During the early years of the pro-life movement, nobody would have imagined that in the year 2013 we would still be working to end the killing of innocent unborn babies through abortion. But here we are, 40 years after Roe v. Wade, and the brutality continues.
Those of us who are old enough probably remember where we were on that fateful day four decades ago. I was a sophomore in high school at a boarding school in South Dakota. The Christian student body and professors couldn’t fathom the evil reasoning that would condemn millions of babies to death and sentence their mothers and fathers to a lifetime of grief and shame.
My pro-life activity didn’t begin until two years after Roe, when I did a report on abortion in my senior year of high school. I was then attending public school in Billings, Montana, and went to the local right-to-life group for materials. A kind woman by the name of Mary Rose gave me an adequate supply of information to share with my classmates. There was a book by someone called Dr. and Mrs. Willke. It was accompanied by what they called the “Willke Slides” and a variety of pro-life brochures. Memorable among them was a Life magazine insert on fetal development that I later used for many years in educational presentations. It’s now largely held together with Scotch tape, but remains a cherished reminder of the past.
Before my presentation on abortion, I first polled the class on where they stood on the issue. They were split about 50-50. After my presentation, I again polled the class. This time the vote was unanimous for life. This ignited a fire in my soul that continues to burn brightly nearly 38 years later. As a matter of fact, my passion runs deeper with each passing year as the body count of babies continues to rise and we come face-to-face with grieving parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends—all affected by abortion.
It is said that God produces miraculous results out of the ashes of sin and tragedy. That has certainly been the case with abortion in America. The greatest humanitarian effort in the history of our nation, and quite possibly the world, has risen from the carnage of so-called “choice.”
Veterans of the pro-life movement have seen a network of thousands of help centers for women spring up throughout the nation and around the world. At first they were largely staffed by volunteers, but gradually they evolved into paid staff and now many are certified clinics offering 3D ultrasound and STD testing. A recent visit to one of these centers in downtown Pittsburgh revealed that they were advertising on BET and MTV, reaching out to underserved urban women. They’ve come a long way!
Pro-life education has also changed dramatically over the years. We went from slides to 16mm film to VHS to DVD, and now digital and Internet-based programming. Brochures have given way to websites where an almost unlimited amount of information on the life issues is only a click away. Email, texting, and social networking like Facebook and Twitter make communication inexpensive and instantaneous. Dr. Willke’s brief daily radio commentaries, Life Issues, once distributed on cassettes, are now hosted by me and delivered on satellite and FTP Internet sites. Information that used to take weeks to deliver now takes only seconds.
The pro-life educational legacy begun by Dr. and Mrs. Willke in the late 1960s and early 70s has taken on new forms and is being passed to future generations. Most notably, the weekly half-hour television program that I host, Facing Life Head-On, has been awarded two regional Emmy awards, a stunning milestone for pro-life programming in today’s world. Pro-life education, once considered representative of society’s fringe, has gone mainstream.
During the last 40 years we have seen the pro-life movement grow younger, a sharp contrast to the graying of pro-abortion activists. Our ranks are filling with young, eager minds and bodies who, as Roe survivors, understand the urgency of the task before us. And they’re a bold lot. Some have entered the lion’s den to conduct undercover video investigations revealing Planned Parenthood at its worst. I pray this won’t have to be the case, but should the protection of unborn babies take additional decades, I am confident the next generation will effectively carry the baton handed to them and finish the race for life.
Over the last four decades, the pro-life movement has grown politically into an influential voting bloc recognized by all candidates running for office—from city council chambers to the Oval Office. Political action committees have been responsible for mobilizing support for and the election of candidates who stand for life and support laws to protect both mother and child. As a result, we’ve seen life-saving legislation passed on the state and federal levels, legislation that is also educating the public and shining a light on the evil of abortion.
In spite of the agonizingly long and arduous battle of protecting innocent human life from womb to tomb, God has raised up pro-life leaders and individuals who have changed our world and will go down in history as the most loving, nurturing, and politically savvy movement in the history of our nation. I am honored to be counted among them.
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Bradley Mattes is the executive director and cofounder of Life Issues Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio, and president of the International Right to Life Federation.