By Michael J. New
Pro-lifers can sometimes find reason for optimism in the most unusual places. Take, for instance, a forum recently hosted by Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government that discussed "The Politics of Abortion."
Though the event was held at a campus where sentiment for legalized abortion is strong, pro-life students from around Boston turned out in large numbers. Even more important, some of the pro-abortion panelists conceded that the pro-life position was gaining in public support and making considerable inroads among young people.
The panel featured two former congressmen. The first was Kentucky Democrat Romano Mazzoli, a pro-life congressman from a pro-abortion party. The second was Kansas Democrat Dan Glickman, a pro-abortion congressman from a largely pro-life state. NRLC's political director Carol Tobias and NARAL president Kate Michelman also addressed the audience.
Mr. Mazzoli spoke first. The 12-term congressman said the abortion issue is always "vexing, meddlesome, and difficult."
He said it was a struggle to be a pro-life congressman in the Democratic Party. Mazzoli said it was a shame to know he could never be elected President because he would fail his party's "pro-choice" litmus test.
Mazzoli concluded his remarks by saying, "As Kermit the Frog said, it is not easy being green," alluding to his minority status within the Democratic Party. "But sometimes you have to be green, you have to do what you think is right." He added, "I had to be honest to myself...honest to my constituents."
Glickman now serves as director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. For 18 years he was a pro-abortion congressman from Kansas, where there is a considerable pro-life sentiment.
What stood out in his remarks were a number of comments in which he readily conceded that there is more energy, effort, and enthusiasm on the pro-life side. Glickman ruefully pointed out how the activism of pro-lifers had a lot to do with his loss in 1994 to pro-life Congressman Todd Tiahrt.
At the end of his remarks Glickman asked NRLC's Carol Tobias if she was one of those who worked to defeat him in 1994. The audience was quite amused when Tobias raised her hand and said, "Yes."
But Glickman didn't just talk about the past. During his remarks, Glickman articulated his belief that the momentum is with the pro-life side.
After Tobias discussed a study from UCLA showing that college students are moving in a pro-life direction, Glickman said that studies done by Harvard found the same thing - - that there is a perceptible shift among college students in a pro-life direction.
[By the way, the results of the Institute of Politics' survey of 1,202 college students nationwide can be found at www.iop. harvard.edu/pressreleases/survey_october_2003.pdf. The data reveals that a total of nearly three-quarters (73%) of college undergraduates believe either that abortion should be legal only in "some circumstances" (53%) or "illegal in all circumstances" (20%).]
Glickman concluded his remarks by warning the audience, "If you want to keep abortion legal, you really have your work cut out for you."
When she addressed the forum, Tobias described her role as political director at National Right to Life. She argued that taking a pro-life position helps candidates at all levels in most contests.
Tobias said that she was happy that many people vote consistently for pro-life candidates: "It is wonderful that there are so many who are concerned about unborn children."
NARAL president Kate Michelman spent much of her time assailing Congress and state legislatures for passing laws that restrict abortion. Tobias countered that these laws were passed by members of Congress and the 50 state legislatures who were elected by the citizenry.
A woman of many words, Michelman railed against "Republican efforts to undo the right to choose." She warned that whoever wins the presidential election this November could appoint up to four Supreme Court justices. For someone who is forever denouncing the "politics of fear," Michelman spent most of her time trying to scare those in attendance into voting for pro-abortion candidates.
Tobias ended the forum on an optimistic note. "The development of ultrasound technology has been a tremendous benefit to the pro-life cause," she said.
Tobias added that the first pictures people see of their children and grandchildren are ultrasounds. When she observed that these photos now show up on refrigerators across the country, it was to the visible consternation of Ms. Michelman.
Though pro-life students were outnumbered at this forum, they still made their presence felt. Students representing all three of Harvard's pro-life groups were in attendance: Harvard Right to Life, the Kennedy School pro-life caucus, and the Law School's Society for Law, Life, and Religion. The students all sat in the front row and gamely applauded the good points made by the pro-life panelists.
After the forum concluded, students began to file out of the auditorium, while others approached the stage to talk to the speakers. Suddenly Michelman rushed to the microphone.
"Wait!" she exclaimed. "Women's Mobilization March, April 25, Washington, D.C." A quick-witted pro-life student jumped on to the stage to add, "March for Life, January 22, 2005."