There is an useful post on the First Things blog by Father John Jay Hughes on the future of the pro-life movement after the election of Barack Obama. He urges the pro-life movement to support modest restrictions on abortion where politically feasible, but
the task before pro-life people now is to concentrate on the only task that will bring success in the fight for life: changing hearts and minds.
Without a broad social consensus behind them – a consensus which is clearly lacking in the U.S. at the present moment – pro-life laws will be largely ineffective, as was the case with prohibition:
Americans went down that road in the 1919 with Prohibition, the constitutional amendment that criminalized the buying and selling of alcoholic drinks. Intended to end the distribution of strong drink, it merely transferred the trade to a new class of criminals, called bootleggers. Born in 1928, I can still remember my father’s friends saying to him in jest a year and more after Prohibition’s repeal in 1933: “Dudley, this is awfully good whisky. Who’s your bootlegger?” Laws that are mocked and widely disregarded with impunity by respectable people harm society by weakening respect for law in general.
He refers to a speech given by the former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee making the same point:
In a notable pre-election speech in St. Louis, former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee spoke about three legal innovations which he had witnessed in his adult lifetime: limitations on smoking, requirement of access to public places for the handicapped, and requirement of seat belts for drivers and passengers of automobiles. In each case, Huckabee pointed out, people were first persuaded that the proposed change was beneficial. Then, laws were enacted to mandate the change.
From this Father Hughes concludes that with the election of Barack Obama the battle over changing the laws to prohibit abortion is lost for now. Accordingly, Catholics must focus on changing minds rather than laws:
For too long we have been demanding the passage of laws which, though happily supported by a growing number of our fellow citizens, still fall short of the acceptance needed to make them effective. Considering our president-elect is, as Princeton professor Robert P. George demonstrated brilliantly in his October 14 article for Public Discourse, not merely pro-choice but militantly pro-abortion, we need to shift the battle from the legal front and concentrate on changing hearts and minds.