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The Early Pro-life Movement

The Pro-life movement as we know it today began in the mid-1970s, following the U. S. Supreme Court’s 7-2 ruling in the Roe vs. Wade case. On January 22, 1973, the high court declared that all state laws barring abortion violated a woman’s right to privacy.

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The largest organized opposition to the decision was the March for Life in Washington D.C. in January 1974.  The annual protest has continued in each year since. Today the March for Life is held not only in the nation’s capital but in cities across the country, attracting pro-life supporters from every faith and walk of life.

Although some churches spoke out initially, many Christians were slow to comprehend the impact of the Roe vs. Wade decision. In 1976, the first significant response came with the passage of the Hyde Amendment.  Sponsored by Congressman Henry Hyde of Illinois, this amendment barred federal funding of abortions except when a mother’s life was in jeopardy or she had been the victim of a rape.

Whatever Happened to the Human Race?

 Three years later, noted theologian Francis Schaeffer and future Surgeon General C. Everett Koop published a book and film series entitled Whatever Happened to the Human Race?  They presented a historical examination of how the value of life in Western culture had declined in the 20th century, saying:

We stand today on the edge of a great abyss. At this crucial moment choices are being made and thrust on us that will for many years to come affect the way people are treated. We want to try to help tip the scales on the side of those who believe that individuals are unique and special and have great dignity.

The impact of this project helped to make abortion a center stage issue in the academic and political debate, and propelled then pediatric surgeon C. Everett Koop to national prominence. As a result, he was appointed and served as U. S. Surgeon General under President Ronald Reagan from 1982 to 1989.

In 1983, Reagan himself wrote Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation , the only book ever published by a sitting U.S. President.  The following year Reagan established January 22, the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day.  On the Sunday closest to that date, churches across the country still recognize and affirm the importance of protecting all human life.

Practical Help

Early pro-Life strategists suggested ways to express opposition to the killing of the unborn, such as picketing abortion clinics or practicing civil disobedience. But by the early 1980’s, some Christians took a new approach by establishing the first pregnancy help centers.  By providing practical help to women, many of whom were opposed to abortion but had nowhere to turn for support, many more unborn lives were saved and women were spared from abortion.  Caring Network Illinois was one of the first pregnancy help centers established, in 1981.  In nearly four decades of empowering women, Caring Network Illinois has served and saved tens of thousands of mothers and unborn children.  Click here to learn how you can help Caring Network’s mission.

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