Many of us have a story about how we got involved in the pro-life movement. Perhaps it was a wise mentor or preacher. Perhaps it was the sight of that first ultrasound. Or perhaps it was the birth of a precious child, who gave new meaning to your life in a thousand different ways.
I’ve been pro-life for as long as I can remember, but becoming a parent affirmed my pro-life convictions and made them personal. I suspect most parents can relate.
When my wife, Anna, was pregnant with our second son, she developed a condition that required the doctors to induce her early, at 37 weeks. The birth and the labor went well. And our son seemed fine at first. After we held him for a few minutes, the nurses took him away for routine checks. But then the doctor came and told us that our son was struggling to breathe. And later that night, the doctor came back and said he’d taken a turn for the worse and that they were going to have to intubate him and put him in a pressurized bubble. We would not be able to see him or hold him as he struggled for life.
So we prayed, and we asked God to protect our son and his doctors and his nurses. He still didn’t have a name at that time. As we waited, we went through our list of possible names, one of which was Daniel. I re-read the story of Daniel in the lion’s den to my wife. And on the spot, she said, “his name is Daniel.”
Our Daniel went through his own lion’s den over the next few days, with some ups and downs, but he ultimately prevailed. And after a few days, we were able to go into the NICU and see him, and hold him, and nurse him.
Around us were many families and many babies, some born much earlier than Daniel and facing a much longer struggle. Adorning the walls in that NICU were posters showing a bright future ahead, with images of young children and teenagers running and playing and notes that indicated how prematurely they were born and how small they were at birth.
We have seen those brighter days with Daniel since we left the NICU four and a half years ago. We have also seen them at the reunion of that NICU, with all the babies who have passed through those doors. All those little—and not so little—kids were at one point vulnerable preemies. Many could not have survived without the grace of God and the miracles of modern science. Yet many of those young children would have had no recognition and no protection under our laws until the moment of their premature birth.
And that is wrong. Every life, born and unborn, is worthy of protection. Every child is made in the image of God, and the most vulnerable especially deserve the fullest love and every effort to protect them.
The unborn have been an endangered group in our society ever since seven justices discovered a so-called “right” to abortion in our Constitution in 1973. But now we’re living in an especially perilous time. Not only is abortion-on-demand still the law of the land, but our opponents are advancing on several fronts, emboldened by the most pro-abortion White House in American history.
Meanwhile, outside the realm of politics, pro-lifers must also contend with what Pope John Paul II called the “culture of death”—the various technological, scientific, and commercial currents that, in the false name of progress, encourage hideous abuses against mankind.
Technologies like prenatal genetic testing have created new threats to entire groups of vulnerable people. The abortion industry uses and abuses genetic testing to screen for supposedly undesirable or merely unwanted traits and then targets the babies who have them for elimination. This weeding out of the supposedly “unfit” should be called what it is: eugenics. And it targets one group in particular: babies with disabilities.
A few years ago, mainstream news articles trumpeted a stunning fact: Iceland was close to eliminating Down syndrome. But if you read beyond the headline, you discovered that Iceland was not in fact eliminating Down syndrome, but eliminating babies with Down syndrome. Between 2008 and 2012, Iceland reportedly aborted 100 percent of children with a Down syndrome diagnosis.
Sadly, Iceland is not alone. In Denmark, 98 percent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted. In Britain, that figure is 90 percent. And while America is more welcoming—due in large part to the tireless advocacy of the pro-life movement—sadly our country still aborts roughly two-thirds of these babies.
Before this New Eugenics movement began, the pro-life movement heroically fought against the Old Eugenics of yesteryear. You may have heard of a pro-abortion group called the Guttmacher Institute, named after Alan Guttmacher. Guttmacher is the closest thing to a hero that the pro-abortion lobby has. He was a doctor at Johns Hopkins and at Mount Sinai. He was the president of Planned Parenthood and chairman of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. And Guttmacher was also vice president of the American Eugenics Society, which believed, to borrow its own words, that “it should be permissible to abort any pregnancy . . . in which there is a strong probability of an abnormal or malformed infant.” Guttmacher’s dark legacy is evident today at Planned Parenthood and the organization that bears his name, both of which support abortion for any reason, including disability.
Abortion is based on the idea that the right to life is not given by God but granted by the state only under certain conditions. Abortion is based on the idea that some groups of people are more deserving of life than others. Abortion is based on the idea that there are entire classes of innocent human beings who may be exterminated for any reason—or for no reason at all. To advocate for abortion, one must believe the toxic idea that there is such a thing as “life unworthy of life.”
The pro-life movement stands against this evil ideology. The men and women of the pro-life movement proclaim that the right to life isn’t earned and isn’t particular to any group—it is a God-given right of us all. Our message is simple, it is clear, it is written down in no less an authority than our nation’s founding charter—“All men are created equal” and we all have a basic “right to life.”
This is the unassailable truth to which generations of brave reformers have rallied as they battled against the culture of death. This was the same message proclaimed by the pro-life activists of the Roe generation, like Dr. Mildred Fay Jefferson, the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School. “I am not willing to stand aside,” Jefferson said, “and allow this concept of expendable human lives to turn this land of ours into just another exclusive reservation where only the perfect, the planned, and the privileged have the right to live.”
God willing, our generation will be known as the post-Roe generation. We’ve made great strides toward our goal in recent years, despite the furious and feverish opposition of the abortion lobby. We’ve raised up hundreds of pro-life crisis pregnancy centers around the country, staffed by men and women filled with love and compassion for the pregnant women who pass through their doors—and for their unborn children. We’ve built a diverse movement of millions who show up every Saturday at the local clinic, or say a prayer every night for the end of abortion—because they know that every life is precious and every life is indeed a gift from God. And in Washington, we’ve confirmed hundreds of pro-life judges and three Supreme Court justices who may soon call Roe v. Wade what it is: a moral and constitutional travesty.
Winning in the courts and in Congress is of course part of the path to victory. When Roe falls, a great injustice will be rectified, a great rebuke to our nation’s values will be checked, and millions of innocent souls will be saved. But even on that day, our work as a movement will not be complete.
We will not have truly won until we build a culture of life that is powerful enough to defeat the culture of death, so that every child is welcomed into this world and treated with love and compassion—not just because the law commands it, but because it is written on every human heart as the just thing to do. There is much work left to be done. But can anyone doubt that it’s worth it?
I will close with a short story from the Army. Back in basic training, Drill Sergeant Norton used to tell us privates that you have to “do the hard right over the easy wrong.” Many times the wrong thing will be easy, it will be convenient, it will be comfortable, it will be safe. But you have to do the hard thing, even when it's inconvenient, or uncomfortable, or dangerous—precisely because it is the right thing.
Pro-life activists have chosen the hard right over the easy wrong throughout the years, as we have fought for the unborn in the face of an often uncaring and hostile culture. If we continue to do these noble deeds, I am confident God will bless our efforts. And if God is for us, as Scripture says, who can be against us?
Tom Cotton is the junior United States senator for Arkansas. This essay is adapted from a speech the senator recently delivered before the National Right to Life Committee.
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