The New Research Driving the Pro-Life Movement

Abortion across the U.S. — whether at two weeks or 20 — has seen a decrease in recent years, and not simply because of scientific findings that indicate unborn children feel pain 20 weeks after conception.

According to a recent New York Times article by Erik Eckholm titled "Theory on Pain is Driving Rules for Abortion," 20-week-ban legislation, which prohibits doctors from performing abortions 20 weeks after a child's conception, was first passed in Nebraska in 2010 and was followed by passage of similar legislation in a dozen other states.

This recent wave of pro-life legislation, argues Mr. Eckholm, is propelled by "disputed scientific theories" on fetal pain.

“These laws are cloaked in the language of two-week increments, rather than banning abortion at conception or other more radical measures,” says Suzanne B. Goldberg, director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University, in the New York Times story. “They are cutting back on women’s constitutional rights, but less dramatically, so they trigger less alarm across society.”

But Mr. Eckholm and Ms. Goldberg give too much credit to fetal-pain research in advancing the pro-life agenda.

For example, the number of reported abortions decreased in the U.S. before the 20-week ban was even enacted in Nebraska in 2010. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of reported abortions performed in the U.S. in 2009 decreased by 5% compared to 2008. 

In addition, the CDC reports, "The change from 2008 to 2009 represented the largest single-year decrease in the total number and rate of reported abortions for the entire period from 2000 to 2009.”

While research into fetal pain has contributed to the growing success of the pro-life movement, many other things have factored into the equation and have led to unprecedented pro-life legislative successes and the most pro-life generation yet.

From 3D ultrasounds to booming social media, Americans more than ever have the resources to recognize that an unborn child has the same right to life as any of us. Even research like Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton's book Now, Discover Your Strengths contributes to the pro-life movement, in that its premise is built on the theory that an individual's strengths are inherent rather than environmental. It then follows that an unborn child's personality exists long before he or she is able or mature enough to express those traits. And with the advent of the 3D ultrasound, mothers and fathers are able to compare their infant's physical characteristics to their own, something that's sure to give them pause as they contemplate whether to kill their child.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) earlier this year promoted the idea of fetal personhood — the notion that children are entitled to constitutional protection at the moment of conception — when he stumped for the Life at Conception Act

“The Life at Conception Act legislatively declares what most Americans believe and what science has long known — that human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward,” Sen. Paul said in a statement released in March.

"The right to life is guaranteed to all Americans in the Declaration of Independence and ensuring this is upheld is the Constitutional duty of all Members of Congress."

Pain is indeed a powerful motivator but an even greater motivator is love, the connection wrought when one is known — when one is able to recognize a button nose and a half-cocked smile behind a few layers of skin and placenta.

Let the unborn babies be made known and, consequently, protected.