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When I received a letter from Dr. Wanda Franz telling me about the “Proudly Pro-Life Award,” I was, quite simply, overcome with emotion. There is no honor or award that could mean more to me than one from my fellow members of what my friend the late Richard John Neuhaus always called “the greatest grassroots movement of our times.” At the same time, I can’t help but be humbled at the thought of the great men and women to whom you have given this honor in the past.

And so I know you will understand when I say that I would like to accept this award not just for whatever I have been able to contribute to our common cause, but in memory of the many persons who have sustained me on what would otherwise have been at times a lonely journey.

Evenings like tonight evoke so many memories”of friends here and departed, of struggles won and lost. Evenings like this remind us that we are blessed to be surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses.”

After more than three decades of involvement in pro-life activities, I wish I could say that I thought the threats to respect for human life were diminishing. But one lesson we’ve learned is: Do not underestimate the power of the culture of death. We’ve learned that what was unimaginable one day can become reality the next. Today, pressures for euthanasia are building; developments in biomedicine are occurring with such speed that they have outpaced reflection on their moral implications; experiments on human embryos are fostering a mentality that treats the lives of the weak as means to the ends of the strong; and the freedoms of religion and conscience are coming under increasing threat.

Thirty years ago, who could have imagined such a thing as partial-birth abortion! When I ask myself why so many people have been slow to realize how easily today’s atrocity can become tomorrow’s routine, one answer I come up with is that it was due in part to a failure to realize something very important about choice, namely that choices last.

Each time we make policy on abortion, euthanasia, or embryonic experimentation, we are changing the moral ecology of our country. We are either helping to build the culture of life or cooperating with the culture of death. It hasn’t helped that the elite media, the powerful foundations, the sex industry, and the vast profit-making abortion industry have done their best to disguise the truth of what was happening.

But what makes the pro-life movement “the greatest grassroots movement of our times” is that it has steadily marched forward without support from the wealthy and powerful. It has moved ahead thanks to dedicated women and men”from all walks of life”who have never ceased to witness to the truth, day in and day out.

The recent Pew Foundation report that support for abortion is declining is one of many signs that our efforts are bearing fruit. We are winning the battle for hearts and minds”not as quickly as we would have wished”but we are winning. We will never give up, and we will prevail.

One of the main reasons for our slow but steady progress, I believe, is the success of the pro-life movement in demonstrating by word and deed that our position on protection of the unborn is inseparable from our dedication to compassion and assistance for women who are so often the second victims of abortion.

Unlike the movement that calls itself pro-choice, the prolife movement has thought deeply about choice. We know that choices last: We know that individual choices make us into a certain of person; and we know that collective choices make us into a certain kind of society.

Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University, delivered this address upon receiving the 2009 Proudly Pro-Life Award from the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund on October 6, 2009 in New York.

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