General Information / History / Stats / Types

Encouragement from American History

By Paige Comstock Cunningham

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the pro-life movement’s death were greatly exaggerated. Despite the appointment of a new pro-abortion Supreme Court justice (Ginsburg) the legal battle for life lives on.

Moreover, the history of American reform movements gives us solid hope of victory, provided we’re committed for the long haul.

The following successful reform movements point the way – each required struggles lasting 40 years:

  • The anti-slavery movement (1830-1870)
  • The movement to abolish discrimination based on race (1930 – late 1960s)
  • The Women’s Suffrage Movement (the late 1800s – 1920)
  • The movement against worker exploitation (the 1890s – 1930s)

Several factors link these movements. Each required the dedication of thousands over more than one generation.

Each included a legislative and legal battle…

Each movement weathered the tragedy of violence committed by opponents and, regrettably, by adherents.

Finally, each of these movements also began by being unpopular and “politically incorrect” among most Americans.

The current movement to protect unborn children dates back to the early 1970s. Like the above movements, it too seems politically incorrect, requires perseverance and embraces a legal/legislative battle. It differs from earlier movements, however, in that the primary victims it seeks to save are hidden from sight. This makes it harder to overcome the willful blindness of society.

My purpose here is not to predict that the pro-life movement, like its predecessors, will triumph after 40 years. Rather, I want to encourage pro-lifers to never give up.

For their part, the activists who opposed slavery did so out of a commitment to justice – not because they saw the abolition of slavery coming around the next corner. In fact, for them the future looked darkest just before the dawn; in 1857, pro-slavery men gained control of all 3 branches of the federal government, just as abortion advocates have done in our day.

Our own movement is still worth fighting for, because babies are still dying. We must follow in the footsteps of Americans who have carried their vision to victory.

[AUL Forum, October 1993]