Morality is not determined by human law. For hundreds of years, slavery was practiced all over the world. In some countries, even Christians felt justified in owning slaves because of the law of the land.
Despite the popular opinion and economy that evolved in favor of slavery, especially in the British Empire and in the Americas, large numbers of people rose up in protest of slavery. These people were called abolitionists, not because they only wanted to reduce the number of slaves, but because they wanted to completely eradicate the slave trade.
The decriminalization of abortion in the United States has not only increased the number of abortions, but it has led to a further degradation of human dignity. Like the abolitionists, pro-lifers don’t just want to see a smaller number of abortions, we want to see all women so well taken care of that abortion is never even considered as an option.
We want all babies to be protected and to grow up in loving homes, either with their biological parents or through the gift of adoption. We want all people to feel loved and treasured.
The abolition of slavery took a long time, and it would not have been possible without generations of dedicated abolitionists. Many of them worked their entire lives to change public opinion and transform their society so that slavery was not just unnecessary, but unthinkable.
As portrayed in the film Amazing Grace, William Wilberforce worked tirelessly in the British House of Commons to bring an end to the slave trade. He was successful in passing an Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1807, which forbade the buying or selling of people within the British Empire. However, it wasn’t until 1833 that slavery itself was abolished.
In America, Abraham Lincoln enacted the Emancipation Proclamation as an attempt to end slavery, but it did not put an end to slavery or prejudice. Even today, African Americans sometimes face racism and inequality in the public sphere.
Many people talk about overturning the two Supreme Court decisions that decriminalized abortion—Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. But changing the law does not change hearts or the problems that women face with unexpected pregnancies.
Lawmakers cannot force citizens to see dignity in every human person or to see preborn babies as persons, not commodities. Banning abortion is the first step toward a culture of life in our country, but it isn’t the only thing that will end the culture of death or the hyper-sexualization of our culture. If we want to build a culture of life in our country, we have to start by changing hearts.
In his book Twelve Years a Slave, Solomon Northup recounts his story as a captured freeman into slavery. Northup was a well-educated and talented musician living in the North when he was kidnapped and sold into slavery. During his time as a slave, Northup experienced horrific beatings and inhumane treatment by his masters and overseers. As he stated:
There may be humane masters, as there certainly are inhuman ones—there may be slaves well-clothed, well-fed, and happy, as there surely are those half-clad, half-starved and miserable; nevertheless, the institution that tolerates such wrong and inhumanity as I have witnessed, is a cruel, unjust, and barbarous one.
He was most troubled by the fact that his masters did not see him as a human being with dignity and intelligence. Northup was only able to escape after befriending a kind carpenter and proving that he was born a freeman. Northup was one of the lucky survivors of a life spent as a slave. Others were not so lucky.
Abortion also has survivors. Each year, thousands of babies are saved from abortion by sidewalk advocates, pregnancy health centers, and ordinary people who give their prayerful witness outside abortion clinics during the 40 Days for Life.
Many people who have survived an actual abortion procedure have dedicated their lives to speaking out against the horrors of abortion. Gianna Jessen is a lively young woman who calls the cerebral palsy that she has as a result of the attempted saline abortion “a blessing.” Gianna’s story was used as the basis for the film October Baby and she works diligently as a voice for her comrades who did not survive abortion. Melissa Ohden also survived a saline abortion and now travels around the world sharing her story and the truth about abortion.
Slavery was a hotly debated issue in early America. Many people joined societies, went to rallies, and argued that slaves were people who deserved to be treated with dignity and respect. But despite awareness of the evil that the slave trade brought to America, some so-called abolitionists continued to own slaves.
Benjamin Franklin owned slaves for much of his life and promoted the sale of slaves in his newspaper. At the same time, Franklin would distribute pamphlets and publicly argue against slavery as an evil to society. Thomas Jefferson was another Founding Father who publicly denounced slavery, yet who did not purposely free his own slaves, even his own children born to him by his slave Sally Hemings, until after his own death. Jefferson is best remembered by pro-lifers for penning the words in the Declaration of Independence that every person has the inalienable, God-given right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Like some of our Founding Fathers, some pro-lifers are “in name only” or believe that though abortion is wrong, they don’t have the right to impose that “opinion” on other people. When it comes to actions, these “in name only” pro-lifers refrain from speaking out about their beliefs or taking positive action to help end abortion and build a culture of life.
If you use your voice to help preborn children, the sick, the elderly, or the disabled, you aren’t imposing your views on anyone. You are saving lives and upholding the dignity of every human being. It is better to speak up than remain in silent agreement.
We are all blessed with special gifts. Some of us are given the gift to speak eloquently in a public setting. Some of us are able to serve others with our hands, taking the time to volunteer in our communities. Some of us might be unable to go out and do service, but can offer up our suffering in prayer for the moms and their babies who are facing abortion today.
With the Culture of Life Studies Program, parents and teachers have the opportunity to impart pro-life values to their children. We need to raise bold, courageous children who will stand up for every human being’s life, like the abolitionists, and never stop fighting.
Abortion will not end by itself. We need to work together, educate ourselves, spread awareness, and enact positive change in our communities about the evils of the threats against the human person. We can transform our culture if we work to educate our children in the culture of life.
Laura Kizior is a content developer for American Life League’s Culture of Life Studies Program, which stresses the culture of life as an integral part of every academic discipline. CLSP is dedicated to helping students become effective communicators of the pro-life message. Sign up for our e-mail newsletter to see how we can help you foster a culture of life at home and in school.