Pro-Lifers Seek 'Options' in Light of High Court Rulings

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

( - In the wake of the Supreme Court's decision on partial birth abortion, what is the next step for a pro-life movement that seems to be running out of legal and legislative options?

Make no mistake: most pro-lifers regard the Court's decision in Stenberg v. Carhart, which effectively nullified 31 state laws banning the late term abortion procedure, as "devastating," in the words of Michael Uhlmann, a constitutional attorney and pro-life activist.

"Abortion-on-demand has been the default mode of the Court for almost 30 years now," said Uhlmann. "Carhart confirms that and demonstrates that the constitutionality of abortion regulations will be determined by ideology, not facts."

The question remains: Are their any viable legislative options for pro-lifers that will not be struck down by a Supreme Court that in a series of decisions - Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Danforth v. Reproductive Health Services and now Carhart - has shown no inclination to curtail the basic right to abortion articulated in Roe v. Wade?

In terms of legislation, Senate opponents of abortion are planning to introduce new legislation in place of the bill on partial birth abortion, which had passed the Senate last year but was vetoed by President Clinton, that would make it illegal to kill a child that survives an abortion.

The virtue of the bill, said Hadley Arkes, a professor of jurisprudence at Amherst University in Massachusetts and a prominent pro-life writer, is that it stops what he sees as a "terrible drift toward making the right to abortion the right to a dead child."

According to Arkes, by the logic of the decisions on partial birth abortion, there is no way to distinguish legally between the procedure and actual infanticide, which he feels opens the way to allowing the destruction of infants who survive abortion procedures.

"This establishes a bright line of legal protection," Arkes said.

The proposed law also would provide a starting point "from which we can roll the point of legal protection back," according to one Senate staffer for a pro-life floor leader who may introduce the bill.

But many pro-lifers are beginning to believe that meaningful legal restrictions on abortion will only be achieved when the public is more fully supportive of their position, and pro-lifers now are investing more time and energy in that cultural battle.

One of those is Paul Swope, head of the Caring Foundation in New Hampshire, an organization that uses sophisticated marketing techniques to produce television and advertising campaigns designed to sway the minds of those on the fence about abortion.

"The greatest potential for changing opinion on abortion lies in understanding the views of our modern society with compassion," said Swope. "We can employ the art of personal persuasion to reach out to those who mostly share our position but are uncomfortable being labeled as 'pro-lifers.'"

Caring Foundation advertisements tend to speak the language of the audience. They are aimed at women and what Swope calls "the feminine way of understanding," and generally end with questions of challenges to thought and not dogmatic statements.

For example, one commercial aired in several media markets features a woman practicing ballet, with the voiceover:

"Your intuition is a small voice, round and whole. It tells you who to trust, when it's best to be quiet, and what your best friend is feeling. It doesn't always tell you what you want to hear, but when you think about it, when was the last time that voice was wrong? If you're facing an unplanned pregnancy, you don't have to have an abortion. There are other options."

According to Swope, this approach can get beyond the "stale debate of pro-life and pro-choice and get to people where they really are."