Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Is There a "Culture Shift" on Abortion?

Is there light on the horizon for those desiring to re-build a culture of life? More specifically, is there evidence of a culture shift on the critical matter of abortion? Have the scientific advances in fetology and the proliferation of ultrasound images of babies in the womb opened our eyes...and tenderized our hearts towards the unborn?

Many point to the several opinion polls which have shown that young Americans are more pro-life than the previous generation; that is, that they desire more restrictions on "abortion rights" than their parents. That is certainly significant to the questions above. But there's other evidence too that Americans are finally getting the message that abortion is unnecessary, unconstitutional...and mean.

Consider the several Hollywood films of recent years which heralded pro-life decisions, the extensive grassroots opposition to the promotion of abortion that was packed into ObamaCare, the growing admiration and appreciation of adoption, the increasing calls for de-funding Planned Parenthood (as well as the closing of many of the abortion organization's offices), numerous state legislatures successfully scaling the heretofore unassailable wall of Roe v Wade, and the appearance of pro-life support in places where one didn't see it in years past.

A striking illustration of these last two areas is not only the advancement of LB 1103 in the Nebraska Unicameral (a groundbreaking bill that would significantly curtail late-term abortions) but the surprising (though grudging) support of that bill from the editors of the Lincoln Journal-Star, a newspaper with a long history of tilting pro-abortion -- but a newspaper which seems to be accepting at least some of the incontrovertible advances of fetology.

...Decades ago, the unchallenged medical doctrine was that the fetus - even a newborn - could feel no pain. They believed nervous systems were too immature to sense pain.
Now a growing number of doctors believe there is considerable evidence that the contrary is true.

A 2008 story in The New York Times recounted how Dr. Kanwaljeet Anand decided the conventional thinking was erroneous. In clinical trials he showed that giving newborns anesthesia reduced "stress response" during surgery and lowered the mortality rate from 25 percent to 10 percent. Anand is convinced the fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks...

Back in 1973, when Roe v. Wade was decided, pro-choice advocates sometimes described the fetus as a "lump of tissue." But as Teresa Collett, a University of St. Thomas law professor, testified in Lincoln, "We didn't have a great deal of the medical knowledge that we've acquired," she said. "The current standard is viability, but the court has never said that is the exclusive standard."

Flood makes clear that he fully intends to shift the national abortion debate by setting a new standard that recognizes the state's interest in protecting the unborn from pain. "The science is compelling," he wrote on his Web site.

There's no way to know at this point if the courts will agree. But there's no doubt that the bill is a thoughtful, informed and heartfelt attempt to further define the government's role on this divisive issue.

No, the editorial isn't exactly applauding LB 1103. But again, those familiar with the newspaper's historic bias towards abortion know how dramatic a change is even this measured tone of respect for a pro-life bill.

Is there light on the horizon for those desiring to re-build a culture of life? Along with all of the other evidences I mentioned earlier, this LSJ editorial (and the fact that the Omaha World-Herald, also a newspaper known for favoring "abortion rights," today published an op/ed piece I wrote dealing with the issue) has put me in a hopeful mood. But our commitment to prayer and principled action must be redoubled in the coming months to make sure we take full advantage of that light.

(If you go today to the World-Herald, you can read that op/ed article. But since they only keep opinion articles online for a short time, I also print it in full in the Vital Signs Blog post immediately below.)