Activists on both sides of the gay marriage debate "have begun to speak of the issue as 'the new abortion'," The Washington Post reports. But what ever happened to the old abortion? As it turns out, the past few months have seen extraordinary progress for the unborn, with abortion supporters looking more desperate than ever.

The international front is full of good news. China is outlawing sex determination and sex-selective abortion, aiming to fix its gender imbalance by 2010. On the other side of the international political spectrum, the Netherlands has tethered its infamous abortion ship.

Meanwhile, Britain is engaged in a soul-searching moment. First came the release of images from the new 3D/4D ultrasound scans—one shows a 12-week-old child "walking" in its mother's womb. Then came the shocking news of the abortion rate (up 3.2 percent from 2002), "cosmetic" abortions (at least a dozen babies have been aborted for cleft lips and palates, in probable violation of British law), and medical advances. The author of Britain's 1967 Abortion Act, David Steel, said the law wrongly assumes fetuses can't survive outside the womb before 28 weeks. "Since then," he wrote in The Guardian newspaper, "medical science has continued to advance, recording survivals at 22 weeks of pregnancy." In 1990, British pro-life groups pushed to move the law back to 22 weeks, but got 24. Now Steel wants it halved, to 12.

Viability supposedly matters here as well. World magazine recently reported, "Forty states and the District of Columbia have post-viability abortion bans that are currently enforceable." Many of these state laws define viability too late: between 24 and 26 weeks. But in December, when Sen. Joseph Lieberman noted that the laws no longer reflect "extraordinary advances in medical science," he was condemned for eroding "choice."

Abortion advocates are increasingly abandoning science. "For a long time now, medicine has assumed too much importance in the abortion debate," Marina Benjamin wrote in The Scotsman. "If medical advances keep lowering the bar, we'll soon be faced with a situation where socially motivated abortions are legally discriminated against."

But people seem fine with that. A January poll showed that 43 percent of Democrats believe abortion "destroys a human life and is manslaughter." Those numbers will keep growing due to what The Wall Street Journal calls The Roe Effect: Pro-lifers can pass their values on to their children; those who abort their children can't. Another good sign: Anti-abortion demonstrations are getting younger.

Article continues below

Little wonder, then, that Sen. John Kerry touted that he too believes that life (though not necessarily personhood) begins at conception and that abortion is an "incredibly important moral issue."

For Kerry, the basis for keeping abortion legal isn't based in science but in the "separation of church and state." The change of rationale could be great news. It's no Herculean task to explain why banning abortion doesn't establish a government religion.

But abortion advocates aren't rallying to Kerry's view of conception, so they're not arguing church-state separation, either. In summary, they have lost ground on science, emotional appeals, constitutional law … What's left?

Insanity. Meet Amy Richards, whose "When One Is Enough" article in The New York Times Magazine told of how she unregretfully aborted two of her triplets because it would mean "shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise." Without the abortions, she exclaimed, "I'd have to give up my life!" That life is one where she's a Planned Parenthood leader, a consultant to Gloria Steinem, and founder of the Third Wave Foundation, which funds abortions. She's also one of the brains behind Planned Parenthood T-shirts that proudly proclaim, "I had an abortion."

Richards's article and those shirts have outraged even Planned Parenthood affiliates, but make no mistake: This is the direction that the movement is headed. Within days of the triplets article, the Times published another article on abortion. This time, Barbara Ehrenreich savaged women who regret their abortions or oppose those "socially motivated abortions" Benjamin was talking about. "Time to take your thumbs out of your mouths, ladies, and speak up for your rights," she said.

Not exactly the textbook method for winning hearts and minds. No wonder the tide is turning.

Related Elsewhere:

This column appeared in the magazine's September print issue as the fourth entry of "Weblog in Print," CT's effort to duplicate on paper our popular online Weblog feature. Earlier entries include:

Grave Images | The photos from Abu Ghraib have reopened debate on the power of pictures.
Misfires in the Tolerance Wars | Separating church and state now means separating belief and action (Feb. 24, 2004)
A Theoblogical Revolution | Billy Graham's vision goes from print to online, then back again. (Jan. 16, 2004; Weblog update: "New Kids on the Blog," Feb. 13, 2004)
Article continues below

For more Christianity Today coverage of the abortion debate, see our Life Ethics area. Articles include:

A Laughing Child in Exchange for Sin | What exactly does courage look like in an age of abortion? (Feb. 13, 2004)
Complicit Guilt, Explicit Healing | Men involved in abortion are starting to find help. (Oct. 27,2003)
Will the Partial-birth Abortion Ban Save Lives? | Most prolife groups say the ban in itself is not what is important. (Oct. 23,2003)
Prolife Groups Ready to Defend Partial-Birth Abortion Ban | Court challenge to new law expected. (July 14, 2003)
The Pastor Without a Paycheck | Randy Alcorn learned to live what he had preached while fleeing the wrath of abortionists and the judgment of the courts. (April 22, 2003)
Prolife Advocates Herald Partial-Birth Abortion Ban | President Bush promises to sign May 13 Senate bill. (April 23,2003)
Prolife Groups Respond to Conviction of Antiabortion Extremist | James Kopp faces 15 years to life for crime. (April 22, 2003)
Saved by Sonogram | Ultrasounds help crisis pregnancy centers reduce abortion. (Feb. 24, 2003)
The Abortion Wars | What most Christians don't know about the history of prolife struggles. (Jan. 22, 2003)
Saving Black Babies | Abortion has cost 13 million African American lives. (Jan. 10, 2003)

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.