A Timely Model: Abolitionist William Wilberforce and the Pro-Life Movement

Ryan Hoselton | September 16, 2015

The reaction to the now 10 undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood executives haggling the body parts of aborted babies has evoked numerous comparisons to modern history’s most dramatic atrocities. In many of these parallels, one exemplary figure stands out as a model of hope: abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759–1833).  

It’s been said that now is “our Wilberforce moment,” a crucial time to protect the unborn. In light of the videos, many have revived Wilberforce’s powerful words at the end of his 1789 speech to the House of Commons as a slogan for the pro-life cause: “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say you did not know.”

But who was William Wilberforce, and what does his role in the abolitionist movement have to do with the pro-life movement today?             

From Frivolous Comfort to Active Sacrifice

Born in 1759 to a wealthy family in Hull, England, Wilberforce would become one of the most influential members of British Parliament in his time. In his youth, he frittered his energy on luxury and partying with social elites. But when he was 25 he experienced what he called a “great change.” Through the witness of his friend Isaac Milner, Wilberforce became convicted…

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