Forty-eight years ago, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision overturned legal restrictions on and prohibitions of abortion in all fifty states. It simultaneously laid the groundwork for what has become a multibillion-dollar global abortion industry.
Today though, the industry is in trouble. Big trouble. Of course, that fact is hardly apparent to the casual observer. In fact, the grisly trade seems to be more powerful, more influential, and more relevant than ever before. Utilizing its considerable wealth, manpower, and influence, the “pro-choice” movement has proven to be adept at muscling its way into virtually every facet of modern life. It now plays a strategic role in the health and social services community. It exerts a major influence on education, providing the majority of sex education curricula and programs in both public and private schools. It carries considerable political clout through lobbying, legislation, campaigning, advocacy, and litigation. It has a tenured position in the new administration in Washington. It is involved in publishing, broadcast media production, judicial activism, public relations, foreign aid, psychological research counseling, sociological planning, demographic investigation, pharmacological development, contraceptive distribution and sales, mass advertising, and public legal service provision.
Thanks to the abortion industry’s cavernously deep corporate pockets and its carefully crafted public relations efforts, it appears to enjoy wide popular acclaim for the provision of “effective and professional social services for the needy.”1 It seems to have manufactured for itself a sterling reputation for its development of what it advertises as “honest and insightful reality-based educational programs” for the young.2 It has conjured up high marks for its supposed advocacy of “low-cost, universally available counseling and health care services for women.”3 By all outward appearances, the business has become a kind of modern sociopolitical leviathan.
Despite this, the abortion industry is in trouble.
According to historian Hilaire Belloc, “It is often so with institutions already undermined; they are at their most splendid external phase when they are ripe for downfall.” Because it is indeed ripe for downfall, the abortion industry’s considerable political heft; its seemingly bottomless fiscal war chest; its enormous prestige; and its benign, American-as-apple-pie reputation have failed to shield it from a good deal of very troublesome controversy of late.
At least part of the reason may be the very nature of the abortion business itself—along with the inevitable fallout that accompanies it. Consider these twenty-one portents.
Business is actually declining—by as much as 37 percent over the last decade. And make no mistake: the abortion business is first and foremost a business. The steady erosion of the abortion business is likely due to a host of factors. But the effect is that vast abortion purveyors have become more and more dependent on government grants, bequests, and contracts. In addition, the industry has been hit by successive waves of negative publicity. During the summer and fall of 2015, a series of undercover videos revealed the true nature of the grisly abortion trade. Planned Parenthood, the oldest, largest, and best-organized provider of abortion services and the world’s most profitable nonprofit organization, scandalized the nation as its brutal, callous, and brazen practices were graphically exposed. Even many supporters of a woman’s “right to choose” were shaken by the spectral horror of baby parts for sale juxtaposed in the videos with a flippant commercial disregard for the health and safety of women.
As a result, though the politically protected international abortion business has grown into a massive multibillion-dollar industrial complex, its business is more divisive and polarizing than ever. A great divide persists. Public opinion polls conducted in the aftermath of the Planned Parenthood scandal found that 55 percent of Americans now call themselves “pro-life” on the issue of abortion while only 38 percent are willing to call themselves “pro-choice.” And just over 60 percent of those polled favored congressional and state efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which would strip the organization of its massive taxpayer largesse.
In 2011, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a prominent abortion provider in Philadelphia, was charged with three counts of capital murder, one count of involuntary manslaughter, twenty-four counts of felony violations of late-term abortion restrictions, and 227 misdemeanor counts. Over the course of his career, Gosnell faced forty-six malpractice lawsuits and had been censured by both the New York and Pennsylvania departments of health. Nevertheless, he was allowed to operate his business for years in what prosecutors described as “filthy,” “deplorable,” “unsanitary,” and “outdated” facilities in three states. In 2013, Gosnell was finally convicted of first-degree murder.
But these PR disasters actually only accelerated a trend that was already gaining momentum. In 2005, 59 percent of respondents agreed it would be good to reduce abortions. Five years later, more than 65 percent took this view, an increase of 6 points. Another poll taken before the Planned Parenthood scandal found that fewer Americans overall and fewer pro-life advocates were willing to compromise on abortion by finding some middle ground. Indeed, support for finding a middle ground on the abortion issue was already down 12 points among conservatives and 6 percent among all Americans.
Although abortion is heralded by the industry lobby as both “safe and legal,” it has become increasingly apparent that abortion is merely “legal.” The complications of this, the most commonly performed medical procedure in America today, are legion. They include sterility, which occurs in as many as 25 percent of all women receiving mid-trimester abortions; hemorrhaging, as nearly 10 percent of all cases require transfusions; viral hepatitis, which occurs in 10 percent of all those transfused; embolism, which occurs in as many as 4 percent of all cases; cervical laceration; pelvic inflammatory disease; genital tract infection; cardiorespiratory arrest; acute kidney failure; and amniotic fluid embolus.
As a result of these sundry complications, women in America have seen a massive increase in the cost of medical care. While the average cost of normal health maintenance for men has increased nearly 12 percent over the past fifteen years due to inflation, the average cost for women has skyrocketed a full 27 percent. And although the data is not yet complete, it appears that federally mandated healthcare reform has only exacerbated the crisis even more.
Revelations about deliberately suppressed research data on various procedural risks—particularly concerning the established links between abortion and breast cancer—have raised new questions about the industry’s medical objectivity and professional integrity.
New clinical evidence exposing the grave hazards of several of the other forms of treatment championed by the industry—from the deleterious effects of the RU-486 abortion drug and the Norplant contraceptive surgery to the inherent risks and complications in the use of intrauterine devices (IUDs)—has raised the specter of “wholesale institutional quackery.”
The shadow over the industry’s iatrogenic carelessness has been further darkened by the industry’s enthusiastic defense of the horrifying second trimester “dilation and extraction” surgical procedure—commonly known as D&X or “partial birth” abortion.
In addition, the industry has staked its tenuous reputation on the therapeutic usefulness of two very dangerous new chemical treatments—the Depo-Provera long-term contraceptive injection and the methotrexate-misoprostol abortifacient. Both drugs present grave hazards to women’s health, according to a battery of recent clinical tests.
A spate of medical malpractice lawsuits from botched abortions has intensified the industry’s already looming insurability crisis.
At the same time, the cultural and political stigmatization of abortion providers has dramatically reduced the number of qualified physicians willing to serve them. As a result, many clinics have been forced to rely on less adequately trained personnel—nurse practitioners and doctors who more often than not have failed in private or institutional practices. Or they have had to fly in unscrupulous doctors-for-hire one day a week (for instance, for several years Gosnell commuted from Pennsylvania to Louisiana on a weekly basis).
Horrifying new evidence of barbaric human-rights violations—including forced abortions, coercive sterilizations, and torturous disfigurement—associated with the Planned Parenthood-designed population program in Communist China has cast an ominous shadow over the industry’s innumerable other tax-funded international activities.
Not surprisingly, the bridling of information about viable alternatives to the abortion industry’s clinical, educational, and surgical services has provoked the wrath of a variety of healthcare consumer advocates.
Parents, outraged at the promiscuity-promoting content of the abortion industry’s affiliated sex-education materials, AIDS awareness programs, and community advocacy projects, have begun to organize grassroots efforts to bar organizations such as Planned Parenthood from schools, charitable networks, and civic coalitions in communities all across the United States.
Several punitive lawsuits initiated by the abortion industry—filed in an effort to close down pro-life adoption agencies and abortion-alternative crisis pregnancy centers—have begun to reinforce a perception that the organization is more concerned with the ideological enforcement of its agenda than with the health and welfare of its clients.
A series of negative public-relations campaigns launched by the well-heeled abortion lobby—against cultural conservatives in general and Christian conservatives in particular—has highlighted the industry’s immoderate aims and set the standard for the increasingly shrill rhetoric and hysterical extremism of the pro-abortion movement.
Conflict-of-interest accusations have begun to circulate in Washington concerning the cozy relationships between certain past and present federal officials and the industry’s voluble lobbyists on Capitol Hill. The selection of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services in the new Biden administration is a case in point. In the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic, the president has selected as his administration’s top health official a man who has no experience in the healthcare sector. What California’s top lawyer does have is plenty of experience marshalling the forces of the state to crush religious dissenters, pro-life pregnancy counselors, local churches, and independent journalists.
A backlash against the massively expensive, inefficient, and unpopular federal healthcare-reform legislation passed in early 2010 not only has brought renewed support for pro-life organizations, crisis pregnancy centers, and principled politicians, but it has also brought renewed scrutiny to the grisly abortion trade. New calls to enforce existing laws and enact stricter new ones bode ill for the industry’s plans for growth and expansion.
In the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests, Planned Parenthood found itself unable to escape the racist taint of its founder, Margaret Sanger. Indeed, the whole reason the organization was established, and the basis of its abortion advocacy, was an attempt to rid the world of “human weeds.” A leading exponent of the pseudoscience of eugenics—an intellectualized racism rooted in social Darwinism—she quipped in her 1938 autobiography: “I accepted an invitation to talk to the women’s branch of the Ku Klux Klan. I was escorted to the platform, was introduced, and began to speak. In the end, through simple illustrations I believed I had accomplished my purpose. A dozen invitations to speak to similar groups were proffered.” She argued for “the gradual suppression, elimination and eventual extinction, of defective stocks—those human weeds which threaten the blooming of the finest flowers of American civilization.” Nevertheless, she confessed, “We don’t want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population.” Despite this undeniably deplorable past, Planned Parenthood was able to deflect criticism of Sanger for decades. Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Blackmun, and a host of others have been honored with the organization’s Margaret Sanger Award. But in 2020, no longer able to run or hide, the organization acknowledged its founding legacy and removed Sanger’s name from its programs, institutions, and facilities.
In short, one scandal after another has hit the abortion industry, its medical personnel, its educators, its researchers, its lobbyists, and its administrators. As a result, its Teflon reputation is starting to wear a little thin and its “grand illusion” has begun to lose its luster.
But the single greatest and most obvious reason why the abortion industry is in trouble, the reason its time is quickly running out, is simply that there is a God in heaven. Though long-suffering and patient, He does not long bear with brazen wickedness. Nations, cultures, institutions, powers, and principalities will all come under the bar of His righteous justice. “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23).
Belshazzar, the son and heir of Nebuchadnezzar, was hosting a great succession feast when the celebrations were interrupted by mysterious handwriting inscribed on the walls of the royal banquet hall. The young king’s soothsayers were unable to interpret the message, and so the Jewish prophet Daniel was called upon to decipher it. After he reminded the court of God’s providential blessing on Nebuchadnezzar and the perils of abandoning his legacy with their profligate idolatry, he solved the riddle, saying: “This is the writing that was inscribed: Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin. This is the interpretation of the matter: Mene, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; Tekel, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; Peres, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (Dan. 5:25–28).
It is not an unreasonable stretch of the metaphor to assert that after forty-eight years, the handwriting is finally on the wall for the abortion industry—and for our culture, which has for far too long tolerated it. Mene, Mene, Tekel, and Parsin.
Dr. George Grant is the pastor of Parish Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tenn., and the author of several pro-life books, including The Light of Life, Killer Angel, and Grand Illusions.
1 George Grant, Immaculate Deception: The Shifting Agenda of Planned Parenthood, p. 18.
3 Ibid., p. 19.
Remember, you can always download Dr. R.C. Sproul’s ebook Abortion for free. As he addresses one of the greatest ethical dilemmas of our age, Dr. Sproul effectively defends the sanctity of human life from its earliest stages, providing well-considered and compassionate answers to the difficult questions surrounding this topic.