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The supreme challenge now facing the prolife cause

The prolife movement must confront the ugly fact that the pro-abortion side enjoys the blatant, unapologetic support of an ongoing media blitz.


The March For Life will have a new look this year. When thousands of prolife demonstrators march through the streets of Washington on January 20, instead of proceeding to the Supreme Court as in the past, they will end their trek across the street at the U.S. Capitol.

The symbolism is correct. And it’s not just the March for Life but the prolife movement as a whole that needs to shift itinerary as 2023 gets underway.

The Supreme Court did its job last June with the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade and declaring an end to the fiction that the Constitution confers a right to abortion. Now the essential work of restoring legal protection to the unborn rests with legislatures—Congress and the legislatures of the 50 states.

And there—with the legislative branch—is where the prolife movement must place immediate emphasis. As matters stand, abortion is largely illegal or at least difficult to obtain in about half the country. Now, while holding onto what has already been achieved, it’s essential to spread the prolife message even farther. Diligent, continuing spadework by prolifers at the state and local levels is needed to persuade wavering state legislators—as well as members of Congress–to take a stand for life or else start looking for work elsewhere.

This is a large challenge but not an impossible one. In a recent New York Times column, Ross Douthat, a conservative Catholic, cites an estimate that by next June, a year after the Dobbs decision, an additional 60,000 unborn lives will have been saved thanks to newly enacted laws in prolife states. And that is no small achievement.

Plainly, though, winning this battle will not be easy. On the plus side, all prolife Republican governors who sought re-election last November won, some by strikingly large margins. On the other hand, prolife ballot initiatives were defeated in Kentucky and Montana (a similar proposal lost in Kansas last summer), while proposals to give abortion protected status in state constitutions were adopted in Michigan, California, and Vermont. And now, further complicating things is the upsurge in mail order abortion pills.

But important as the legislative front is, there’s another, still more urgent priority.

The prolife movement must confront the ugly fact that the pro-abortion side enjoys the blatant, unapologetic support of an ongoing media blitz that includes a sustained assault on the Supreme Court’s conservative justices. This vast free sales pitch comes not only from major news organs like the Times and the Washington Post but from Hollywood and the entertainment industry. Exceptions like the Wall Street Journal and National Review are welcome but few in number.

Here, then, is the supreme challenge now facing the prolife cause—the contest for public opinion.

What can be done about the media is limited but real. Short, fact-based, polite letters to editors and news managers are necessary and useful. So are personal meetings where they can be arranged. Nothing will change the pro-abortion policy of the Times and the Post, but personal meetings can have an effect with local papers and broadcast stations.

Beyond the media, there’s also the witness of prolife hotlines and pregnancy centers as well as peaceful demonstrations at abortion facilities. And last, but hardly least, is the powerful force of one-on-one contact with family members, friends, neighbors, and fellow workers. Here especially courtesy and good humor are imperative. Insults and shouting alienate, but gentle, firm, patient affirmation of every unborn child’s sacred right to life can win converts to the cause.

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About Russell Shaw 294 Articles
Russell Shaw was secretary for public affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference from 1969 to 1987. He is the author of 20 books, including Nothing to Hide, American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America, Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity, and, most recently, The Life of Jesus Christ (Our Sunday Visitor, 2021).


  1. In 1865 our government declared that states did not have the right to vote to make slaves of anyone.
    While I am grateful for the Dobbs decision, I must point out that in 2022 the Supreme Court did declare that states had the right to vote to murder unborn babies.

    This week the house passed a bill saying that all available means must be used to preserve the life of a baby born alive during an attempted abortion. There were 210 votes opposing this. All were democrats – voting for infanticide – for child sacrifice. Will the bishops point this out? Will they point out that a vote for a democrat is a pro-death vote? I won’t hold my breath.

    My state is one that had a pro-life measure on the ballot this last November. Exit polls showed that 60% of Catholics voted against it.

    We do need to work on our state representatives, but our bishops, and priests, need to teach that our faith is more important than the political party that many Catholics belong to, and vote for.

    • The majority of Catholics in Arizona voted for pro-abortion Catholic Mark Kelly over pro-life Catholic Blake Masters. The degree to which the Catholic Church carries the Democratic Party’s water is revolting.

  2. Do we continually hound the Government for legislation for Life or do we spend our time and effort giving women the chance to choose Life by providing support during their despair? More pregnancy centers are needed and our message has to be appealing. What is more appealing than the angelic face of a newborn baby? My effort will be spent changing hearts not Government.

    • I think we need changes both in govt. & hearts & minds. As long as human rights are denied any population by law that’s an injustice & needs to be addressed as such.

  3. The approach that the pro-life movement has taken ever since Roe v Wade has contributed to the current crisis. By focusing almost solely on legal issues rather than a combined effort to halt abortions and also educate the population on both the biology of human reproduction and the nature of the child in the womb, pro-abortion leaders have changed the nature of the struggle.

    What is needed now is the education of the American people to the reality that during pregnancy there are two lives involved – both human and both with moral standing.

    There is a terrible cognitive dissonance in our country. While nearly everyone recognizes that a pregnant woman is carrying a developing baby in almost every situation, that changes once abortion enters the discussion. This attitude/belief condition needs to be changed. Without such a change the attempt to limit abortions solely by laws is doomed to failure.

    • If there was a general lack of Knowledge about what was developing in the womb, what you say may apply. But as you say, “nearly everyone recognizes that a pregnant woman is carrying a developing baby.”

      Planned Parenthood’s own statistics show that 40% of abortions are repeat abortions – 2nd, 3rd, 4th. They are using it as birth control. Also, 87% are on single women. It does not seem to me that what is needed is education in biology. What is needed is strong moral teaching and preaching. As I mentioned in a previous post, we need to use the strongest possible language – they are murdering unborn babies.

      The USCCB thanked the House for passing the Babies Born Alive Protection Act, which is good. They also need to say “no thanks” to the 210 democrats (65 catholic) who voted against it. It is not possible to believe that these Representatives do not know what is developing in the womb. They just don’t care.

  4. The constitution was written by a handful of men in the 1700’s so to base abortion law on that is ridiculous. Of course abortion wasn’t mentioned, women weren’t mentioned because they had no legal rights then. It doesn’t matter if abortion is a “constitutional right” or not, it’s a human right because the woman has the right to make a medical decision about her body and that includes abortion. Of course there has to be reasonable time limits.

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