This article was originally posted as an op-ed at the Columbus Dispatch here.
This last week marked 45 years since the Supreme Court handed down the most devastating — and perhaps the most controversial — decision in American history: Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that unleashed abortion on demand, wiping out every abortion restriction in the United States. Forty-five years later, our country is still reeling from that decision, our people as divided as ever. Yet in 2018, we have reason to believe that life is winning.
In the last several years, the state of Ohio has made unprecedented progress in protecting human life. Since 2011, Governor John Kasich has signed a solid 20 Ohio Right to Life initiatives, including, most recently, the Down Syndrome Non-Discrimination Act. This law prohibits abortions from taking place for the sole reason of a Down syndrome diagnosis, responding to the tragic fact that up to 90 percent of unborn babies who are diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted.
Now, the Ohio General Assembly is considering another major Ohio Right to Life initiative: the dismemberment abortion ban, the most significant pro-life legislation since the partial-birth abortion ban. This legislation would prohibit dilation and evacuation, the most common type of second-trimester abortion. Horrifically, D&E requires that the unborn child be dismembered piece by piece to be removed from the womb. In 2016, nearly 6,000 of these abortions were performed in Ohio. This legislation has already been approved by the Ohio Senate and is now undergoing hearings in the House.
But even with as much progress as we are making, the widespread effects of Roe are unmistakable: Since that fateful decision, 60 million abortions have taken place in our country. In 2016 alone, the Ohio Department of Health reported 20,672 abortions in Ohio. One year, one state: More than twenty thousand lives, each with their own unique DNA, never to be seen or heard from again.
In a recent op-ed for The Dispatch, Sandy Theis, executive director of ProgressOhio, bizarrely opined that with as pervasive as abortion has become, “abortion is not particularly controversial.” Her goal? To convince the Democratic Party that abortion is so mainstream that the party can have zero exceptions and zero tolerance for pro-life Democrats. But the data simply don’t bear that opinion out.
Abortion is controversial. According to a June 2017 Gallup poll, Americans remain divided on the issue. Forty-nine percent of Americans believe abortion is morally wrong, whereas 43 percent believe it is morally acceptable. Furthermore, 68 percent of Americans believe there should be at least some restrictions on abortion. Indeed, abortion remains so controversial that every January, hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers flock to Washington D.C., often in the extreme cold, to protest Roe.
But as controversial as abortion is, life itself isn’t. For that reason, the pro-life movement is fostering love and unity among seemingly disparate factions. If you glimpse the crowd at the March for Life, you will see a mosaic of pro-life Catholics, evangelicals and Republicans, as well as post-abortive mothers and fathers, former abortion-clinic workers, pro-life atheists, Muslims, feminists and, yes, Democrats.
Groups like these last few mentioned demonstrate how the pro-life movement has transcended the partisan divide that opportunists like Theis have fought so hard to maintain. How can it do this? Because we quite literally value every human life. Ours is a movement of inclusion, love and service to those in most need of it.
Abortion is controversial for a reason: It ends an innocent human life. By poison, suction and dismemberment, it violently robs an innocent human being of her basic right to exist. While abortion may be controversial, choosing life isn’t. Caring for mothers in need isn’t. Adoption isn’t. Volunteering our time and resources at a local pregnancy center isn’t.
Only by bypassing the forces of division and acknowledging the very real women and children who need our help and protection can we hope to end abortion and heal this nation’s conscience in our lifetime.
Michael Gonidakis is president of Ohio Right to Life.