Among the interesting arguments in last week's 5-4 Supreme Court decision granting corporations First Amendment protections when making campaign contributions was the majority's decision to effectively treat corporations as persons.
Liberal Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, who disagrees with the ruling, wrote, "...the majority acted as if there could be no constitutional distinction between a corporation and a human being."
The ruling came the week of the annual March for Life, which draws thousands to Washington to mark that same court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. The march has become not so much a protest as an affirmation of the value of all human life. What makes the ruling and the march ironic is that the 1973 court, in essence, downgraded a human fetus to the level of nonperson, while the modern court has invested "personhood" in corporations. Does anyone else see a contradiction or at least a moral inconsistency in these two rulings?
There is evidence that all the marches and the pro-life pregnancy centers are working. There have been roughly 50 million abortions in the United States since 1973. Opinion polls reveal a public increasingly concerned about the unrestricted disposal of human life and the potential contributions those lives could make to America and to humanity.
The shift in opinion is especially notable among the young. The Marist Institute for Public Opinion, a Catholic organization associated with the Knights of Columbus, has published a survey that shows "Millennials" -- those 18 to 29 -- are increasingly pro-life. Fifty-eight percent of them said they believed that abortion is "morally wrong." They are joined in their view by six out of 10 of those 65 and over. According to the survey, only 51 percent of Baby Boomers -- the "free love" generation -- consider abortion morally wrong.
A Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey released in October 2009 found that 45 percent of all Americans oppose abortion in most or all cases, up 4 percent from last year. David N. O'Steen, executive director of National Right to Life Committee commented, "These results are unsurprising and track with earlier polling, including Gallup, and, most recently, a poll conducted by Rasmussen indicating that the majority of Americans are opposed to funding abortions in the health care bill." Still, pro-choice Democrats have kept pushing for federal funding of abortion, which is one of several reasons the bill has stalled in Congress.
The youth movement among pro-lifers has not gone unnoticed, even at newspapers whose editorials have been consistently pro-choice. Robert McCartney, a columnist for The Washington Post's Metro section, wrote this confessional: "I went to the March for Life rally Friday on the Mall expecting to write about its irrelevance. Isn't it quaint, I thought, that these abortion protestors show up each year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, even though the decision still stands after 37 years. What's more, with a Democrat in the White House likely to appoint justices who support abortion rights, surely the Supreme Court isn't going to overturn Roe in the foreseeable future.
"How wrong I was."
The number of young people, which McCartney estimated made up more than half the crowd, got his attention. He believes the movement is "gaining strength." So do I. Thousands of pregnancy centers, many of which now offer high-resolution sonograms, not around in 1973, along with the unwavering commitment of pro-lifers, is wearing down the opposition and winning a new generation to their point of view.
While senator-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts is not totally pro-life, his election has slowed, perhaps halted, health care bills that might well have resulted in federal payments for abortion. Add to this the elections of Republican governors in Virginia and New Jersey and the optimism gripping the Republican Party and the conservative movement, which seemed to have evaporated a year ago with the inauguration of Barack Obama, and one could hopefully speculate that a Supreme Court, which now sees corporations as persons, might again recognize the personhood of babies in the womb.
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