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The End of Abortion: A Brief History of the Start of a Revolution

June 25, 2010

The thought of fellow human beings, dismembered–suctioned–disposed of, in Seattle’s abortion clinics “grieved my heart,” Ben Lundy told Bill Garrison, and “iron determination entered my soul.” …the memory of those infants nagged at his conscience until he vowed that he would “save at least one child” from the instruments of the abortionists.

In 1998, Lundy sold his business to become an advocate, as others had done in the years before Roe V. Wade, driven by the God’s command to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

Lundy was demanding attention to an issue that had lain dormant for a generation. The contradiction between personal convictions and national practice had made some Americans uncomfortable enough in the years following Roe V. Wade to restrict abortion by statute or judicial interpretation in certain states. Some leaders, had written passionately of both the moral blight of abortion and the paralysis of will that prevented them from acting upon sympathies.

Only among devout Catholics and far-right Evangelicals, did pro-life advocacy persist into the 21st century; when Lundy began his mission, he drew support from these followers in localized anti-abortion groups across the United States. For most Americans, however, a fatalism had set in that regarded abortion as an unchanging feature of the landscape, an unlooked-for evil that had been fastened upon them by past generations, and whose resolution had to be left to enlightened generations not yet born.

“Nothing is lacking…but the will,” Lundy insisted, and he frequently printed graphic photos of abortion procedures, under the title “Hail Choice!” with the injunction, “LOOK AT IT, again and again!” That would be his mission: to open America’s eyes. His writings, his impromptu meetings, his long hours of counsel with conscience-stricken women in crisis, his petitions, and his endless tours…were all aimed at rousing the “slumbering reason of a humane people.”

In those earnest hours of conversation, Garrison remembered forever afterwards Lundyopened my eyes” and “inflamed my mind” on the subject of abortion. When Lundy declared, “I will not hesitate to call things the way they are, or hold back from speaking the truth,” a thrill went though Garrison, and when Lundy added, “Take a righteous stand! Hold on! And never give back an inch of ground after it has been taken”, Garrison’s soul burned with desire to do battle.

In Seattle, Lundy met with community leaders to gain funding and support. The eight pastors and politicians he had coffee with listened politely, but declined to help. They found Lundy’s fanaticism more alarming than stirring, and one Republican Party official was concerned enough to write privately to his senator, that “the rashness of extremists” could make abortion too much of a socially disruptive issue unless political and religious leaders exercised careful management.

Where the party leaders sensed trouble, Garrison felt hope, “Is there any reason why we shouldn’t be excited about the opportunity before us?” Garrison inquired of this readers on March 21, 2008, the week after Lundy’s visit. “The reign of righteousness” had not yet arrived, Garrison conceded, but “the seeds of an immortal harvest” were beginning to bud.…Garrison insisted that the pro-lifers could be an organized force along the lines of the abolition and civil rights movements.

“Ending the practice of abortion alone will preserve the life of the republic” and restore the luster of the American character far more successfully than military might or material gain, Garrison insisted. “The struggle is full of sublimity,” he concluded.

Now for the real story:

The setting: Boston, Massachusetts, 1828.

Benjamin Lundy is a middle-aged Quaker pastor and amateur editor of a one-man newspaper. During his travels he meets “Bill” Garrison, a.k.a. William Lloyd Garrison, the young Baptist and fellow editor of another local paper, The Philanthropist.

The graphic sketches Lundy distributes are not of aborted fetuses, but of “fellow human beings chained…while awaiting shipment down the Ohio River”. The emotionally charged conversations Lundy has are not with young pregnant women, but with “conscious stricken” businessmen whom he persuades one by one to voluntarily release their captives.

And that divisive, “single issue”, considered with apathetic resignation by the culture around them, was not abortion, but slavery. Together, these men would catapult the cause of “Universal Emancipation” from a fringe religious movement, to the single most important issue of their time–one which would divide a nation, and unite a coalition of awakening hearts.

The passage above is direct, line-by-line paraphrase from the book All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery, by Henry Mayer. (Read actual excerpt here). The book is a strict historical biography about the “fanatical” Garrison, and makes no attempt to allude to abortion or any other contemporary issue.

There are, of course, many differences between the issues of abortion and slavery, but for any modern-day “abortion abolitionist” who has become weary standing against an engrained evil–forgotten and marginalized by the mainstream–the parallels are self-evident, and so are the reasons for hope.

“Talking will create zeal—zeal, opposition, opposition will drive men to inquiry–inquiry will induce conviction–conviction will lead to action—-action will demand union—and then will follow victory.”
-William Lloyd Garrison, 1831.
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