At the beginning of the classic Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey stood on a snow covered bridge preparing to jump into the icy river below.
He was going to kill himself after concluding that he had made a mess of things and that his life had counted for nothing. Then, at the height of his despair, he was visited by Clarence – an angel who showed him all the lives he had touched and how different his community would be had he never lived. In the end, George came to see that he had walked onto that bridge because he was allowing his life to be defined by its failures.
There is a valuable lesson in that for the pro-life movement.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the tragic Roe v. Wade decision and, for those of us who fight for the unborn, I often get the feeling that our self-doubt and sense of failure has grown with each of those years. While we don't question the rightness of our cause, the enormity of its challenges makes us question whether our blood, sweat and tears have bought very much. This attitude seems to be reinforced when you recognize that, for all our efforts, we have not returned legal protection to one baby in one state. On the surface, it seems that all we've really done is minimally regulate the circumstances under which they can be killed.
While that analysis may be technically accurate, the picture it paints is misleading. Although few, if any, would call me an angel, I want to point out what our country would be like had my brothers and sisters in this struggle not done what they have done.
When I started Life Dynamics in 1992, there were over 2100 abortion clinics in America. Today, there are just over 600 and most of those that remain are gasping for air. But be assured, if the pro-life movement had never existed, there could easily be one in every mall and strip shopping center in the country.
Now if you think the idea of mall-based abortion franchises is too crass even by Planned Parenthood's standards, you don't know much about Planned Parenthood. In reality, this is precisely the kind of thing they would do if they could get away with it.
You might also be tempted to think that the American people would not tolerate something this outrageous. If so, I remind you that, fifty years ago, those same people would have labeled you insane if you had predicted that they would soon be driving past free-standing abortion businesses with toll-free numbers, Yellow Page ads and credit-card decals on the front door. Moreover, they would have hauled you away to some asylum if you had predicted that these barbarians would be doing late-term abortions on healthy babies being carried by healthy moms, or that it would be legal for 12-year-old girls to be taken to these places and aborted without their parent's knowledge.
The point is, if you consider that these things happened in a country with a vibrant pro-life movement, it is quite reasonable to predict that there would be abortion franchises in the malls of a country with no pro-life movement. In that environment, we could also expect to see abortion pills hanging in bubble packs at the check-out counters of every convenience store in the country. In fact, they'd make the perfect companion to the large variety of condoms and "personal lubricants" that are hanging there now.
If the pro-life movement had never existed ... every public school and university in America would either have an on-site abortion clinic or a contract with a nearby abortionist.
If the pro-life movement had never existed ... there would be no debate about taxpayer funding of abortion; the government would have been forcing us to pay for them since day one.
If the pro-life movement had never existed ... the right-to-life of the unborn would not even be discussed in either the public arena or the political process.
If the pro-life movement had never existed ... poll after poll would not now be documenting a dramatic shift away from support for legalized abortion and toward the pro-life position – especially among the young.
If the pro-life movement had never existed ... we would not see the faces of children with disabilities like Down syndrome – not because these maladies had been cured but because abortion would have long ago become the accepted medical "treatment" for every imperfect baby. After all, killing people is easier than healing or accommodating them.
If the pro-life movement had never existed ... there would be no crisis pregnancy network to help those women who might not want to submit to abortion. That's because, without your voices, abortion would be the default position for every unplanned pregnancy.
The list goes on and on, but the bottom line is that, without the pro-life movement, America would have devolved into a country where the killing of an unborn child has no more moral significance than the pulling of a tooth.
Now, for those who think I am exaggerating about these things, let me introduce some facts you may not have considered.
In the early 1920s, the Soviet Union became the first industrialized nation in the world to legalize abortion. Many years later, several studies were conducted to determine how that decision was playing out. To put it mildly, the findings were stunning.
One published study documented that the average Soviet woman had nine abortions during her child-bearing years. Other research documented that 90 percent of all first pregnancies in the Soviet Union and 60 percent of all subsequent pregnancies were legally aborted. It is also known that, of the remaining pregnancies, many of them ended in illegal or unreported abortions. The result was that, according to one American researcher, in some parts of the Soviet Union it was not uncommon for women to undergo as many as 28 abortions.
Today, the Russian government is saying that the health consequences of this have been catastrophic for that nation's women. Additionally, economists are saying that the demographic realities brought on by Russia's artificially shrunken population will inevitably cause an economic meltdown. In fact, some demographers are arguing that this collapse has already begun.
The important thing for us to recognize is that the Soviet experience with abortion is a prototype for what happens in any country where the abortion industry is allowed to operate without opposition and, thus, without restraint. Make no mistake, had it not been for the American pro-life movement, what happened in the Soviet Union would have been duplicated right here. We would not now be standing on the graves of 50 million dead babies; we would be standing one the graves of 150 million or 250 million or ... God only knows how many. Think about that the next time you start to question what the blood, sweat and tears of the pro-life movement have bought.
As we go forward, it is important to never forget that this is not a war between the pro-life movement and the abortion lobby. It is a war between the abortion lobby and the unborn. The pro-life movement is merely a collection of soldiers who volunteered to fight on the side of defenseless children who would, otherwise, be left alone to face these remorseless and amoral cowards.
In the final analysis, we are stronger today than we've ever been. For all our faults – and they are many – we have made it clear that whatever sacrifices must be made, we will make; whatever burdens must be borne, we will bear; and whatever obstacles must be overcome, we will overcome.
We have lived this commitment – and we will keep living it – because that is what God expects of us. Two thousand years ago, He promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against us – and we understand that if the front door of an abortion clinic is not a gate into hell, then hell does not exist.
So, while it is true that the pro-life movement has not yet won, it is just as true that we will never quit. Despite the setbacks we might face and the battles we might lose, we are going to continue doing our duty and trusting God to deliver the promised victory. But until that day comes, we will not allow Satan to rub our noses in our failures. We will be proud of what we have accomplished, unapologetic about where we have tried and failed, focused on the battle in front of us, and resolute about the future.
And we're going to leave the snow covered bridges to our enemies.