I think the lion share of the responsibility for this deplorable development belongs to the late Senator Ted Kennedy and his outrageous attacks on Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork.
(Bork, a convert to Catholicism, died this morning. He was 85.)
Kennedy’s wretched rhetoric was beyond the pale. But he was not denounced by his party, or by the mainstream media. Oh no, they happily promoted this vicious attack because a 5th vote against Roe could not get onto the Supreme Court. The ends justify the means. Pay any price, to twist his brother John’s words. Remember the reporter who wrote about his video tape rentals?
Bork was rejected 58-42 by the Senate. And so President Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy instead. Anthony Kennedy’s priest “vouched” for him and his pro-life views. And yet, just five years later, in 1992, Kennedy was the fifth vote to re-affirm Roe in the Casey decision.
To say it was a devastating blow to the pro-life movement is an understatement. A few months after the Casey decision, Clinton gets elected on the lie of “safe, legal and rare.” Republicans are told that they have to get to drop their support for the unborn.
In 1995, Gallup found that 56% of Americans consider themselves as pro-choice whereas only 31% call themselves pro-life. Pro-abortion Republicans like Pete Wilson run for President in 1996. Nixon in fact has Dole and Wilson provide his eulogies at his funeral. His way of stating who should be the #1 and #2 picks for the GOP. Wilson goes nowhere, but Dole wins the nomination and proceeds to run away from the platform, saying: “I’m not bound by the platform. I probably agree with most everything in it. But I haven’t read it.”
But the pro-life movement not only survived, but it started succeeding. Even Gallup admitted there was a major shift in public opinion over abortion in the late 1990s as a big public debate began over the gruesome practice of partial-birth abortion.
And the movement got bigger and younger. It opened up crisis pregnancy centers to provide help where needed. A college pro-life movement blossomed. Rudy Guiliani’s candidacy in 2008 went nowhere as soon as Republican primary voters discovered he was a strong supportive of abortion. In 2012, no self-proclaimed pro-choice Republican ever tried to win the nomination.
I say all of this to remind people that the pro-life movement, as it fights for justice, was in much worse shape in 1992 than it is today.
Likewise 2012 was a setback for the marriage movement. Some say that support for marriage will slowly erode as younger people become older people. And yet, that was said of the pro-life movement twenty years ago as well. Things can change. The strength of a movement is determined by the dedication of its activists. Yes, it’s true that young people support a redefinition of marriage now. But when they get married and start having children, they might change their minds. Nothing is inevitable.