21st Century Perspectives
THE ABORTION WARS
© 2107 Random Pearson Thompson Orbis Oxford Sons Inc.
The last hope for overturning Roe v. Wade was drowned in a wave of public revulsion after the Respect Life Riots and Massacre of 2023. Several years in which the Supreme Court lurched between 5-4 and 4-5 divisions, swayed one way or the other by successive presidential appointments and the vagaries of mood in the senate, left little sense that any firm legal or moral principles could emerge from the debate over abortion. Polls consistently showed about 25% of the population firmly committed to restoring severe criminal penalties, 25% firmly committed to unrestricted free choice, and 50% who wanted the issue to go away. In a desperate attempt to seize the political initiative, a series of "Monster Rallies for Life" were called in several medium sized cities by Richard Viguerie, Ralph Reed, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), the increasingly manic Dr. James Dobson, and the demented Rev. Pat Robertson, whose advanced Alzheimer's disease already inspired sympathetic comparisons to Ronald Reagan.
No proof that the organizers intended violence to follow their inflammatory speeches has ever been assembled. Following Robertson's rambling speech in Charleston, SC, and Dobson's snarling exhortation in Atlanta, GA, large mobs chanting "We Remember Jerry Falwell" fanned out in several directions to engulf a number of clinics, some of which included abortion among their medical services. Other targeted clinics did not, but had vague references to women, families or parents in their name. In five cities, several doctors were kidnapped and hung from lamp posts, only three of whom had performed abortions in the previous ten years.
Prime-time network news, CNN, Fox News, and U-Tube, treated viewers across the nation to lurid images of the final coup-de-grace, when pro-life rioters assembled a pile of dismembered women in front of two different looted, burning clinics, under a banner which proclaimed "These Women Tried to Kill Their Unborn Babies." In fact, only about one third of the women murdered were pregnant, and at least half of those had been seeking prenatal nutrition counseling, but belated recognition that some of the bleeding abdomens in the pile contained unborn fetuses inspired a frenzied rush to retrieve them. The sight of weeping young women cradling deceased embryos, some as small as three inches long, was the political death knell for the Right to Life Movement as we knew it. Ann Coulter's reference to the fetuses as "little faggots" only added insult to irreparable injury.
A shaken Antonin Scalia resigned from the Supreme Court and retired to a monastery in New Mexico. President Dennis Kucinich, already rivaling Ronald Reagan's record for the oldest serving president, appointed as Scalia's replacement a previously unknown jurist from the Supreme Court of South Dakota, who played a key role three years later in crafting the 8-1 ruling affirming "there are some evils which can only be combated by vigorous government action, and other evils which are only made worse by political intervention. Intimate personal decisions should be made neither by rioting mobs nor by the police powers of the state, but by the home, the church, and the inviolable citadel of the individual heart and mind." Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a bitter dissent, which relied heavily on citations from Edmund Burke, and Pope Pius XII. Jay Sekulow, of the American Center for Law and Justice, sharply criticized Thomas for "introducing foreign jurisprudence into the sovereign laws of our nation."
Historians generally agree that the near-disappearance of abortion in the United States began after Planned Parenthood joined with Focus on the Family to produce the universally praised Planning for Family Life curriculum, adopted by most public school systems, many Roman Catholic and Lutheran parochial schools, and (with some modifications in scriptural reference) by most orthodox Jewish yeshivas and Muslim schools in North America. With the cooperation of inner-city pentecostal women evangelists, recovering from teen motherhood, the curriculum is credited with bringing a sobering sense of the emotional toll of premarital sex, combined with sensible reliance on contraception in or out of marriage, reducing out-of-wedlock births by 90% and raising the percentage of married couples to 65% of adult Americans.
The economic development which provided a firm foundation for Family Life to succeed was largely the result of another joint project, put together by Oxfam America, Anglican Mission to America, and the Grameen Bank. Initially inspired by the appalling incompetence at all levels of government, which left New Orleans and the gulf coast in a state of prolonged depression 20 years after Hurricane Katrina, over 40,000 idealistic young African and Asian college students volunteered for two to five years each to bring hope and sustainable development to North America's inner cities and isolated rural communities. Cuba's post-Castro Libertarian Socialist government contributed 530 doctors to the effort, generally considered to be the largest such rescue since the Marshall plan in post-WW II Europe.
Pope Gregory XVII, formerly Cardinal Charles J. Chaput, issued an encyclical in 2031 entitled Lex Nihilo, observing that "whereas the rate of abortion is lowest in nations where the procedure is freely available, and most prevalent in nations where severe criminal penalties persist, it is clear that the most effective protection for unborn life is to ask the secular state to remove all criminal penalties, so that the Church may do its holy work unafflicted by the profane hand of the civil magistrate. We have confidence that what should be rendered to God does not need to be decided and collected by Caesar." Church historians generally consider this the first instance where a Bishop of Rome quoted approvingly from the writings of James Madison. In keeping with tradition established by Gregory's predecessor, Benedict XVI, the encyclical ended with the ritual intonation "Of course, We could be Wrong."
Mel Gibson, Archbishop of the Orthodox Roman Lateran Jihad, promptly denounced "the former Cardinal Chaput" to a Los Angeles police officer who had pulled him over for drunk driving. Gibson solemnly informed the officer that the Pope was "a manifest incarnation of the Anti-Christ, and captive servant of the Jews," a statement Gibson promised to prove beyond any doubt in a forthcoming movie, Left Behind by the Last Apocalyptic Passion of the Holy Grail.