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POV: Hope Exists in Our New Pro-Life Generation

6699204 - an ultrasound of a human fetus during the 17th week.

I have to confess that until recently I’ve never really appreciated babies. I thought they were boring, they smelled bad, and that they weren’t nearly as cute as everyone seemed to think. I didn’t get the obsession until recently, when people I care deeply about started having babies. Now I have begun to understand the beauty that babies possess. It is breathtaking to look at a new creation made in the image of God and his or her parents, barely bigger than a stuffed animal. At times it is hard to believe that humans have such a creative capacity. It makes sense to me now, why parents, other family members, and friends just sit and stare at babies for hours, because I now find myself doing the same.

Just as I was starting to really understand the captivating beauty of the creation of life, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on the Whole Women’s Health case. The ruling struck down some laws in Texas that increased health and safety standards for abortion clinics.  The ruling in practical terms means more abortion clinics and more abortions. That pains many hearts, including mine, not because of a desire to “tell women what to do with their bodies,” but because so many captivatingly beautiful creations will not be treated as such. Instead of being stared at for hours on end and marveled at by loved ones, these beautiful creations will be treated as medical waste.

This stark reality is certainly saddening, but it has been a reality for multiple generations now. The thing that struck me as particularly disheartening was the reaction to the decision by many on the pro-choice side. Abortion has long been a very sensitive, personal, and divisive issue, but in past generations even those on the pro-choice side treated it as a necessary evil that they believed was unavoidable and thus best kept “safe, legal and rare.” The reactions to the Whole Women’s Health case, however, showed the mindset of many in the modern pro-choice movement: there is nothing wrong with abortion, it should be available on demand, and any restrictions are an affront to human rights. Here are some of the most disheartening reactions:

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The juxtaposition of my newfound interest in, and appreciation of, newborn babies, with these callous reactions reminded me of two things: 1) Those in the pro-life movement are undoubtedly on the right side of morality and history; and 2) There is a lot of work that must be done to change the hearts and minds of many in our culture.

Generational Hope

For those who are passionate about fixing this injustice, the Supreme Court’s decision and the subsequent reaction of many can seem disheartening, but there is quite a bit to be hopeful about. Despite what these reactions might indicate about my generation (age 18-30), there is actually a plethora of research and polling that shows the Millennial generation is the most pro-life generation since Roe v. Wade. Some of the most striking statistics:

  • The Barna Group found that 53 percent of Millennials think abortion should be either totally illegal, or legal only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the mother’s life.
  • The General Social Survey (GSS), a sociological survey that has asked the same six questions about abortion since 1972, found that “the youngest age group is on average the second lowest (after those 65 and older) in favor of legal abortion.”
  • A 1991 study found that 36 percent of voters under 30 believed abortion should be legal in all circumstances. That number dropped to 24 percent in 2010.
  • 2010 study found that voters under 30 were more likely than any other generation, including those older than 65, to believe that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances.
  •  2010 internal NARAL (a pro-abortion advocacy group) survey found a difference in the intensity of pro-choice and pro-life Millennials.  Of those under 30 who identified as pro-life, 51 percent thought abortion was an “important issue,” compared to 26 percent of pro-choice Millennials who considered it an important issue.

All of these numbers show that my generation is: 1) currently more pro-life than any other generation other than our grandparents; and 2) comparably more pro-life than other generations have been at our age since Roe v Wade.

The most remarkable aspect of these findings is that the overwhelming majority of research and polling shows that Millennials are far less religious and far more politically liberal than other generations. That means that even as my generation trends towards secularism and political liberalism, they are also trending pro-life.

Technology Gives a Face to Abortion Victims

How could a generation that is currently the most liberal and non-religious in our nation be trending toward adopting a stance that has historically been dominated by religious conservatives?  I am not a social scientist, and there is not substantial research available to definitively answer this question, but there is an answer that makes the most sense to me. Technology is doing what pro-life advocates have been trying to do for years: humanize the unborn.

Recent innovations and access to ultrasound technology have made images and videos of the unborn readily available. These images and videos have made it difficult to deny the humanity of those who have yet to be born. It is challenging to see this video of a fetus that has the hiccupsand deny its humanity.  It is difficult to see these adorable ultrasounds showing the unborn waving to the camerasmiling, or giving thumbs up, and then joke about being able to take their lives. It is impossible to tell parents who have heard the heartbeat of their child and seen his or her face, that what they are seeing and hearing isn’t human and has no right to life.

My generation is trending pro-life, because we can see the victims of abortion. We see their faces. We see their arms and legs. We see their expressions and reactions. Because we can see them, we increasingly are beginning to recognize them for who they are: human beings who have the right to exist.

The New Pro-Life Language

This is certainly good news, and those in the pro-life movement should take full advantage of this opportunity, which means seeking to broaden the pro-life perspective even further. My generation is much different from those who have come before us. We distrust institutions, are highly individualistic, reject any lack of authenticity, hate inconsistency, and have hearts that seek compassion and mercy over justice and morality. Often times, especially in the “culture wars,” older generations and leaders ignore these differences and articulate their opinions emphasizing the importance of institutions, community, justice and morality. I certainly believe all of those are important, but in order to persuade my generation, pro-life advocates must speak their language and not get frustrated that they don’t view the world the same way other generations do. This doesn’t mean avoiding strong stances on certain issues, but, instead, expressing them differently. This is especially true when it comes to the pro-life perspective, because much of what Millennials hold as important are also important to the pro-life message.

This means the modern pro-life movement shouldn’t ignore justice and morality, but when speaking to young people focus on showing compassion and mercy to the birth parents, as well as to those who have no voice: the unborn. We should acknowledge and talk about the fact that 49 percent of abortion patients are living in poverty, because not doing so is inconsistent and inauthentic. We should advocate for those in poverty because doing so is pro-life for the parents and children alike. We should point out that marriage is a great thing, not only because it’s what we have always done but because it is also the most logical and loving way to create a family. Our message to young women shouldn’t just focus on the immorality of abortion, but that they are individually worthy of so much more than to be treated in such a way that leads to abortion. This is true because every individual has intrinsic value, which is why they should reject abortion.

If we start to use language like this, while the new pro-choice advocates trend toward celebrating abortion as an act of freedom and independence, we will continue to change the hearts and minds of young people. Ultimately, we should not lose sight of why we are pro-life. We don’t advocate for change because we are seeking a political victory or because we have any animosity towards those who work against us. We advocate for life because we strive to live in a world where every creation made in the image of God is treated with dignity. That starts with the right to exist.

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