Roe at 40: A Discussion with Live Action's Lila Rose
On January 22, the United States celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case, which legalized abortion in all fifty states. In doing so, the Court usurped a developing consensus amongst the state legislatures on the issue, and violated the principle of federalism that should guide how we enact policy in this country. Nevertheless, Roe, in estimates from the National Right to Life Committee, has been responsible for 54,559,615 abortions since 1973. As Daniel Halper wrote for The Weekly Standard on January 22,"that...means there are more than 3,300 abortions daily and 137 abortions per hour every hour in the United States. Translated another way, an abortion is done about every 30 seconds in the United States."
I was fortunate to have a discussion with Live Action's President, Lila Rose, on the future of the pro-life movement, and what activities they intend to aggressively pursue in this vicious front of America's culture war. Live Action has been at the forefront of documenting abuses made by Planned Parenthood in various undercover stings across the country. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation.
In the wake of the 2012 elections, pro-life Americans found themselves back in the minority. What does Live Action plan to do to turn that tide, especially reaching out to the youth, and urban areas where most abortions are performed?
Sure. Well, first of all – I mean a lot of the latest polling indicates that more Americans consider themselves pro-life than pro-choice. And there’s certainly in the last forty years, despite the Supreme Court case [Roe v. Wade] that vandalized our constitution and made abortion somehow a right – Americans – more and more with the rise of the ultra sound imagery and with the rise of independent media have been seeing the truth about the child in the womb. And the number of pro-lifers is increasing. Particularly, one of the strongest demographics is young people.
Live Action’s work reaches over a million people every week through social media. We have a news website that’s contributed by over 50 writers; most of them young people, investigating and doing original reporting on the abortion industry – and lobby. And it’s really been amazing to see this growth from people all over the country – the grassroots – who want the truth about human dignity and who want to expose the violence of abortion – the injustice of abortion. And that is a movement that’s only growing. And Live Action also has a magazine, a leading pro-life magazine, for students on hundreds of high school and colleges, and reaching them every day on campuses, as well as online – and that’s one of the programs we’re going to be aggressively building in the next year because we believe that when you put the truth in front of students – when you put the truth in front of young people. When you put the truth out there, then it changes hearts and minds, and we’ve seen that again and again.
A new NBC/WSJ poll showed that 70% of Americans don't want Roe v. Wade to be overturned, and 24% want it to be overturned. Thirty-nine percent approve of the decision, 18% disapprove – but 41% don't have enough information to make an opinion. In that regard, how successful have you been in educating Americans, who may not know much about Roe v. Wade – or its implications on our society?
Right, it’s a great question. I think that – that study directly reveals the amazing opportunity we have as a movement because there are a lot of people who are unreached in our country with the truth about abortion and human dignity. And Live Action may be reaching a million people online every week. But there are over 300+ million more people to reach. So, this is really just the beginning of – you know, this is – we’re at an amazing point where we have the tools at our disposal, and the truth at our disposal – and now it’s a matter of how many people can we reach.
Is Live Action, as an organization, planning to lobby Congress to resurrect PRENDA (Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act), which punishes doctors for performing sex-selecive abortions?
Sure. Well, the focus of Live Action Advocate, our 501 (c) (4) that I’m involved with, and the focus of Live Action Advocate, as it has been one of the rallying cry/calls of the pro-life movement is to make sure that the biggest abortion chain in the country, Planned Parenthood, is no longer receiving the hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars that it get every year from the government – and under President Obama that number has skyrocketed to half a billion of taxpayers dollars goes to the biggest abortion chain. So, that really is the priority. We need a human life amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We need to establish the personhood of the unborn child, and part of the path to make that happen we need to make sure that the abortion industry, in our country, is not being subsidized by the government.
Rose also debunked the claim that abortion represents only 3% of Planned Parenthood's services, which was also exposed as false in a op-ed in Life News by the Americans United for Life Legal Team last October. However, it's still a tough fight. As Allahpundit wrote for Hot Air last November, only 38% described themselves as pro-life, compared to 54% who identified themselves as pro-choice. However, this was fresh off the 2012 elections, and Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock's unfortunate comments about rape and pregnancy surely didn't help the cause. However, Life News' Steve Ertelt has disputed recent polls showing a pro-choice majority.
Furthermore, Allahpundit wrote today that the NBC/WSJ poll could be skewed (NBC! no way!):
because Gallup didn’t specify 'three months' in its phrasing of the Roe question, more respondents focused on the entire term of pregnancy and that dropped the numbers. Or there could be some quirk in the methodology, specifically having to do with the number who answer 'don’t know' about Roe.
In the NBC poll, just six percent answered “not sure” when asked if the decision should be overturned; in Gallup, by contrast, “no opinion” draws 18 percent, which is more than 10 points higher than that figure used to be circa 2002-03. How come? Gallup has a theory:
Gallup trends indicate that the increase in public uncertainty about overturning Roe v. Wade is largely the result of a growing percentage of young adults aged 18 to 29 expressing no opinion. This suggests that the generation born entirely after Roe became law has had less exposure to information about the decision than those who lived through the original decision...
Good news and bad news there, obviously. Younger voters who express no opinion are potentially persuadable by pro-lifers, so in theory the anti-Roe numbers could expand in time. (Democratic overreach will help: Gallup notes that support for making abortion legal in all cases dropped after partial-birth abortion became a hot topic in the mid-90s.) Problem is, young adults are famously more liberal than other age groups on a variety of issues. That doesn’t mean they can’t make an exception for abortion.
Although, he did say that engaging Millenials on this issue is "going against the ideological tide."
Nevertheless, Rose's outreach initiatives through social media is where pro-lifers can turn the tide. Case in point, despite his poor economic record, Barack Obama vastly outspent Mitt Romney in social media last year, and won. Go to where young people get their information.
This opportunity is accentuated with the resignation of NARAL Pro-Choice America's President Nancy Keenan, who left since "most young, antiabortion voters see abortion as a crucial political issue, [while] NARAL’s own internal research does not find similar passion among abortion-rights supporters."
This whole fight is based on public opinion, which is shiftable sand. However, with the dissemination of the facts, the malfeasance of Planned Parenthood, and the utilization of social media – pro-lifers, like Lila Rose, could easily gain the strategic edge over the long term.
The latest Live Action news, including their recent investigation into Planned Parenthood's complicity in sex-selective abortion, can be found here.