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Which Comes First: Changing the Culture or Changing the Law?

Jeffrey Bruno

Catholic News Agency - James S. Cole - published on 07/30/13

Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton were decided.

So after 1970 the pro-life side was generally winning the legislative battle. But pro-abortionists did not care whether the culture favoured their cause. They pressed forward with lawsuits like Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. They knew that law directs and guides behavior.

In 1964 Martin Luther King was asked whether he would wait until the culture was ready for civil rights legislation. His response is instructive:

“Even though morality cannot be legislated, behavior can be regulated. While the law cannot change the heart, it can certainly restrain the heartless. It may be true that you can’t legislate integration, but you can certainly legislate desegregation. And I think that desegregation is a necessary first step to bring about an integrated society.”

A change in behaviour must be the first step. A change in attitudes will follow. In our society, we are so accustomed to the law bolstering what is right and moral that we assume that something is moral just because it is legal. While the rulings of federal courts on abortion and other family-related issues should have taught us that this is a huge mistake, it is still quite common. The law is a teacher that we cannot forget while we attempt to educate our fellow citizens about life.

Furthermore, the other side constantly presses to implicate all of us in paying for abortions, in giving recognition to the “right” to kill the unborn in order to solve personal and social problems, and in ridiculing the sanctity of human life. If we take a pass on political and legislative fights, we capitulate to the zealots of the culture of death.

In a free republic citizens change laws by electing representatives and executives who reflect their wishes. This inescapably requires participation in politics and in lobbying. In America, to shun these areas because of temporary setbacks or one’s personal distaste for politics and the legislative process is to shirk our responsibilities to defend life.

Originally published by MercatorNet on July 29th, 2013.

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