Planned Parenthood: Why Our Struggle Is Harder than Wilberforce's

© 2015 Robert Osburn

The videos are relentless, wave upon waving crashing upon the public consciousness. One senses the growing popular tide that favors protecting unborn children from organized violence in the name of women’s rights.  Eric Metaxas, for one, is brilliantly and persistently calling God’s people to recognize this hour in which. As Metaxas notes, “many of these women would love the choice to keep their baby…”,  and now they have so many more reasons to prevent their babies from being torn up so they can be used for medical research.

The Center for Medical Progress information campaign is brilliant.  Despite constant accusations of deceptive editing, the truth is coming out: No different than in Communist China, human body parts are being trafficked.  Whether profits are made and whether they are for research, the fact remains that the party most vulnerable---the fetal child---has no power to offer consent to be used in research. 

The power imbalance is obvious.  The truth issue is clear.  We should see an end to abortions in America, just like Wilberforce and his cohort brought an end to the slave trade, right?

I hate to rain on our parade, but in this case I get to play our Eeyore. 

Unlike in Wilberforce’s day, the pro-slave trade forces had little cultural legitimacy, only economic arguments.  Because slave trade was so critical to their economy, they argued, it could not and should not end.  Otherwise, England’s economy would tank. 

Today, the battle over abortion is not a question of economics; it’s a question of cultural power and authority.  And, on that score, we are still losing.  While it is possible to amass political will to override an Obama veto, our immediate prospects for success in the war to save unborn children are limited.   

Our battle is harder than Wilberforce’s because the centers of great cultural influence in our day---our universities---are dominated by those for whom matter and power are all there is.  This Fall, countless programs in rhetoric, communications, journalism, cultural studies, and political science will study what is happening with the videos, but you can be sure that most professors will steer their class discussions to make Planned Parenthood the victim, not women and their babies.  Thus, you will not be surprised to learn that something even more vile---namely, infanticide---shows increasing popularity on campus.

In Wilberforce’s day, churches and the aristocracy were the two main forces of cultural authority.  Churches largely avoided the slave trade, neither against nor in favor.  The aristocracy generally favored the trade, but, apart from economic concerns, had little vested interest.  By contrast, our universities are the main centers of cultural authority today. 

However much we want to persuade ourselves that we the people can shut down the evil monstrosity of abortion on demand, social change is only partly a function of populist forces; it also requires elite networks of leaders who legitimate the effort.  That will not happen as long as university faculties are still 84% in favor of abortion rights (2005 study).  Why they are is the subject of a future blog, but the fact remains that our universities---and our cultural elites who are trained by and look to their authority--- are deeply committed to the Planned Parenthood narrative of reality, no matter the evidence revealed in the videos.

Ending elite support for abortion will demand that we challenge and expose as faith-based the scientific naturalist and other secular worldviews of most faculty. Turning our universities into pluralistic, instead of secular, institutions will be a key to this effort.  Notwithstanding the Center for Medical Progress videos that may motivate politicians to defund Planned Parenthood, what all this means is that we still have a long game to play.

We may win in the short run, but winning the war will demand changing the structure of assumptions that make our universities---and especially the ideas they promote---threats to the children inside human wombs.