Pro-lifers share a common goal. We want to end abortion and build a world which respects the lives of all God's children, born and unborn.
But not all pro-lifers agree on the best strategy for achieving that goal.
The millions of Americans who have worked with National Right to Life, its state affiliates or its community chapters during the past 28 years have saved the lives of countless unborn babies through a carefully thought-out strategy of intensive education, legislation and political action. Our strategy is sometimes called “incremental” because we have advanced toward our goal in increments, rather than waiting to pass perfect legislation.
We have seized every available opportunity to save as many lives and make the maximum progress possible each day and each year without compromising our ultimate goal.
Legislatively, we support full, legal protection for unborn children. We also support more limited legislation, which can be passed more quickly, to begin saving lives immediately.
Since 1973, National Right to Life and its affiliates have spearheaded the passage of hundreds of lifesaving bills in Congress and the state legislatures.
A study of just one parental notification law in one state for four years indicated that abortions were reduced among teenagers by 15%. Restrictions on public funding of abortion, banning partial-birth abortion, or requiring that women seeking abortions be given the facts about the development of unborn babies saved thousands of lives and advanced the cause of the innocents.
We have also supported thousands of electable pro-life candidates pledged to support pro-life legislation.
When a candidate's pro-life position was good, but not perfect, we made a careful judgement about how we could best save the most lives. Sometimes that meant the first priority was defeating a dangerous pro-abortion enemy.
Others have a different strategy. They would vote for a candidate they think is perfect who has no chance of election rather than a good candidate who could be elected.
These pro-lifers wanted us to stand by and allow Al Gore to be elected president rather than vote for George W. Bush, who had a strong pro-life record as governor, and who had pledged to pro-life policies which would save many unborn babies. They were willing to let Al Gore carry out his campaign promises to the pro-abortionists and unleash a slaughter of the innocents such as this country had never seen before.
Fortunately, millions of pro-life people, Republicans, Democrats and Independents knew better and voted for George W. Bush.
President Bush started making pro-life changes immediately. He barred the government from funding groups which promote abortion overseas, he put pro-life people in the key cabinet positions, he stopped the promotion of abortion by U.S. representatives at the United Nations and he promoted pro-life bills in Congress.
Millions of unborn babies who would have died in America and worldwide under a Gore administration will live because George W. Bush is president.
Without Bush and the other pro-life public officials our votes have elected over the years, and without the legislation pro-life work has passed, millions of children who live today would have died a horrible death in the womb.
We understand there are pro-lifers who see our strategy as letting some unborn babies die.
But they need to understand that we see their strategy as letting all the unborn babies die until we can save them all.
Let's look at the bottom line.
Our strategy saves real, living babies and strengthens the movement. Their strategy results only in dead babies now and a movement in danger of withering away due to legislative inaction and stagnation — a movement which is unlikely to ever protect any babies.
For those who are unwilling or unable to accept the harsh truth of this reality, who think that perfection could be achieved if only we worked harder or were more unified, we ask them to simply count the votes. Likewise, saying that legislative compromises should be made only by politicians ignores the fact that, without pro-life input, the laws passed will be far weaker.
When there is any real chance of success for perfect pro-life candidates or perfect pro-life legislation, we will be their strongest supporters.
We too pray for a miracle which transcends everyday reality and saves all the children now. But miracles come in God's own good time and place.
Until then, we believe our mission is to do what we really can do every day to save real unborn babies. We also passionately believe that this is the best way to hasten ultimate victory.
It will be a tough struggle. We will mourn the loss of babies we cannot save, but we will not let that stop us from saving the babies we can.
Darla St. Martin is associate executive director of the National Right to Life Committee in Washington, D.C.