Veterans of the summer lawn wars dream of a world where crab grass and spurge retreat before advancing Zoysia, and rose bushes choke ivy off the trellis.
Does the Garden ever overtake the Wilderness?
In law and culture, as in all spheres of life, the “natural order” tends always to disorder. Culture, as the term implies, must be cultivated, because bad ideas drive out good ones like weeds in an unkempt garden. Years ago, in the withering aftermath of the Supreme Court’s discovery of a “fundamental right to abortion” in Roe v. Wade, activist judges rushed to create new and broader abortion “rights” at the expense of the first and most precious right – the right to life. Like weeds sprouting from cracks in a sidewalk, rulings sprang up across the country declaring the “right” to taxpayer funding of abortion, mandating the use of public hospitals as abortuaries, striking down medical safeguards against dangerous abortion practices and denying women truthful information about what abortion really is and does.
Then, “like a root out of the dry ground,” a pro-life movement was born. Beginning shortly after the Supreme Court approved greater abortion restrictions in Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, the number of abortions in the U.S. has dropped by almost one-third. America is now seeing the lowest number of abortions since the mid-1970s. In just the past week alone, Planned Parenthood has been forced to shutter abortion services at seven centers in Arizona and six in Texas.
Pro-life legal advocacy groups like Alliance Defense Fund have had an important role to play. But law follows culture, and make no mistake – the cultivation of respect for life has had many plowmen and women. Churchwomen began forming “crisis pregnancy centers” soon after Roe, and today there are twice as many pro-life pregnancy resource centers helping women keep their babies as there are abortion clinics “empowering” women to destroy theirs. History is repeating itself; as World Magazine’s Marvin Olasky observes, a century ago, a rising tide of abortion swept in as industrialization and urbanization caused family breakup and isolation. Churches responded by providing compassionate aid through individual efforts and opening maternity homes, resulting in a dramatic decline in abortion rates in the latter part of the century – rates that stayed relatively low until the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s sent the numbers soaring again, along with rates of sexually transmitted infections and single parenting. Now, again, churches are answering the call to revive what the disordering of sexual ethics has left blighted.
Pro-life doctors, nurses and pharmacists are also answering the call. After the management at Madison Surgery Center in Wisconsin announced plans to take over a Planned Parenthood doctor’s late-term abortion practice, a staff physician, Nancy Fredericks, spoke out and marshaled support. Of the nearly 100 professionals on staff at the Surgery Center, all but seven signed a statement refusing to take part in abortions, and the hospital was forced to abandon the plan. Arizona’s seven Planned Parenthood closures came after the state appeals court upheld laws that were passed as the result of an outcry by dozens of pro-life doctors against Planned Parenthood’s sub-standard practices.
Last year, for the first time, a majority of Americans described themselves as “pro-life.” Supporting taxpayer-funded abortion has become a political death wish, with the U.S. House of Representatives voting to bar the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, from getting a dime of federal money. Seven states have now stripped Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers of taxpayer funding, including Texas, where the diversion of $35 million in family planning funds forced the closure of six Planned Parenthood clinics last week.
With a million precious lives lost annually to abortion, no one can say that a “Culture of Life” is in full bloom yet. But it’s beginning to look a few tender shoots are taking root.