Meet: Dr. Jack Willke, on the Front Lines of the Prolife Movement
Part one: Anything but Discouraged
After more than 40 years fighting abortion, Dr. Jack Willke is anything but discouraged. The end of abortion is in sight, he says, in one of two ways. One is good for the country, the other… not so much.
The first scenario is based on a complicated interplay of legislation and political votes, starting with Ohio’s Heartbeat Bill passing and being upheld by the Supreme Court, and ending with a Constitutional amendment.
“If God grants me five more years of life,” says the 87-year-old family physician who founded Right to Life and Life Issues Institute, “I’ll see abortion go back to the states, and some of them will outlaw it right away. After it becomes apparent that things don’t fall apart, it won’t be long before half the states outlaw it except maybe for rape and incest.” After that, he says, the rest will outlaw it one by one until “you run into the stone wall of three states on the west coast and some in the northeast. But we only need three-fourths of the states to ratify a Constitutional amendment, so there will come the day — maybe, I hope — when California will be outvoted and it will be outlawed everywhere.”
Dr. Willke doesn’t mind if some people find his scheme far-fetched. It’s the best chance he’s seen to defeat abortion laws in five decades. But if the Heartbeat Bill doesn’t pass, or if President Obama wins a second term, he says the days of abortion on demand are still doomed because of global demographics. That’s scenario number two.
“Western Europe is dying,” he says. “It’s going to be Muslim, and Muslims are pro-life. Latin America is surging, and Africa is exploding. They’re pro-life.” Within a few decades, these large, young and growing areas of the world will prevail over the older, shrinking West, including the United States. “Right now we’re on a toboggan. We have a chance to survive as a nation,” but if we don’t — Dr. Willke shrugs. “We’ll live to see those changes either way.”
Dr. Willke and his wife, Barbara, who has been his constant partner in the pro-life cause, have seen a lot of changes since the 1960s, when the universal prohibition against abortion was first challenged. “In those days, nobody knew anything about abortion, even doctors,” he says. “The whole nine months of pregnancy was a blank, most people didn’t think the baby was alive or even human” during the early months. When abortion became an issue the Willkes, who had lectured and written extensively about sex education for children, decided to find out for themselves what happened during an abortion.
The result, the book Abortion: Questions & Answers, sold a million copies in 1973 and has been in print ever since. Now in print in 20 languages and sold all over the world, the book has sold more copies than Dr. Willke can count. “It was an absolute revelation to most people,” he says.
In those days, the Willkes and their supporters thought they had 10 years to outlaw abortion — tops. After that, they assumed that so many people would have had, procured, or helped a friend or relative have an abortion that it would be entrenched in American society. Instead, despite an increasingly aggressive and lucrative abortion industry and politicians increasingly committed to promoting it, American society has become steadily more prolife. And the reason, Dr. Willke says, is the very same one that he thought would cement it: The number of people who have had, procured, or helped someone they know have an abortion, and the number of young people who know that they could have been legally aborted themselves.
“It took 15 years for the first woman to come forward and say, ‘I regret my abortion,’” Dr. Willke says. “We knew they were out there, but we couldn’t a woman willing to say so publicly. It was just like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after World War II, it took 20 years then for people to come forward. I remember the first woman who came up to me and told me she had had an abortion, and how could she help other women not go through what she went through?
“I hugged her.”
Monday: Part two.