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As 2018 dawns, predictions abound, with many focused on odds of triumph: Who will dominate the Winter Olympics, the Super Bowl, and later in the year, the midterm elections?
Time magazine offered a preview of 2018 by featuring on its cover the four women starring in the upcoming film A Wrinkle in Time, based on the acclaimed children’s book by Madeleine L’Engle. The novel appeared in 1962, but its themes are familiar: good versus evil, light versus darkness—who or what will win?
The first week of 2018 brought more urgent questions about epic struggles: Would protesters in Iran crack the nation’s Islamic theocracy, or would a government crackdown on protesters crush the dissent and the dissenters?
Would the United States move closer to military conflict with North Korea, as North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un declared his 2018 resolution to mass produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles? (The leader also claimed the entire United States is within range of a nuclear attack by the rogue nation.)
Meanwhile, another long-running conflict continued, grabbing less attention but presenting staggering numbers: In the 45 years since the Supreme Court forced states to legalize abortion in its Roe v. Wade decision, National Right to Life estimates more than 59 million unborn children have died through abortion.
Thankfully, the abortion rate is at its lowest point since 1973, according to the pro-abortion group Guttmacher Institute. But when we mark finally killing less than a million unborn children in a single year, such a victory seems as tragic as it is sobering.
The year ahead brings important battles in the larger pro-life struggle: In a critical free speech case, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review a California law requiring pro-life pregnancy care centers to promote abortion.
California lawmakers passed the legislation in 2015, and it proclaimed that licensed pregnancy care centers must post signs telling women the state offers free or low-cost abortions to eligible women. It says the centers must also include a phone number for a local abortion center.
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed suit to fight the legislation in October 2015 on behalf of a network of pregnancy care centers. A year later, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the law. ADF asked the Supreme Court to hear the case, and the justices agreed last November.
A handful of related decisions are encouraging: In October, a superior court judge in Riverside County, Calif., issued an injunction against the California law, saying the legislation “compels speech and regulates content. … This speech is not merely the transmittal of neutral information, such as the calorie count of a food product.”
Pro-life groups have successfully defended against similar laws in Maryland, Illinois, Texas, and New York City, and pro-life advocates say it’s absurd to require them to promote a practice they oppose as part of their core identity.
Indeed, workers in abortion centers seem plenty able to reach their target audience on their own. In its recent annual report, Planned Parenthood reported it had conducted 321,384 abortions in the last year.
Another front to watch: The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a federal investigation into Planned Parenthood, which receives nearly $500 million in taxpayer funding a year.
The Justice Department confirmed the probe in December. In 2016, the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives both referred Planned Parenthood to the FBI, saying the group illegally profited from fetal tissue sales. The abortion giant has denied the charges.
Pro-life voters will also be watching to see if Republicans in Congress move to defund Planned Parenthood in the year ahead. Many were disappointed when the Senate failed to take such action last year.
It’s unclear how much Republicans will be willing to go for in a year with midterm elections looming. The GOP’s hold on the House of Representatives and its current 51-49 majority in the Senate are both shaky. Democrats have more Senate seats to defend than Republicans, but 2016 showed pundits what the Bible teaches as well: Don’t try to predict the future.
In the meantime, it’s important to note that some of the most critical battlefields remain local and relational. Whatever the prospect of legislation or court cases in 2018, advocating for pro-life causes remains a moral, cultural, and spiritual struggle to promote the value of every life.
It happens in pregnancy care centers and living rooms and school clubs and Sunday sermons and foster care agencies and personal conversations and private and public prayer. It often involves both victories and setbacks, but we can be sure of the long-term promise recorded by the Apostle John: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not overcome it.