In the Cultural War, the fight over abortion is one of the fronts where the battle rages most fiercely. It is no surprise that many rally with great fervor to this cause that transcends borders in our increasingly borderless world.
Thus, there are many reasons to be enthusiastic supporters of this noble cause that defends those very ones who have no one to come to their aid.
Perhaps the first reason worth of mention is its amazing capacity to unite. It really could not be any other way. The brutality of the abortion act is such that it is not a matter of being Catholic or American or another nationality. It is enough to be human to be against abortion. Our very nature cries out against this crime.
Another reason for enthusiasm is the pro-life cause’s amazing capacity to stir up passion. Rarely has there been an issue in America that has given rise to such a monumental grassroots action network.
The angry left simply cannot compete with it. They do not have the prayerful dedication and quiet heroism of pro-lifers who day in/day out take this fight to the sidewalks and make of it a true crusade.
A Capacity to Win
Finally, the pro-life cause has an amazing capacity to win. For those who want to see, pro-life advocates have pummeled pro-abortion radicals over the years.
One only needs to consider the states reduced to a single abortion clinic or the unavailability of abortion in ninety percent of American counties. Abortion clinics are closing not opening. Their total number stands at their lowest level since 1987.1 Doctors and nurses to staff them are becoming increasingly hard to find and keep.
Meanwhile, youth swell the ranks of the pro-life movement. The support of bishops and religious is now widespread. Opinion on abortion is shifting toward life.
In addition, state legislatures have enacted literally hundreds of abortion restrictions. Some states are now pushing through legislation that will lead to a head-on collision with Roe v. Wade.
The pro-abortion movement is losing ground everywhere for those who wish to see. Only the cold cynicism of the major media can look at over 150,000 people at the annual March for Life and some dozens of counter-protesters and conclude that “abortion activists on both sides of the issue were out in full force.”2
A Single Reservation
Thus, while there are many reasons for enthusiasm for the pro-life cause, there is room for a single reservation.
The issue may have an amazing capacity to unite, stir up great passion and even be winning. However, it also has the amazing tendency to reduce the whole Cultural War to abortion. And it is not the whole war.
Resolving the abortion issue, we may win a major battle but not the Cultural War. We must resist the idea that, without abortion, we can retreat to a kind of Mayberry where we can babyboom once again and everything will go back in order. Unless we broaden the fight to include the full cultural spectrum, we will not prevail.
To find further proof that the battle extends beyond the abortion issue, we need look no farther than the very people the pro-life cause amazingly manages to unite.
The list is very diverse: libertarians, feminists, rockers, punks, atheists, agnostics, Greens and even pagans for life. Take away the uniting principle of life and we are left with groups that in varying degrees have agendas that oppose the Christian civilization that we so ardently desire. Winning the pro-life battle only throws us into another cultural battle with our temporary strategic allies.
Finally, the grave moral crises that cause abortion must be addressed. Abortion takes place because of promiscuity, immorality, a contraceptive mentality and the breakdown of the family. Just closing down all the clinics will not provide a definitive solution to these causes of abortion.
Going Beyond Pro-Life
All these issues force us to go “beyond pro-life.” And the first way to do this is to go beyond the vague notion of “life” as our unifying principle.
Indeed, in the natural order, man’s inviolable right to life is the first right and therefore the basis for all others. However, this does not mean that, on order to maintain life, we can pass over the values that give meaning to life. Many things are worth more than life itself.
Honor and country are more than life and that is why we have national heroes. Principle often eclipses life. This is the case of personal self-defense which takes the life of a dangerous aggressor or the mother who gives her life for her child when complications develop during pregnancy. As Catholics, we know that, in the supernatural order, the Faith is more important and that is why we have the martyrs.
Adopting “life” as a unifying principle risks putting ourselves with those who put life above principles, honor and Faith. It can also put us under the almost biological understanding of “life” of pacifists, ecologists and animal rights activists.
A Unifying Principle
We must find another banner that can unify us in the pro-life struggle and still encompass the whole Cultural War. By defining our enemies’ unifying principle, we can define our own.
We like to portray pro-abortion radicals as pro-death promoting a culture of death. We label their clinics as death camps and their sidewalk activists as “deathscorts.” All such descriptions are indeed true. However, the other side chooses as their unifying principle not death but rather what they call themselves – pro-choice.
And this “choice” means freedom from rules, morals or restraints. An unlimited choice is what unifies the radicals of the Cultural War. Thus, they display a consistent unity favoring not only abortion but any other practice – free love, homosexuality, bi-sexuality, transgenderism or any sexual deviation – that favors a raging sensuality.
In his book, Revolution and Counter-revolution, Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira says: “When the Revolution proclaims absolute liberty as a metaphysical principle, it does so only to justify the free course of the worst passions and the most pernicious errors.”3
In short, their unifying principle is this “freedom” which is actually a revolt against moral law ranging from a mild irritation to a rabid fanaticism.
Thus, our unifying principle should explicitly and proudly declare that in opposing abortion we are defending true freedom, which is guided by the moral law based on divine and natural law. Thus, our unifying principle is the defense of moral law.
Pro-life Means Pro-Moral Law
Fortunately, this is what the pro-life movement has done implicitly. Abortion has polarized the nation because it has become a moral issue that gnaws at the heart of mainstream America. To continue to be effective, we should explicitly call abortion what it is – the breaking of God’s moral Law by the taking of innocent human life.
In his 2004 book Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War, William Saletan, sustains the pro-life cause advances because it turns the debate into a moral battle. He writes: “Many people think that the political struggle over abortion has been resolved and that feminists have won. They are mistaken. The people who hold the balance of power in the abortion debate are those who favor tradition, family and property.”4
By turning the issue into a moral battle, we force the other side to abandon their principles. Mr. Saletan shows how pro-abortionists of the sixties in fact abandoned their feminist and sexual liberation roots.
Abortion was supposed to have been a liberating experience to defy the male chauvinistic world. Today’s aging women-libbers no longer parade as enthusiastic supporters of abortion but as embarrassed apologists who must repackage abortion “rights” to an unreceptive public. When pro-abortion advocates try to moderate their extremist message, it only takes them farther away from what unites them.
In this sense, the pro-life movement’s greatest victory is that it has made abortion a great moral battle. Thus, the pro-abortion movement has so compromised its position that Mr. Saletan claims it “must ask itself what it has won and what it is fighting for.”
In this battle, who loses is the one who gives up all his principles first. It is a tug-of-war which, like all tug-of-wars, is never won by the one who pulls to the middle but the one who pulls the middle to himself.
A second way to carry on this struggle “beyond pro-life” is to extend it to defend the moral law as a whole. The pro-life movement is a natural bridge to all other issues involving the moral law.
This consists of unmasking the central thesis of pro-choice advocates who declare freedom is whatever a person wants to do. They claim every man is the law to himself and thus “freedom” exonerates man from any obedience to the commands of God and His law. Their “pro-choice” mentality has nothing to do with freedom but rather substitutes moral law for boundless license.
The pro-life position affirms true freedom as so clearly explained in Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Libertas, On the Nature of Human Freedom (1888).
Leo XIII denounced those with this “false and absurd notion” of freedom. Rather he says that freedom is the faculty of choosing means fitted for the end proposed by reason. “When man acts according to reason, he acts of himself and according to his free will; and this is freedom.”5
There are, for example, many ways for a man to travel to a given city. His reason may propose many routes and he exercises his freedom by choosing one of them. However, he might also follow his whims and go in the opposite direction and lose his way.
When man chooses error, it is a defect not a quality of freedom. Choosing what is perceived as a false good is a defect of the mind and a proof of its imperfection. We have nothing against people being pro-choice, but we must oppose those who are pro-wrong choice/error. Choice in this case is a positive formulation of a negative prerogative, that is, the revolt against God’s law.
Necessity of Law
Because of this, Pope Leo XIII says human freedom necessarily needs light and strength to direct man’s actions to good and to restrain them from evil. Indeed, without guidance, “the freedom of our will would be our ruin.”
For this reason, there must be law; “a fixed rule of teaching on what is to be done and what is to be left undone.” Law is the guide of man’s actions based on the “the moral necessity of our voluntary acts being in accordance with reason.”
Therefore, true freedom in society does not consist in everyone doing what he pleases. This only would end up in turmoil and confusion. Rather by following the injunctions prescribed by civil law, true freedom helps all to more easily conform to the prescriptions of eternal law.
The Pontiff concludes: “Nothing more foolish can be uttered or conceived than the notion that, because man is free by nature, he is therefore exempt from law.”
Thus, there must be moral law, those fixed rules of conduct whereby men live together in society, and have their origin in the natural, and consequently eternal law. And since this law is valid for all times and all places – indeed, natural law is written on the soul of every man – it necessarily follows that our pro-life struggle embraces more than just abortion but the whole moral law, so well defined by the traditional teachings of the Church.
Thus, we can go “beyond pro-life” by embracing not just abortion but all those issues that involve moral law. This includes social issues like contraception, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, cloning, homosexual marriage, free love, divorce, or pornography. It includes political issues like socialism or communism; or religious issues like blasphemy. By attacking them, we destroy the cultural underpinnings of abortion.
In taking this position, we form a proper counterpart to those on the other end of the spectrum who unify their position not around death as such, but the elimination of this moral law and the installation of a regime where every man is his own law – a state of affairs, which Leo XIII proves, necessarily ends in tyranny and the suppression of the Church.
A third way to go “beyond pro-life” is perhaps the most difficult since it involves defending this moral law in our daily lives.
All too often these issues remain just that – issues – things that happen to other people. However, as these issues become more widespread, they soon take on a human face and we are forced to take a position.
Thus, going “beyond pro-life” means killing abortion at its source by engaging in the Cultural War where it permeates all aspects of our lives, be it arts, advertising, music, fashions, entertainment, or education.
Let us face the fact that if we are really going to be effective against abortion, we must rollback the advances of the sexual revolution of the sixties – that explosion of sensuality that prepared the way for abortion. We must reject the hypersexualized MTV culture that loses no opportunity to fuel a culture without morals, restraint or meaning.
Going “beyond pro-life” means making those links no one wants to make, those seemingly innocuous connections that end up destroying our society.
It means taking very seriously those blasphemous films that are “fiction” yet attack the author of all law, God Himself. It means rejecting those “innocent” fashions or the “harmless” music that fuels the promiscuity that leads to abortion and so many other woes.
It involves taking a position on those “normal” things everyone is doing, watching and wearing. The battlefield is not in some faraway theater but the cinema down the road or the media connections that find their way inside our very homes.
It also means encouraging all conservative and healthy reactions that pose obstacles to this process. It means patiently broadening the perspectives of others to see the full extent of this fight.
In other words, it means engaging in a cultural counter-revolution.
That is why it is essential that people get together to make this resistance easier. We need to form militant Catholics who study the principles of our Catholic Faith and apply them.
We need to find strategic points where we believe the enemy is vulnerable and network with others to be more effective. We need to find people who never dared think about activism and get them involved, as was done against The Da Vinci Code in 2092 theater protests nationwide.
We invite all to defy our neo-pagan culture and to embark on what one of the medieval orders of chivalry called the “most beautiful adventure in the world.”
Against seemingly overwhelming odds, we must do all this trusting in Providence, knowing that those who defend God’s law can expect His aid. We do this with our eyes upon the Blessed Mother who at Fatima promised us the final victory.
The above article was based on a talk given at the TFP Student Seminar on January 20, 2007 in Spring Grove, Pennsylvania.
- William Saletan, Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War, 2004