Moving Forward

By Susan E. Wills

November 14, 2008

Are you a pro-life Catholic struggling with how the future may look for pro-life efforts?

Many of us are anxious over the fate of unborn children should President-elect Obama act on his statement to Planned Parenthood that he will sign the "Freedom of Choice Act" (FOCA), a ruinous bill that would eliminate virtually every pro-life law and policy in the country. Funding limitations, informed consent, parental notification, clinic health/safety regulations, conscience protections for health care providers and hospitals—all would end under FOCA.

Many are depressed that we may soon, through our taxes, be forced to pay for the destruction of boys and girls by abortion and human embryo research.

Have Catholics and the rest of the country abandoned their pro-life convictions? Is it over? Short answers: No, and it's not over until the right to life is guaranteed to all Americans!

A recent Marist poll commissioned by the Knights of Columbus again showed that — when presented with clear choices in a polling question — only 8% of Americans favor abortion on demand throughout pregnancy. The poll also found that 60% of Americans favor banning all abortions, or limiting them to the rare cases of danger to the mother's life, rape or incest.

The 54% of all Catholics (45% of weekly Mass-goers) who voted for our new President generally did not do so because of his support for abortion. They largely voted on the basis of other issues they saw as pressing, and didn't really see their core values on life being threatened. As pro-Obama law professor Doug Kmiec put it: He was "sounding more Catholic than most Catholics I know." The President-elect spoke often of "reducing abortions" and finding "common ground" on the issue. The question is whether that was sound, not substance.

A BeliefNet survey of Evangelical voters found that 86 percent of those supporting the new President agreed with his view that the best way to reduce abortion is "by preventing unintended pregnancy (through education and birth control), or by providing financial assistance to pregnant mothers." It sounds good, but it's simply untrue that birth control programs reduce abortions; and most women seek abortions for reasons other than or in addition to financial need. In any case, simply reducing abortions is not the point of the pro-life message. Our goal is a society that respects and defends every human life from conception onward. Abolitionists did not work simply to reduce the number of slaves, but to end completely that odious violation of human rights. And we must work tirelessly to overturn the evil and unjust law that effectively denies the humanity of unborn children and allows them to be torn limb from limb.

So how do we move forward? The Catholic bishops of the United States pointed the way at their recent general meeting. They pledged the resources of the Church to mobilize the Catholic community to oppose FOCA and all other attempts to eliminate existing pro-life laws and policies. This will include a massive education and postcard campaign beginning in January, urging members of Congress to reject the abortion extremism of FOCA.

If we respond, as the Bishops have called us to, we can defeat FOCA and retain our freedom to help build a culture of life.

Mrs. Wills is the former assistant director of education and outreach, Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Go to to learn more about the bishops' pro-life activities.