In the latest edition of the Weekly Standard (September 1, 2006) there is an interesting article on abortion by Fred Barnes. In it he describes five people who were once pro-abortion or indifferent about abortion, but have now become ardent pro-lifers.
Entitled “How pro-lifers become pro-lifers,” Barnes discusses why these men became passionate about the right to life. One man discussed is Ronald Reagan. When Governor of California he signed a pro-abortion bill. But the more he thought about the legislation, the more it worried him.
California soon became the US state where more abortions took place than any other. Given that the bill said abortion should only be for “therapeutic” reasons, Reagan realised that things were getting out of hand. He had a change of heart and mind and became a dedicated pro-lifer.
“By 1980, Reagan had changed his mind and become a firm opponent of abortion. He insisted on a pro-life plank in the Republican platform for the first time. In 1983, he published a passionate pro-life essay, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation. It turned out that signing the abortion bill in 1967 was the only political mistake that Reagan ever admitted.”
Wesley Smith is another example. A lawyer and former colleague of Ralph Nader, he did not seem like a promising pro-life candidate. Barnes tells the story: “A little over a decade ago, a friend of Smith, a 76-year-woman named Virginia, committed suicide. She had often talked about killing herself, telling Smith and other friends how painless, gentle even, it would be. They had tried to talk her out of it, but to no avail.”
He continues, “After her death, Smith went to her home in California and found stacks of literature by advocates of euthanasia, particularly the Hemlock Society. And he recognized some of things Virginia had said in the literature, such as tales of people supposedly enjoying death. Smith was appalled and it altered his thinking and his career.”
Today Smith is a leading campaigner against euthanasia, cloning and embryo research.
Barnes himself is another case in point. He had little interest in abortion when he was younger. “The rise of the anti-abortion movement in the late 1970s and Reagan’s stand on abortion caught my eye, but only as political matters. Then my wife Barbara’s obstetrician recommended she have amniocentesis when she was pregnant with our third child. This involves injecting a needle into the womb to remove fluid so the unborn child can be examined for problems or defects.”
“We’d heard amniocentesis referred to as a ‘search and destroy mission’ that often led to abortion in the case of a child with birth defects or Down’s Syndrome. This caused us to think about what we would do in such a case – really to think seriously about abortion for the first time. As it happened, our child was fine. But as we left the doctor’s office, my wife and I agreed she’d never do amniocentesis again. And she didn’t when she became pregnant again three years later. Without recognizing it immediately, we had become pro-lifers.”
After discussing two others, he summarises this way: “One common thread is obvious. All of us, because of the circumstances we found ourselves in, were forced to think about the taking of a life and what that means in both practical and moral terms. Most people avoid thinking about troubling moral issues like abortion or euthanasia. We couldn’t.”
“And the other common thread is that something happened to make us choose life and choose it firmly and reject death. I think it was our conscience that intervened or, if you prefer, the basic human instinct that favors life over death. Or it you are a Christian, as I am, it was God.”
He concludes, “Now I’m sure there are many exceptions to our experience. Not everyone who contemplates abortion or euthanasia is bound to take the intellectual path that five of us – six, including my wife – did on the way to becoming pro-lifers. But I suspect there are many more than like us than not. And many more to come.”
It is encouraging to see some top leaders, including former Presidents, becoming involved in the pro-life cause. We all need to keep on promoting these issues, and trust that many others will come to see the importance of life, and the need to take a stand for it.