Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that effectively legalized abortion throughout America, turns 42 this month. Marking the end rather than the beginning of so many lives, it is an unusual and unhappy birthday.

The numbers are staggering; indeed, they are almost impossible to grasp. Since 1973, some 54 million abortions have been performed in the United States. Lots of myths have emerged in the intervening years to obscure and defend and rationalize what Roe spawned — myths that honest and responsible people need to address.

Myth No. 1: Americans support abortion

Only 27 percent of Americans support abortion without restrictions. Fully 60 percent of Americans want abortion to be restricted or not permitted under any circumstance. In fact, more Americans call themselves “pro-life” — a term the media refuse to use—than “pro-choice,” the happy-sounding euphemism adopted by abortion advocates.

These opinions are translating into substantive changes, albeit slowly. For example, in 89 percent of U.S. counties, there are no abortion providers at all. And as the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion-advocacy group, reports, states are increasingly enacting laws to protect mothers and their unborn children: waiting periods, pre-abortion counseling, parental consent for minors seeking an abortion, better health standards for abortion clinics.

The shift in attitudes is no doubt being spurred by scientific advances. Prenatal imagery is giving us a new window on life at its very earliest stages. Recall the head-turning General Electrical Co. commercial: “When you see your baby for the first time on the new GE 4D Ultrasound system, it really is a miracle.” (Italics added.) Surgery is now, incredibly, being performed on unborn children. As a Newsweek cover story explained, “No matter what legislators, activists, judges or even individual Americans decide about fetal rights, medicine has already granted unborn babies a unique form of personhood — as patients.” (Italics added.)

Myth No. 2: Abortion prevents unintended or unplanned pregnancy

As believers, we know there’s no such thing as unintended pregnancy. Scripture tells us why: We are — each of us — “fearfully and wonderfully made.” Marveling at God’s boundless creativity, the psalmist gasps, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb.” In other words, we are anything but unplanned.

Myth No. 3: Abortion is rare and safe

In fact, abortion is neither. First, 21 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion, translating into hundreds of thousands of abortions each year, and tens of millions since 1973. On this, pro-lifers and pro-choicers agree: Abortion is one of the most common medical procedures in America.

Second, a woman comes into the abortion clinic with two heartbeats and leaves with one, so the fatality rate of every abortion is at least 50 percent. But the safety issue extends beyond the unborn child. Every now and then Americans are forced to confront the awful reality of abortion. The recent trial of Kermit Gosnell, the Philadelphia man accused of murdering a female patient and several babies who were “accidentally” born during abortion procedures — was such a case.

Gosnell’s crimes were uncovered by accident during an FBI-DEA raid related to drug violations at his abortion clinic. What the federal agents found was shocking: a beautician assisting on late-term abortions, blood-covered floors, reused disposable medical supplies, body parts stuffed in plastic bags. A grand jury report aptly called Gosnell’s abortion clinic a “house of horrors.”

As The Associated Press reported, state regulators had ignored complaints about Gosnell (including 46 lawsuits filed against him) and made just five inspections between 1979 and 2013. Such inspections are supposed to be conducted annually.

The case provides a stark reminder that partial-birth and post-birth abortions like those performed by Gosnell cause pain to the baby, put the mother at risk, and end a life — just like pre-birth abortions.

Myth No. 4: Abortion helps prevent crime and poverty

This is among the ugliest myths surrounding Roe, yet it is openly espoused by academics and tacitly embraced by other elites.

Trying to explain the drop in the national crime rate, one scholar argues, “The very factors that drove millions of American women to have an abortion also seemed to predict that their children, had they been born, would have led unhappy and possibly criminal lives.”

Even U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has exposed her own abortion-as-poverty-reduction views: “At the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of. … Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion.”

Medicaid, it pays to recall, is a federal-state health-care program for the poor.

Whether knowingly or not, those who espouse abortion as a way to control poverty and crime, like some sort of demographic scythe, are echoing the likes of Margaret Sanger. Generally considered the founder of Planned Parenthood, Sanger believed in population control. Consider Sanger in her own words: She advocated a “rigid policy of sterilization and segregation to that grade of population whose progeny is tainted” and called for public policies to “cut down the rapid multiplication of the unfit and undesirable.”

This worldview is not only sickening, but untrue. Even if we were to accept the callous premise of the abortion-as-poverty-reduction elites, the reality is that the U.S. poverty rate, after 27 years of abortion on demand, was exactly the same in 2000 as it was before Roe.

In fact, those who advocate abortion as a means to poverty and crime reduction have it precisely backwards. Growth and life — not constraint and abortion — are the best tools for fighting poverty. To overcome poverty, we need people — people to build and work and create and produce. And since broken homes, not poverty, serve as fuel for crime, public policies that bolster intact families — not abortion — are the best way to prevent crime.

Far from “saving” society, this man-made epidemic of abortion has exacted an incalculable cost on society. Yet Psalm 139 suggests that from His perch outside the box of time, the Lord has kept a tally of all that might have been. “Your eyes saw my unformed body,” the psalmist writes. “All the days ordained for me were written in your book,” all the dreams unfulfilled, the poems unwritten, the formulas and ideas untested, the vaccines and breakthroughs unknown, the lives unlived.

Roe’s victims would be doctors, teachers, bus drivers, inventors, pastors, maids, soldiers, artists, janitors, writers — and, yes, drug dealers, prostitutes, murderers, and addicts. Like anyone born into freedom, they’d face daily choices that shape their lives. Life wouldn’t be easy for many of them. It wouldn’t be perfect for any of them. But that doesn’t mean their lives wouldn’t be worth living.

Myth No. 5: Abortions are performed on teens and other women unready or unable to care for a child 

In fact, 82 percent of abortions are performed on women aged 20 or older. Fully 55 percent of abortions are performed on women who have been or are married or cohabitating. And 58 percent of abortions are sought by women who live above the poverty level. Whether or not a young woman believes she is ready or able to be a mom, God, who believes in life and in adoption, knows someone is ready and able to love her child.

Myth No. 6: Access to abortion is about equality and empowerment

Roe’s supporters view abortion as a civil right that empowers women. For them, it’s evidence of America’s progress toward equal treatment of the sexes. It’s about freedom, choice, independence, and equality. This elevates abortion to an almost sacramental kind of importance in their eyes. Thus, overturning Roe is unacceptable, and preserving the right to abortion is nonnegotiable.

Those of us who oppose Roe, on the other hand, see abortion for what it is: the taking of innocent life. As such, we view abortion as a grievous collective sin, as evidence of societal collapse, as an aberration in American history — something that, like slavery, was granted legal sanction but was never legitimate. For us, the struggle against Roe is about protecting life and securing that last frontier of civil rights — equality and opportunity for the very weakest among us. Thus, the abortion status quo is unacceptable, and Roe must be ended.

How do we break through this us-and-them divide? How can we go on as a half-life nation?

We can pray for endurance. Opponents of slavery in the United States fought against America’s original sin for almost a century.

We can pray for endurance. Opponents of slavery in the United States fought against America’s original sin for almost a century.

We can pray for wisdom and discernment, for the ability to be both shrewd and gentle. Perhaps in this way, we can convince more Americans with science, moral suasion, reason, and truth wrapped in love that the right to life is the fundamental right from which all others flow; that real power, for a nation and an individual, comes from protecting the weakest.

And we can pray for help. As The Message wonderfully rephrases Christ’s promise to His disciples about impossible causes, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”

Alan Dowd writes at the crossroads of faith and public policy.