In an uncommon act of academic, moral, and intellectual leadership – what even critics must concede is fiduciary courage – the University of Alabama has rejected a $26.5 million dollar pledge from a donor who told students “to protest” Alabama’s anti-abortion law, urging they “reconsider their educational options in Alabama.”
The story is deeper than many realize, and worth pause. First, the school’s board was clear about the reason they rejected the donation. “The action taken by the Board … was a direct result of … ongoing attempts to interfere in the operations of the Law School.” The law school, which was being named after the donor, is now taking down signs – and returning all money.
Second, the act must have engendered considerable soul-searching, as it was the largest in the university’s history. By statistical ranking, Alabama is the fourth poorest state in the country, after Mississippi, New Mexico and Louisiana. To relinquish such an amount of money, on moral and operational rounds, is striking.
But what sticks – making this decision emblematic, predictive and bold – is the widening divide between Americans over abortion. In Georgia, which recently passed a similar “heartbeat law” barring abortions after six weeks, money is also being used to change – actually, one might say coerce – public opinion.
Shortly after the people of Georgia said “no” to open-ended abortions, Hollywood elites – who film in Georgia – began issuing ultimatums. Disney, Netflix, NBC Universal, Warner Media, AMC, Showtime and others fell on the state like a ton of bricks – threatening to end business in Georgia if they do not roll back their anti-abortion law.
The whole idea that an educational institution, state, or individual should abandon sincerely-held moral beliefs – on abortion or anything else – in response to financial inducements or threats is repugnant. Even the attempt to change moral beliefs by doling or withholding cash is grotesque.
But then the powerful forces promoting abortion access, from big donors and commercial powerhouses to giant non-profits drawing federal money, crossed that Rubicon long ago. They have long since abandoned close moral analysis of their actions. That is where we are.
Then again, where are we? What does the University of Alabama decision tell us – about where America is? A lot, actually. Attitudes are changing, in the direction of reexamining the whole question of whether, when and under what circumstances – if ever – abortion is the right answer to bearing a life that a mother does not want.
Here is data that should slow Hollywood, although it probably will not. America is uneasy with abortion, and historically never saw the violent act – particularly late term – as a morally defensible.
When Roe v. Wade was handed down by the Supreme Court, constitutionalizing the right to end life in utero, 46 of 50 states had laws banning this practice. Only by “finding” a right to abort within the Constitution – which is textually silent on the topic – could the Supreme Court upend all 46 state laws. Needless to say, the decision was instantly controversial.
But there is more data, and it matters. Attitudes are swinging back toward restriction, away from using abortion as birth control, as they do in Communist China for example. In one recent poll, 77 percent of voters supported legislation assuring a baby who survives abortion will not be killed after birth, and 62 percent oppose abortion late term, including 50 percent who strongly oppose.
Ironically, that message is lost on Hollywood and congressional Democrats, who in February defeated a bill in the US Senate directed to protect surviving children from being killed once born, what lawyers call “infanticide.” The concept turns most stomachs, causes a good heart to ache, but not all.
In a grisly turn, Democrats in Illinois and New York have legalized infanticide, while Virginia’s Democratic governor had the temerity to say he would urge keeping an infant “comfortable” before killing the child. The entire discussion is something out of the worst chapters and quarters of human history, but here we are.
Nationally, the Democratic Party has become the party of abortion, to the point where Democratic candidates who oppose abortion on moral grounds have been told by the Democratic national establishment, they will not be funded in 2020. Instead, the Democratic Party plans to underwrite pro-abortion primary challengers. Once again, money is being used to coerce a change in moral position. Fundamentally, as most Americans understand instinctively, that is not right.
But other numbers offer added insight. A recent Harvard-Harris poll of more than 1,200 Americans revealed that 29 percent believe abortion should be legal in first trimester, while only eight percent agree to the third, and only six percent near birth.
These unassailable Harvard-Harris numbers give the lie to pro-abortion advocates, who often argue a majority the other direction. They also deliver three powerful messages. First, Democrats in the US Senate and nationally who advocate abortion on demand, no protection for viable children in or out of the womb, are way out of step with America.
Second, boldly using money as a pro-abortion weapon to induce, threaten, compel, coerce or otherwise leverage a change in moral convictions held by of most of America is disgraceful, disheartening, disingenuous and grotesque. Free speech allows it, but our nation’s moral fiber despises it.
Third, the University of Alabama, people of Georgia, and perhaps many in those 46 states which thoughtfully restricted abortion prior to Roe v. Wade – are speaking to us, to our leaders in both parties, to our better angels with their hearts. We should hear those heartbeats.