The pro-life movement in the United States is riding a momentum swing right now that is among the strongest it has experienced in decades. 

No small part of that has been recent exposure of fraud, coercion, illegal activity and even atrocities like murder of pregnant women and infanticide in the nation’s surgical abortion industry. The worst of the revelations were in a grand jury report in Pennsylvania against abortionist Kermit Gosnell. His facility was raided in a prescription-drug investigation; authorities were shocked also to find plastic bins of baby body parts. Equally disturbing was the report’s allegation that state regulators had known for years of complaints about Gosnell’s practice but simply sat on their hands. 

The movement’s seemingly invincible nemesis, Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country, is also staggering under repeated blows to its reputation. A series of undercover videos shows Planned Parenthood employees apparently callous to the well-being of young pregnant women caught in sex-trafficking rings, and willing to engage in illegal activity to cover up rape and keep parents in the dark (see Pages 5 and 17). The resulting media attention prompted the organization to fire one of the employees, calling her actions “repugnant and wrong,” and to order training for its staff nationwide. 

There’s other bad news, too, for the pro-choice movement. In Kansas, a criminal case is moving ahead against Planned Parenthood with more than 100 counts, including 23 felonies that include performing illegal late-term abortions. And a pro-life group in Washington state has uncovered a police report showing a Planned Parenthood employee resisting even a police officer’s demand that they release a 14-year-old girl (impregnated by a 20-year-old man) to her father’s custody

The revelations have boosted the most significant move to cut government funding — now more than $360 million a year — to Planned Parenthood. In late February the House overwhelmingly passed a defunding measure, which Planned Parenthood’s president decried in an email to supporters as “the most dangerous legislative assault” it had ever faced. Though the measure is unlikely to make it past Barack Obama’s desk, even the president showed only lukewarm support for Planned Parenthood in an NBC interview in which he was asked about the video sting. Around the country, there have also been defunding efforts in state legislatures. 

A telling display of the confusion and disarray among pro-choice ranks is a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post by Frances Kissling, former president of Catholics for Choice, a pro-choice advocacy group. Noting that a majority of Americans now identify themselves as “pro-life,” she said it was time for pro-choicers to abandon their absolutist stance — which includes fighting any regulation of abortion — because “those arguments may have worked in the 1970s, but today, they are failing us, and focusing on them only risks all the gains we’ve made.” 

All these pro-life gains are a testament to the patient, peaceful and prayerful dedication of untold numbers of pro-lifers over the decades. 

But it is not time to celebrate yet. Among the threats on the horizon, special vigilance must be directed at two: the erosion of conscience protection for health care workers and facilities, and the potential for funding for abortion or other attacks on human dignity in the implementation of the health care reform bill. 

In both these areas, the U.S. bishops’ conference has played an admirable role in pressing the pro-life case on Capitol Hill. But it will be up to all pro-lifers to keep the momentum going.

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; John Norton, editor; Sarah Hayes, presentation editor.