Thirty-seven years ago today, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the laws of 46 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia regulating the practice of abortion. The relationship between law and morality has always been a question of the chicken and the egg, and it's clear that Roe v. Wade reflected changes in American morality.
But it is equally clear that the removal of restrictions on abortion ignited an explosion in the practice. Since 1973, Americans have averaged between 1.3 and 1.4 million abortions per year. On this somber anniversary, many pro-life groups will talk about the 50 million Americans who were never born, but the number is actually much higher. By now, an entire second generation—the prospective children of those who were aborted—has been lost, and the United States is moving into the third generation today.
There are signs of hope, of course. According to polls, pro-life sentiment is running at its highest levels in decades. President Obama's healthcare reform bill has run into significant opposition because of the attempt to include funding for abortion. And, perhaps because the White House is currently occupied by the most pro-abortion president in U.S. history, pro-life organizations are concentrating their efforts more at the local level, where abortions actually occur. Such efforts, I've long argued, are more likely to bear fruit than the previous myopic focus on federal legislation.
Sadly, though, I do not think that we will see the end of legalized abortion in the United States in my lifetime. Such a change would require not only political will but Christian renewal. Still, all things are possible through prayer, and as we recall those who never were allowed to see the light of day, we can all join our voices in a Prayer to End Abortion.