While it is important to change the makeup of the Supreme Court, social conservatives -- especially those concerned about abortion -- need not and should not be counting on such a change in the judiciary to accomplish their goals. What they ought to be doing instead is looking to the power of facts. Simply getting out the truth to the public has already done far more than any court or legislative action to reverse the trend toward abortion.
Consider the proliferation of pro-life pregnancy centers in the United States, now estimated to number more than 3,200. Helping spur that growth have been the tremendous advancements in medical ultrasound technology, now capable of showing three-dimensional images of the child in the womb.
There is no more powerful evidence for pre-born human life than the appearance of wiggling limbs in utero. But now with all-around technological improvements in obstetrics, fetal development is understood earlier and problems can be treated sooner if they arise. Because of these medical advances, doctors could observe the unborn child of cancer victim Susan Torres of Arlington, who was kept alive on a respirator for three months until her daughter reached a 27 weeks, when she was delivered alive earlier this month at 1 pound, 13 ounces.
Better yet, many crisis pregnancy centers are becoming medically certified themselves, in order to provide free sonograms for women. Beyond the physical assistance and counseling they've delivered in the past, they will be able to take moving pictures of unborn children for their clients. Ultrasounds have been shown to initiate a bond between the pregnant mother and her unborn baby.
These trends are at least partly responsible for the decline in the number of abortions in the past 15 years. According to a Post analysis of abortion statistics collected by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 1.3 million women in this country had abortions in 2002, down from 1.6 million in 1990. That's still too many, but you can't argue that these changes don't give hope to the pro-life cause.
Abortion opponents want judges appointed to the courts who will protect defenseless lives, as they should. But some are putting too many eggs in this basket at the expense of developing what could well be more fruitful resources in the battle. Millions of dollars in advertising and promotion are ready to be spent in defense of the nomination of John G. Roberts to the Supreme Court, and more will be expended if Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist retires. The evidence shows that a better investment could be made.
As one example: Last month the Associated Press reported that the business of refurbished ultrasound machines is growing rapidly because of the high costs of medical care. Purchasing reconditioned equipment can save clinics as much as 50 percent when compared with a new machine. Considering the demonstrated benefit of offering free sonograms, shouldn't this news inspire supporters of crisis pregnancy centers to increase their efforts to buy these more affordable devices, which are nearly as dependable as new ones?
In the abortion battle, the visible proof is speaking for itself, and investing in it heavily is the best strategy for pro-life advocates.
The writer is an associate editor for the John Locke Foundation. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.