AMAC Exclusive – By David P. Deavel
Roe v. Wade is dead. Now many more children will live. The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health struck down a 49-year-old decision that was bad for women and children, bad for the country, and bad for the law. Abortion is not made illegal in the United States. It is, however, made subject to state laws and thus is now part of the political process again. Thirteen states (all red) had trigger laws that made abortion illegal automatically if Roe were overturned. Nineteen states (mostly blue, a few purple) had laws on the books keeping abortion legal no matter what happened to Roe. Some other states will join each group, no doubt, but pro-life people now have the possibility of protecting children and women from this scourge in many states. Their—our—goal is to protect all of them. Our work has just begun, but we have an advantage. For many of us are from the Sonogram Generations.
My wife was born in 1973, and I in 1974. Everyone our age and under has been ruled by Roe. Every one of us knows that our own lives could have been ended legally in the womb. This has had a huge influence on how we think about family, our parents, our children. This has been negative in many ways, but that knowledge that we might have been surgically killed in the womb has also been accompanied by the advent of ultrasound technology that we have grown up with. In the days of Roe, the argument was that what was inside a mother’s womb is merely a clump of cells. That was true, of course, but then again every human being is actually just a clump of cells. The question was what kind of clump of cells we were talking about.
Very soon after Roe it became a different story. The development of technology allowing us to see the human form of that “clump”—to see it moving and sucking fingers just as do children (and even some older humans) outside the womb; to both see and hear its beating heart, a beat separate from that of the woman in whom it dwells—well, that has changed things for everyone. It certainly did for Bernard Nathanson, a doctor who had done thousands of abortions and had helped found the organization now known as NARAL-Pro-Choice America. Ultrasound technology convinced him that the clump of cells possessed “a self-directed force of life that, if not interrupted, will lead to the birth of a human baby.” He became pro-life and fought to make amends for his place in “ushering in this barbaric age.”
But he’s not the only one. Every woman—and almost every man—has seen a sonogram picture printed out of somebody’s child. For women, it is often her own, perhaps after that first ultrasound around twelve weeks of pregnancy when she discovers that what is inside her is indeed fearfully and wonderfully made. She has had a doctor point out those toes, those fingers, that pulsing heart. At a slightly later stage she has perhaps had the doctor point out anatomical parts showing this is no mere generic “child” but is instead a little boy or little girl.
This knowledge, hard to avoid, leads those who have determined that abortion is a right and perhaps even a good to a dissonance. They now know something, even if they might publicly deny it. Pro-abortion activists of the Sonogram Generations know, and are perhaps more likely to say, that this is a human life that they are ready to see killed. It may be an ugly thing for us to hear that not all humans have rights. But it is clarifying that there is now honesty. To admit what they are doing is to open them up to seeing that it is wrong and, like Dr. Nathanson, changing their minds.
For those of the Sonogram Generations who are open to this life, such knowledge leads to joy and fearful wonder. They have also seen that their lives may well be interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy. But they know that this clump of cells is a child. If they have seen anything of life in healthy families, they have discovered that every child, whether “planned” or “unplanned,” in every family is going to change lives in unexpected ways, sometimes beautifully, sometimes tragically, and most likely a combination of the two. But the Sonogram Generations see that they too were once a child for whom a choice was made to preserve and welcome life. They know that they and their children and even grandchildren were spared for a purpose.
A big part of that purpose is to keep showing people those pictures (which are worth far more than the proverbial thousand words) of the little ones with beating human hearts. It is also to keep producing new pictures to see: pictures of people who will keep fighting in law and working practically to keep other people’s children and grandchildren safe from decisions often made by women who have lost hope. Those members of the Sonogram Generations know that the task of a society is to care for all those who are bearing or have born children so that we can all do well. The leftist slogan, “We all do better when we ALL do better,” is exactly right. The Sonogram Generation can see that the ALL includes those weakest and smallest among us. They can see that such a slogan can’t mean much unless we include them and the women who bear them. And they’re doing it.
We’ve covered such pictures here at AMAC in the form of pro-life centers and groups providing housing and support, as well as legislators and ordinary Americans caring for women and children. We know that there are many more such pictures out there to inform young women and all voters about. And we know that there need to be many more such pictures created in the form of political and direct action to protect and help young women and their babies.
The Sonogram Generations will be very prominent in these pictures, for they—we—have seen things that are not just things. We have seen that that “clump of cells” is a clump just like us. It is a human clump alive with a beating heart. It reminds us of what we once were and are: a person made in God’s image with a dignity and right to life given by him. Let no one put that truth asunder.
David P. Deavel is an Associate Professor at the University of St. Thomas (Texas). A senior contributor at The Imaginative Conservative, a winner of the Acton Institute’s Novak Award, and a former Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute. With Jessica Hooten Wilson, he edited Solzhenitsyn and American Culture: The Russian Soul in the West (Notre Dame, 2020). Besides his academic publications, Dr. Deavel’s writing has appeared in many journals, including Catholic World Report, City Journal, First Things, Law & Liberty, and the Wall Street Journal. Follow him on Gettr @davidpdeavel.
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