The pro-life movement can learn from Abraham Lincoln

The pro-life movement is in a tough spot. The overturn of Roe v. Wade has laid bare the stark reality that the people of the United States are all too sympathetic to the systemic murder of unborn babies. But in responding to this dark moment, the movement should draw some lessons from Abraham Lincoln.

When Lincoln ran for president in 1860, the country was dealing with another dire moral emergency. More than three million African-Americans were enslaved, and half of the country was hellbent on preserving this vile practice. Yet Lincoln, the man who would ultimately be the reason that slavery was outlawed in 1865 following the Civil War, ran for president that year with a pragmatic position on the issue. He promised to keep slavery legal where it was already legal while preventing it from expanding to new territories. This was a far cry from the abolitionism that was the calling card of the pro-emancipation movement.

Lincoln abhorred slavery. He wanted to see it ended and his election proved to be a seminal moment in the fight against slavery, ultimately leading to the demise of this evil practice. But as he ran for president in 1860, he recognized the delicacy of the moment and embraced a pragmatic position that ultimately propelled him to the White House, even as it proved to be the catalyst for the Civil War.

Today, the pro-life movement is seeking to end yet another systemic and widespread human rights abuse in the practice of abortion. But, much like Lincoln faced in 1860, is dealing with a population that is not quite ready to ban the practice nationwide.

The difficulty of the moment, much like 1860, calls for pragmatism. The people of the United States have spent the last 50-60 years adopting and embracing a culture of death that has enabled the widespread practice of abortion. It will take decades to undo the damage the culture of death has wrought on the moral compass of the nation.


The end of Roe v. Wade was necessary for this to happen because it is now allowing the people to actually engage in the debate on abortion and advance legislation to protect life. But if the goal is to save as many lives as possible from abortion, losing elections will not achieve that goal.

In Lincoln, the pro-life movement has a model worth emulating for championing the dignity of the human person while effectively advancing an agenda that protects human dignity at the electoral level. It is this model of Lincolnian pragmatism that will one day lead to the end of abortion nationwide.

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