January 22, 2020 - Wednesday
47 Years of Wading through Roe
January 22, 2020
If you flipped through newspapers from that day, January 22, 1973, it may surprise people to know that the Supreme Court's decision on Roe v. Wade wasn't the biggest headline. President Lyndon Johnson had died, forcing the story about America's darkest verdict into smaller font, below tributes to the "Great Society." Looking back, the parallel was probably fitting -- a nation in mourning, any which way it turned.
Forty-seven years later, there's no telling how many other presidents the country has buried -- how many future doctors, inventors, or artists we lost because of that day. How much music we never heard, how many cures we might have found, how many teachers might have inspired children to rise above. They are the missing, the 60 million, the children who became "privacy rights" and "choices" and "women's health." A half-century ago, seven men in black robes stole their dignity. But today, a nation of pro-lifers -- led by a fearless president -- is here to take it back.
It doesn't matter what the courts say or what society tells us, "every person," the president declared, "the born and unborn, the poor, the downcast, the disabled, the infirm, and the elderly -- has inherent value. Although each journey may be different, no life is without worth or inconsequential; the rights of all people must be defended." It's the third time Donald Trump has turned this date of American disgrace into a moment of unity for the unborn. In his proclamation for this National Sanctity of Human Life Day, he wanted the country to know that his entire administration "proudly and strongly reaffirms our commitment to protect the precious gift of life at every stage, from conception to natural death."
Not that most Americans needed persuading. This is, after all, a commitment that Donald Trump has taken very seriously -- passing more pro-life policy, everyone agrees, than any president in U.S. history. But for as much as he's accomplished, the president is clear: he still isn't satisfied. Even after listing the dozens of promises kept -- from Title X funding and to international human rights -- he argues, "Still, there is more to be done, and, as president, I will continue to fight..."
Elsewhere, other leaders are seeing his boldness and following Trump's lead. Governor Pete Ricketts (R-Nebr.) wasted no time declaring January 22 a statewide Day of Prayer for the Unborn. He encouraged Nebraskans to pray for the end of abortion. But more than that, he explained on "Washington Watch," that Americans look upon this day as a reminder to help others -- "mothers, fathers, and families in need, especially," he pointed out, "those expecting a child who cannot provide for themselves."
When I asked him about this -- why he used the Roe v. Wade anniversary as a calling to help others -- his answer was telling. The term "pro-life," Ricketts explained, "is not just a slogan. And it's not just about abortion. It's an important part of what we do... but it's also remembering that we've got people in our communities who need our help. That's a pro-life message. So whether it's helping families who need food assistance, women who have been trafficked -- anybody -- that's what [being] pro-life is really about: recognizing th[e] dignity that's innate in each and every one of us. And we just had Martin Luther King Day [and the] most urgent, persistent question of life [to him] was: What are we doing for others?"
It's a powerful message, the pro-life ethic, because it doesn't end in the womb. It's a persistent, nagging drive to see people as people -- with value and needs and purpose. But that takes a compassion that not everyone has. So today, Governor Ricketts explained, "we're talking about changing hearts and minds -- and we need God's help to be able to do that. We wanted to bring people together in that cause of praying for the end of abortion, to be able to continue to work toward making this a country that respects life again." Maybe then, we'll start respecting each other again.
For more on the significance of this day, check out David Closson's op-ed in the Christian Post, "47th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: Increasing Opposition to Abortion Nationwide."
Tony Perkins's Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.