Why Life is Winning
by Maggie Gallagher, founder of the National Organization for Marriage
Some say that no one will oppose gay marriage a few decades from now. They used to say the same about abortion.
When I was, well, a few years younger than Tim Muldoon is today, the message of despair now directed at marriage was directed at the pro-life movement. All the powerful elites favored abortion. Media coverage of anyone who was pro-life was dreadful. All the wives of Republican power-brokers favored abortion rights. If you said you opposed abortion, people would shout, “You are calling my sister a murderer!” They informed me that by the time I turned 50, the pro-life movement would be dead because young people were so pro-choice.
I’m 50 now, and yet the pro-life sentiment is surging as today’s young people are more pro-life than their elders.
How did that happen?
There are many ways to answer that question, and what I offer here is more of a missing piece-the role of politics in cultural change-than a comprehensive theory.
This is a part of what I saw happen in the last thirty years:
Led by people of faith, and above all by the Catholic Church’s principled and prescient stand, pro-lifers formed coalitions across faith groups and built intellectual institutions to develop and sustain ideas (like Human Life Review), as well as messaging and lobbying institutions to shape the political process.
Pro-lifers (eventually and not without great internal struggle with purity issues) identified achievable political goals to keep hope-and influential organizations-alive. Pro-lifers organized politically and effectively. They helped elect presidents, senators, congressmen, governors, and state legislators who promised not just to support their values but to vote on specific issues to limit abortion.
In doing so, prolife leaders successfully raised the cost to pro-abortion-rights elites of their hateful, denouncing, stigmatizing rhetoric. Eventually Democratic elites decided that it was just too expensive to go on losing elections by talking that way. So they muted their rhetoric. “Safe, legal, and rare” became the Democrats’ Clintonian new mantra.