In the 20th century, an American political scientist, Joseph Paul Overton (1960-2003), formulated a very successful theory on the processes of political change.
What the Overton window theory says
Overton was vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, an entity that promotes free markets. This is how that organization explains the Overton window theory: "The core concept is that politicians are limited in what policy ideas they can support — they generally only pursue policies that are widely accepted throughout society as legitimate policy options. These policies lie inside the Overton Window. Other policy ideas exist, but politicians risk losing popular support if they champion these ideas. These policies lie outside the Overton Window."
The organization adds that the Overton window "can both shift and expand, either increasing or shrinking the number of ideas politicians can support without unduly risking their electoral support. Sometimes politicians can move the Overton Window themselves by courageously endorsing a policy lying outside the window, but this is rare. More often, the window moves based on a much more complex and dynamic phenomenon, one that is not easily controlled from on high: the slow evolution of societal values and norms."
Some examples of Overton windows
We must clarify that there are Overton windows that took years to move and have had positive results, such as the one that served to abolish slavery in the West or the one that won equal rights for women. However, some very influential organizations have been promoting really perverse Overton windows, which, under the false appearance of wanting to establish new rights, have actually served to erode fundamental rights.
Today, for example, the left tries to establish an Overton window in which any disagreement with certain ideological theses is qualified as "hate speech", first to demonize those who defend those theses, and lately to impose them in education and persecute those who think otherwise, injuring fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, ideological freedom and freedom of education.
The most infamous of Overton windows: abortion
Without a doubt, the most infamous Overton window set in recent years is the one that promotes the social acceptance of abortion, describing it as a "right" and stigmatizing those who oppose this monstrous crime against weaker and defenseless. Like the one that seeks to curtail the free debate of ideas, Overton's window of the "culture of death", as the Polish Pope Saint John Paul II so well defined it, implies one of the most terrible involutions in human rights in history, since it directly threatens the right that serves as the basis for all the others: the right to life.
That Overton window has moved excruciatingly over the years. First they told us that it was about preventing exceptional situations, such as a mother losing her life in the event of giving birth or a woman becoming pregnant as a result of rape. Later they they lifted the restrictions on abortion within certain deadlines, under the false idea that an unborn child is not a human being at the 13th week of life but is one the following week, without anyone offering us serious and scientific reasons to support that idea.
Likewise, Overton's window has been expanded to include a part of the aspirations of nazism, which considered that disabled people were a burden for society that we had to get rid of. An inhumane idea that caused horror when the nazis promoted their euthanasia program (which was opposed almost alone by the Catholic Church in those years when disagreeing with the Nazi regime could cost you your life), and which is now defended in the name of "progressivism", in an aberrant attempt to end disability by liquidating the disabled before they are born.
The recent cases of the United Kingdom and France
This week we have learned two news items that show the extent to which Overton's window continues to expand. In the UK, a court has ruled that it is legal to kill an unborn child with Down syndrome until the time of delivery, a ruling that is coming to suggest the idea that this genetic disorder makes those who suffer from it less worthy of life, a purely totalitarian idea and one that was already formulated by nazism.
Likewise, in France, the National Assembly has approved a change so that the Constitution of that country includes abortion as a right, which would nullify, in fact, the right to life, since birth is an essential step to be able to enjoy that right. In a sample of the extent to which French politics has allowed itself to be morally corrupted by the culture of death, the proposal received 337 votes in favor and only 32 against. Many deputies did not even go to vote. Now it is up to the French Senate to confirm that change (it has already rejected it before).
I hope no one takes the opportunity to demonize the British and French. This aberrational process is taking place in almost all of Europe, with honorable exceptions such as Poland, Hungary and Malta. Based on this, the promoters of the culture of death try to present their monstrous postulates as something equivalent to democracy, so opposing them would make you an anti-democrat. This makes many people afraid to disagree, so as not to be singled out, threatened and even attacked by increasingly fanatical and intolerant pro-abortion activists.
We are facing a reversible process: this is how we can contribute to that change
It must be said that this process is not irreversible, and that of course it is not a characteristic of democracy or desirable in a free society: quite the contrary. We are facing a process that does can be undone, as countries such as Poland and the United States have recently shown. And of course, we are talking about a reconquest of human rights that is the responsibility of all of us, not just politicians.
All of us who defend the right to life have it in our power to do something to reverse this totalitarian drift. For starters, we need courage, and I'm not talking about the courage required by the soldiers who landed in Normandy, but something as simple as not being afraid to express our opinion in front of our personal circle. Abortion advocates are the ones who should be ashamed to put forth their views, not us. Likewise, we must be clear and firm when describing abortion for what it is: a monstrous crime, committed against an innocent and defenseless human being. This clarity is not at odds with compassion towards mothers who are pressured and pushed by their families, by laws and by politicians to have an abortion. They are also victims of the culture of death.
Of course, that clarity and that firmness in the defense of life must also be applied to the vote: it is not coherent to say that you defend life and that you oppose abortion, and at the same time grant your I vote for political parties that are openly pro-abortion or that do nothing against this scourge. In the United States, the commitment of many citizens has made abortion an important issue when it comes to voting, and this has meant that in the Republican Party, which was previously more passive with that subject, now there are well-known figures who support pro-life policies. That change is possible and depends on each one of us: if we keep quiet, those who win are the supporters of the culture of death, and the result it will continue to be a horrible slaughter of unborn children.
Photo: iStock / Eleonora_os.
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