SOUTH BEND, Ind. (EWTN News) — Prominent speechwriter Bill McGurn delivered a call to pro-life action at the University of Notre Dame, saying the movement must speak the truth fearlessly and persevere in a spirit of love.

“So many of our fellow citizens have been wounded by what Pope John Paul II called the culture of death. To reach these people, to get to their hearts, we must bring our hearts where our tongues are far too eager to tread,” said McGurn, who was the chief speechwriter for former President George W. Bush.

His remarks came at the June 16 inauguration of the Vita Institute, established to educate students about the dignity of human life, especially during its earliest stages, in various disciplines, including biology, theology, law, philosophy and the social sciences. The institute’s inaugural session took place from June 12 to 24.

McGurn told supporters of the Vita Institute that the United States must experience a change of “hearts as well as laws,” to become a country that “protects the unborn in law because she welcomes them in life.”

He also cautioned that strategies focused on ending abortion through “purely tactical measures” will not succeed.

“Do not fret too much about tactics. Never measure success by numbers,” he advised the audience. Instead, he told them to measure success by the active expression of charity.

“No effort rooted in Christian love of neighbor can ever really fail,” he said.

In a country with such a large variety of opinions, McGurn suggested that pro-life advocates direct an appeal to what he called “the good hearts of the American people.”

“Whether the hearts of the American people be hard or not, we are commanded to presume that we can speak to them: to appeal to their better angels.”

This requires speaking the truth with love, even if the truth may cause a sharp reaction. While love is always patient and kind, McGurn explained, it must also be tough when necessary.

To illustrate the effectiveness of this combination of love and truth, he turned to the example of Abby Johnson, the former Planned Parenthood director who renounced her support for abortion and has since become a pro-life activist.

He highlighted Johnson’s courage in facing the truth about abortion, as well as the patience and love of the pro-life activists who prayed in front of her clinic. They treated and considered this Planned Parenthood director “as a human being with God-given worth and dignity,” McGurn pointed out.

“In time — God’s time, not ours — she responded to that love,” he said. “And she was welcomed.”

Johnson later revealed that she had two abortions before her pro-life turnaround. McGurn observed that those who advocate for the unborn must not neglect or underestimate the needs of post-abortive women and others “among the living” whose lives are “ravaged” by its consequences.

McGurn acknowledged that building a culture of life can be exhausting and discouraging work. He urged his listeners not to forget how much progress has been made, with evident strides such as the growth of the March for Life.

The former presidential speechwriter recalled being one of two Notre Dame students who attended the march in 1977. Today, at least five busloads of students regularly show up each year from the school.

With or without these visible signs of momentum, he said, those who work
for the cause of life must press on.

“The Lord who gave us this life fashioned us in his image,” he stated. “And my friends, he did not permit us the luxury of losing heart.”