Stalin was, of course, right about statistics; a million deaths is a figure, a thing to be grasped only by the mind. Like the ancient philosopher, Lucretius, who watched with pleasure a shipwreck from the shore, we can comprehend an integer—62,502,904, say—from the safe distance of abstract intelligibility. What does that number even mean, “sixty-two million, five-hundred-and-two thousand, nine hundred and four”? That amount would count out about two years of ticks on your wristwatch’s seconds-hand; it was also the estimated sale price of Elon Musk’s four recently-sold mansions in Bel Air. Quantity always shields us from the specific qualities of a singular experience: of one human tragedy, of one family’s nightmare, of the details which form one emotional knot which twists the gut as empathy fills in the blanks of one wrenching story.
As such, it cannot be grasped: the fact that, since the Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States in 1973, there have been an estimated 62,502,904 abortions. It resists the intelligence almost successfully, the idea that 62 million first steps remain forever untaken, as many first words were never spoken, as many first days of school were never attended. Nor can they be understood or imagined, those other grim facts: that, every year in Canada, a population twice the size of Timmins or a third of the size of Burnaby is aborted; that Chinese Communists brag about their now-defunct one-child policy having “prevented” 400,000,000 births. Four-hundred million.
But be imagined they must. The Book of Ecclesiastes identifies the times and seasons of human affairs, and we in the pro-life movement in Canada can rejoice that a seasonal change of this kind is slowly occurring in our neighbour to the south. The Supreme Court seems poised, with its forthcoming decision in the Dobbs case, to hobble the horrible precedent of Roe v. Wade, if not overturn it entirely. To put this development in Biblical terms: in America, the time to kill is coming to a close, and the time to mourn will soon begin.
Before the great moral reckoning that awaits the United States, however, there will be a time for war. Although the conflict itself will surely be social, political, and rhetorical, the upheavals entailed in securing the full protection of the unborn will be momentous: the so-called red and blue states will pursue policies so different that constitutional questions about the nature of the union will be raised; corporations will be impressed into the service of each side; celebrities will fill the airwaves, blaming and shaming anyone who fails to follow their opinions in lockstep.
And yet, before the turmoil of the post-Roe world is upon us, before entering into that dark valley of distention and strife, the victory which has brought us to this moment must be savored. For five decades, the question of abortion in America had been “settled;” for half a century, the pro-life movement suffered slanders, setbacks, and stinging defeats. During that time, the imperium of abortion expanded: it accrued money, power, and intrenched influence; it enjoyed the consensus of the bien pensants, and the endorsement of all the luminaries in politics, academia, and culture. Our side boasted only the blind, the deaf, the dumb, and the lame: little old ladies raising funds in church basements, priests praying and fasting while saying their rosaries on the streets, volunteers holding signs, making phone calls, and showing vulnerable women in distress empathy, understanding and love. And so, while the one side grew older and richer, the other grew younger, more cheerful, more charming, more engaged. A generation of survivors will now see Roe to its grave; those who survived the peril of the womb will watch that decision take its shameful place beside Dred Scott in the dustbin of history.
The pro-life movement in America travelled through dark decades, but it now sees itself poised on the cusp of a triumph which for so long seemed unthinkable. The lesson for us in Canada is clear: we must never give up hope. And we must catch, in the increasing persecution of our movement in this country, the unmistakable whiff of desperation. As so-called “bubble zones” expand and sidewalk counseling is criminalized, as “attestations” of support for the state’s murderous ideology is affirmed as an acceptable litmus test, and as a eugenic agenda of demographic colonialism is pushed on developing nations under the guise of foreign aid—in all of these things, we must see the hallmarks not of stability and security but of panic and imminent defeat. Abortion may now be touted the Canadian value par excellence, and opposition to it might be shifting from a political position which is simply uncouth to one which is almost treasonous; but these are all, surprisingly enough, good omens.
“When these things begin to happen, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” (Lk 21:28). We must bear the stigmas of an unjust state as a badge of honour. As the forced celebration of evil becomes increasingly compulsory, the choice between freedom and its opposite will become starker. For abortion always entailed a decision between life and death—and this is just as true on the level of the individual as it is at the level of the state. Clinging to abortion, as the Trudeau government is doing, will eventually oblige our nation to forsake its proud inheritance of ancient liberties, which will drop like autumn leaves as the government’s embrace on this brutal practice tightens. But as this self-destructive process of persecution and vandalism continues, it offers us an unmistakable signal that this situation cannot endure; a “post-Roe” world will come to Canada sooner than we have any reason to hope—and sooner than any of abortion’s powerful advocates have any reason to fear.
Although that day might seem unthinkable to us now, its arrival is not in doubt. And when it does come, we will mix the sweetness it brings with the bitter task that will then begin: of mourning the unthinkable loss of life, of talents, of beauty, and of joys that a generation of prenatal infanticide has wrought—and the political destruction that was enacted in its defense.