Eyes Wide Open
Complete this sentence: Once upon a time . . .. Chances are good that you’ll drift back to younger days. Chances are even better that you’ll need a very loooong sentence. For “once upon a time” is the stuff of fairy tales-those old folktales we heard as kids. They might involve talking animals, little people, giants, even fairies. And in those enchanting figures we can sometimes get a good glimpse of ourselves.
Hans Christian Andersen’s 1872 classic, The Emperor’s New Suit, is one of the best. Once upon a time there lived an emperor who thought of nothing but his wardrobe. He had a suit for every hour of the day. One day, two swindlers convinced him that they could weave him clothes so stunning that they were invisible. They told him that anyone who couldn’t see them was unfit for office and unpardonably stupid. The emperor bit; he paid them a handsome advance. Eager for a progress report, the emperor sent his minister and courtier to see the weaver’s work. They saw nothing but were too afraid to admit it for fear of what would be said about them. So they raved about the clothes. When the emperor heard, he wanted a sneak peak. Also afraid to admit the obvious, the emperor praised the weavers for their fine work and paid them even more. With their swindle complete, the weavers placed the clothes on the emperor, and he strutted out in parade. The fearful people exclaimed: Incomparable! Beautiful! Finally, a young child with nothing to fear yelled, “But he has on nothing at all!” The child’s words spread to the people and then to the emperor, who had to fake his dignity all the way home.
In our country, legal abortion has been given imperial status. Judges in our highest courts treat it as an inalienable right, trumping virtually all else. Educators hire abortion mongers like Planned Parenthood to school their students on the availability of abortions. They fight to keep parents uninvolved in the problems of their children. Politicians are head-over-heels in love with abortion, thinking that the lofty-sounding words “freedom of choice” are the way to a woman’s vote. In an era of ever increasing tax burdens, some politicians even want taxpayers to foot abortion bills. As for the media, legal abortion is their darling; rarely is abortion challenged for what it is or does. Abortion’s favored status has now existed for generations.
With so much exposure to legal abortion, it might be expected that our younger people would be very accepting of it. But just the opposite is proving true. In ever increasing numbers, the young people are standing against legal abortion. At the annual March for Life, often attended by hundreds of thousands, the young demonstrators predominate. The polling numbers nationwide confirm what the marches seem to reveal. A Gallup poll shows that people between 18-29 are more likely than all but their grandparents to oppose abortion in all circumstances. More young adults than older adults say that abortion should be restricted.
Even pro-abortion polling is confirming these results. A 2010 poll by the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL) concluded that 51% of pro-life voters under 30 called opposing abortion a “very important” voting issue. Only 26% of those supporting abortion felt the same. NARAL also found an “intensity gap” between the younger pro-life and pro-abortion supporters. That’s not hard to understand-who can get excited about death? On seeing the crowds at the March for Life a couple years ago, former NARAL president Nancy Keenan worriedly remarked, “There are so many of them, and they are so young.”
With those young people has come dynamic new leadership. As a young girl, Lila Rose dedicated her life to ending abortion. At age 15, she founded Live Action, a media group committed to rebuilding a culture of life. Live Action’s videos have repeated caught Planned Parenthood committing abuse after abuse. Since taking the reins of Students for Life of America in 2006, Kristan Hawkins has grown pro-life campus groups from 181 to nearly 800. A married mother of three, she and SFLA are committed to educating students to educate others on the life issues. Putting aside plans to be a lawyer, 30-year old Shawn Carney serves as campaign director for 40 Days for Life, an annual peaceful witness of prayer, fasting, and outreach that has saved thousands of the unborn. Former abortion clinic director Abby Johnson’s ministry, And Then There Were None, helps abortion workers find relief and release. Through their Chastity Project, Jason Evert and Crystalina Evert have reached over a million people worldwide with the message to young people that pure relationships are the best. These leaders are technologically smart and media savvy. Their work is getting results.
What’s behind it all? A couple things. The younger generation is a generation of survivors, and they know it. For the first time in our country’s history, their generation was born without the legal guarantee of life. The survivors were lucky enough to be in the right womb at the right time. Hawkins estimates that almost one-third of her generation have been killed by abortion. Those who survive feel a bond with those who would have been their brother, sisters, friends, and collegues. They hope to spare others from the same fate.
There is something else at work. Today’s young people recognize nakedness when they see it, and they’re not afraid to shout it out loud. They understand that legal abortion is a big swindle. Its supporters convinced the highest court in the land that taking life is freedom. In the me-first culture of the ’70s, it was an easy sell. Anyone who couldn’t see it was unpardonably stupid. Politicians, the media, and academia fell right in line. Those opposing legal abortion were deemed religious kooks who should keep their views to themselves. But the young people see the truth. Armed with such technologies as ultrasound and 4-D imaging, they can see for themselves when life begins. And they know it in their hearts.
Call them the Millennials or Generation Y if you will, but the young are best called the pro-life generation. And they are teaching us all to open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts.
Paul Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, and have six kids.