information, usually but not exclusively about the supposed health risks and mental health risks of abortion. The centers usually provide peer counseling against abortion, and sometimes also offer adoption referrals or baby supplies. Most are not licensed and do not provide medical services, though some offer sonograms, claiming that most women who see sonograms decide not to have an abortion. Legal and legislative action regarding CPCs has generally attempted to curb false or deceptive advertising undertaken in pursuit of the anti-abortion cause. Several thousand CPCs exist in the United States, often operating in affiliation with one of three umbrella organizations (Care Net, Heartbeat International, and Birthright International), with hundreds in other countries. By 2006, U.S. CPCs had received more than $60 million of federal funding, including some funding earmarked for abstinence-only programs, as well as state funding from many states.
Specialty license plates
In the United States, some states issue specialty license plates that have a pro-life theme. Choose Life, an advocacy group founded in 1997, was successful in securing a pro-life automobile tag in Florida. Subsequently, the organization has been actively helping groups in other states pursue "Choose Life" license plates.
Against abortion providers
Violent incidents directed against abortion providers range from the murders and attempted murders of physicians and clinic staff to arson and bombings of abortion clinics, to ordinary fisticuffs. G. Davidson Smith of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) defined violence related to abortion extremism, animal rights, and environmentalism as "single issue terrorism". Acts of violence against abortion providers and facilities in North America have largely subsided following a peak in the mid-1990s. The National Clinic Violence Survey, conducted by the pro-choice Feminist Majority Foundation, reported in 2006 that severe violence affected 18.4% of abortion providers and facilities in the preceding year, 2005. This figure is lower than at any time since 1994, which is consistent with statistics from the National Abortion Federation that show violence against abortion clinics or providers has steadily decreased since 2001.
A notable example of anti-abortion violence in the United States is the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a physician who provided late term abortions as part of his practice. He was shot and killed in the foyer of the church where he was a member. A large number of pro-life leaders and groups condemned the killing. The National Right to Life Committee, the largest pro-life organization in the United States, has stated that it "unequivocally condemns any acts of violence used by individuals regardless of their motivation". The American Life League has issued a "Pro-life Proclamation Against Violence".
Nearly all pro-life leaders condemned the use of violence in the movement even before Tiller's death, describing violence as an aberration and saying that no one in their organizations was associated with acts of violence. In the 1990s, the Revered Patrick Mahoney addressed the issue of violence, saying, "I think that extremists opposed to abortion got frustrated, felt they were losing the battle and felt it was incumbent upon themselves to resort to violence." In the same era, the Flip Benham, director of Operation Save America, also addressed the issue, saying "This whole thing isn't about violence. It's all about silence – silencing the Christian message. That's what they want." He also stated, "They screech and scream about us crying fire in a crowded theater. And I agree it is wrong, unless there is a fire. If there's a fire in that theater, we better call it that. Our inflammatory rhetoric is only revealing a far more inflammatory truth."
Against pro-life people
On September 11, 2009, pro-life activist James Pouillon was shot and killed as he was displaying pictures of aborted fetuses in front of a school in Owosso, Michigan. Harlan James Drake was charged with two murders: Pouillon's murder and the murder of a gravel pit contractor, Mike Fuoss. Drake reportedly "didn't like Pouillon's graphic antiabortion signs" and had a grudge against Fuoss and against James Howe, a real estate agent whom Drake targeted. Two days after the murder, president Barack Obama issued a statement saying that "[w]hichever side of a public debate you're on, violence is never the right answer".
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|Look up pro-life in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pro-life movement.|
- National Right to Life Committee
- Americans United for Life
- American Life League
- Physicians for Life
- Family Research Council