Letter to the Editor: The pro-life movement took a wrong turn


The pro-life movement in this country is in the ditch. At a crucial moment, they swerved in the wrong direction, like a driver on a patch of ice, and overturned.

This is sad, because their moral instinct is right — every abortion is a tragedy. It is not something that people cheer about. We do not make jokes about it. 

At a crucial moment in 1973, after Roe v. Wade, defenders of the unborn went on record in favor of the quintessential American solution to all problems: pass laws. Punish evil, and you will stamp out evil. 

No. You will not stamp out evil, because you will not stamp out sin. 

Sin is a bad word in our times. It calls to mind Puritan divines preaching the wrath of God, and most of us Christians no longer see God as wrathful. That is not because we have abandoned religion. We just started realizing the message of Jesus Christ: God is not in favor of punishment. 

The wrong turn that the pro-life people made in 1972 was to go for the political solution to the tragedy of abortion. Roe said that states could not use law to prevent abortion. The solution: overturn Roe. 

The prolife cause succeeded. The dog caught the car. 

What has happened is the exact opposite of what prolife defenders want. It has made abortion something to be defended in public. Democratic politicians go on record in favor of it. Protecting abortion has become a virtue. 

True, it took law to abolish slavery, but slavery and abortion are very different issues. Slavery was a public practice, with immense economic consequences. Abortion is very private, and while abortion provision has economic consequences, as the pro-life cause points out, it does not compete with Microsoft.

What prolife defenders should have done is work to create a moral consensus that abortion is tragic. Instead, they have caused a major political party to promote a moral consensus that abortion is to be defended. 

It did not have to be this way. But our American flaw, where there is sin, punish, captured the pro-life cause. 

Father Joe Zimmerman, OFM
Holy Cross Friary
Quincy, Illinois

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