Pro-life leaders aim at cultural change after election losses

Protestors in front of the US Supreme Court prolife abortion CNA500x320 US Catholic News 6 28 12 Pro-life protestors in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2012. | Michelle Bauman-CNA.

Despite pro-life setbacks in the Nov. 6 election, there is still hope and ample opportunity for progress in promoting a culture of life in the coming years, pro-life advocates are saying.

Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, explained that the election "confirmed for every pro-lifer that we cannot rely on politicians to abolish abortion."

"We first must change the culture and then the culture will shape our politicians and laws," she told CNA.

On Nov. 6, President Barack Obama was elected to a second term by the American people after committing himself to furthering tax-payer funded abortion without restrictions.

Deep political divisions between the U.S. House and Senate also make it unlikely that major federal pro-life legislation will pass in the coming years.

At the state level, a Florida measure that would have prevented taxpayer funds for paying for abortions failed, while a parental notification law for girls under 16 seeking an abortion in Montana was passed. An attempt to repeal the death penalty in California also failed to win voter approval.

But Hawkins believes there is still important work to be done in changing minds and hearts across America.

The election "showed that we can't be afraid to talk about these 'hard issues,'" she said, pointing to the Democratic Party's strong emphasis on abortion at its national convention and throughout the campaign.

The Republican Party failed to respond with an equally strong emphasis, she said, and exit polls indicate that "there were a lot of pro-lifers missing" on Election Day.

"We need to march forward, courageously, doing what we have been doing for the past four years," Hawkins asserted. She listed her priorities as reaching out to women in need, spreading the pro-life message and working through local efforts to expose and de-fund Planned Parenthood and remove its presence from schools.

"We need to work to develop better alternative and resource centers in our communities, so no women is ever forced to sacrifice her kids to and to put her life in the hands of Planned Parenthood," she added.

Hawkins also stressed the importance of reaching out to young people. While support for Obama was down from 2008 among young voters, the president still captured a significant majority of the youth voting bloc.

"There is much more work to be done educating young people about abortion," she said.

While Gallup polls indicate that this generation of young people is pro-life, it can be difficult for them – having been taught all their lives that truth is relative – to move from the understanding that abortion is wrong to the conviction that abortion should be illegal, she explained.

"We must continue forward, speaking to our young people about their worldview, why life is intrinsically valuable, and how making a horrific act such as abortion illegal is the morally right thing to do," she said.

Charmaine Yoest, president and CEO of Americans United for Life, agreed that there is a need to continue building on the "dramatic success" achieved in the past decade.

The election was definitely a loss for the pro-life movement, she said, but the good news is that groups like Americans United for Life have a "clear, direct and strategic plan" for moving ahead.

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Despite the hostile atmosphere at the national level, there is significant hope for pro-life advances at the state level, she explained.

In the past four years, Americans United for Life has promoted the passage of nearly 100 pieces of pro-life legislation in states across America, including sonogram laws, clinic regulations and other abortion restrictions.

"We're seeing a tidal wave of pro-life legislation sweep across the country," Yoest said, noting that the "accumulation of victories" is encouraging.

While she acknowledged that it would be good to have Supreme Court justices who respect the right to life, she added that it is still possible to navigate around the court's infamous 1973 decision and "start legislating for a post-Roe America."

Yoest also pointed to the importance of changing minds and hearts through one-on-one engagement with women in need.

She cited efforts to partner with pregnancy care centers to show women that although abortion may be a legal option, it is not a good option.

"By working with those women, we shape the culture," she explained.

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