No democratic nation has ever voted in the majority to legalize abortion as such. Not one. Legalized abortion is always imposed by totalitarian or authoritarian regimes, or by elites who manufacture court cases designed to reverse duly created laws that actually protect innocent human beings.
As the death toll rises in those nations that have embraced legal abortion, so does the need of those in power to use ever more authoritarian means to promote this injustice and shield people from the truth. What is happening now in the United States — the creeping overreach of politicians whose sense of accountability seems to diminish daily — has precedent in Europe, where similar democratically elected governments have found ways to legalize the destruction of unborn human beings.
In other cases, especially in Asia and Central and Eastern Europe, nations had abortion forced upon them by dictators who wanted to control the populations. Several of these nations are only now starting to find their way out of the moral and demographic abyss into which they were thrown.
In Human Life International’s (HLI) new documentary, “Central and Eastern Europe: A Return to Life,” we examine the dramatic situations unfolding in Hungary and Poland, two nations that were decimated by the most destructive ideologies in history, Nazism and Communism. Both countries had abortion forced on them by the Communists over six decades ago. And while the people of both nations on occasion rose up against their oppressors, it wasn’t until Communist Russia began to crumble in 1989 that they were able to begin charting their own course.
In 1993, Poland became the first nation in Europe, and remains the first developed nation, to reverse the full legalization of abortion. Inspired by the 1979 visit of the new Polish Pope, John Paul II, Poles stood in solidarity against the Communists, starting the domino effect that led to Communism’s downfall.
But this is important: it was a revolution of faith as much as, if not more than, politics.
The Solidarity movement, led by Lech Walesa, fully embraced the traditional Catholic faith of their homeland, and with a fire lit by the servant of the Holy Spirit, they peacefully persevered. This newly recovered confidence in their traditional faith led to the reversal of the abortion law after the fall of Communism, and today there are fewer than 700 abortions annually in Poland.
Hungary’s recovery has been slower, yet on Easter Monday in 2011, the Hungarian Parliament adopted what has become known as the “Easter Constitution.” Notable for its explicit embrace of its Christian heritage (in a continent whose supranational elite political body has written Christianity out of its own constitution), the new Hungarian constitution restates Hungary’s commitment to authentic human rights and defends the institution that any society must protect if it is to sustain itself – the natural family. With its enactment on January 1, 2012, Hungarians laid the groundwork for the return of pro-life and pro-family laws.
But there is more to these stories, and Americans would do well to contemplate what their example means for our own nation as we draw closer to undoing Roe v. Wade.
As we hear from HLI’s pro-life leaders in Poland in “A Return to Life,” when Communism fell, there was an explosion of hope and enthusiasm, followed by an openness to what were perceived as more enlightened Western culture and values. Instead of sharing in the riches of the West, Poles have seen wane the religious fervor that animated their peaceful resistance to their oppressors, and secular materialism pick up where Communism left off. As we know too well, this secularism also can foment an anti-life mentality, and it has undercut Poles’ hopes for a brighter future. So while Poland is still a relatively Catholic nation in post-Christian Europe, it retains a low birth rate and must continue to fend off attempts to reinstate abortion and adopt the worst of the United States’ and other “developed” nations’ ideas.
Meanwhile, Hungarians find themselves fighting not only those inside the nation who oppose a recovery of traditional Hungarian values, but a body of unelected and radically secular bureaucrats in the European Union who are not happy that one of their member states would dare to promote Christian, pro-life and pro-family views.
So the question falls to us in the United States: What if Roe v. Wade were reversed, or in some other way abolished, tomorrow? Most agree that not one abortion mill would close as a direct result, though it may become easier to close mills in states where there was political will to do so. We can safely assume that the already growing number of proposals at the state level, both for and against abortion, would increase in number and take on greater urgency for both sides. There would immediately be new suits launched to reinstate some version of Roe, all tailored to reach the Supreme Court.
Which leads to a further question, given that we are about to mark the 40th anniversary of Roe: if the actual reversal of Roe is unlikely to immediately save lives, is all the attention given to Roe really warranted? That is, is it worth it to spend so much time and treasure on the reversal of Roe?
Of course it is, and not only for symbolic reasons. Just laws ultimately unite and order a society, as they protect both individuals and the institutions that make civil society possible. Unjust laws divide a citizenry, as they are tools used against politically vulnerable individuals and institutions, ultimately undermining any possibility of a well-ordered state.
We fight on the local, state and national levels to save every life we can, and to set right every law that enshrines the false “right” to choose to kill an unborn child. And as supporters of Human Life International well know, this same fight goes on around the world as well.
Here is the point: no victory in the fight for life and family is ever the end of the battle — it is always a new beginning. It is crucial, but not sufficient, that we seek a reversal of unjust, anti-life laws at every level. The examples provided by Hungary and Poland — nations that have already seen major national victories — demonstrate both major political victories are possible, and that our sights must be set beyond the political battles if we are to sustain the momentum of our victories.
The fire of love and hope set by Saint John Paul II in Poland remains perhaps the most concrete example of what can happen when we allow ourselves to be radically swept up in God’s will, and step forward with courage and trust. Totus Tuus! (Totally Yours!) But as we follow Poland’s continuing struggle, we see that this must be sustained by Christians unafraid to proclaim the Truth, lest the reigning radical secularism that we see around us continue to feed the Culture of Death.
God can bring about change even beyond what we can imagine. We can’t lose hope even with the reelection of an administration here in the U.S. that clearly has disdain for people of genuine faith, religious freedom, and for human life. Greater things have happened than the kind of political and legal victory that we seek in overturning Roe. The current state-level victories, the growing ranks of pro-life advocates, conversions of abortion workers and closure of mills – these wonderful gains foreshadow higher level victories yet to be won.
But if we are to sustain this momentum, the courageous pro-life leaders in Poland and Hungary tell us that what we really need is a consistent and courageous witness of the faith. People need to see the love that they are really searching for, and the stark alternative it offers to the Culture of Death as embodied in Roe v. Wade.