Pro-life Headway, Hope for Ending Roe v. Wade
The Guttmacher Institute (GI) is one of the most powerful pro-abortion organizations in the United States. Originally the research arm of Planned Parenthood, they are now a legally separate organization that pushes for more liberal abortion laws using studies and research. Although their research is consistently skewed to support their agenda, there’s no denying that they do an excellent job gathering data from all around the world and keeping their finger on the pulse of the fight over abortion.
For this reason, it means a very great deal that the Institute has declared 2021 “the worst legislative year ever for U.S. abortion rights.” Or, to cast that in terms that you and I might understand: So far, 2021 is the best year for the rights of the unborn child in the United States since Roe v. Wade!
As GI reported in July, “In the first six months of the year, many state legislatures engaged in an assault on many civil rights, including abortion, voting and transgender rights. More abortion restrictions—90—have already been enacted in 2021 than in any year since the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down in 1973.”
A new report from one of the leading pro-life groups, Americans United For Life (AUL), also gives us many reasons to celebrate the progress made in the past year. According to AUL, so far in 2021, over 71 individual pro-life bills have been passed and signed into law in twenty-two states. Another fourteen pro-life resolutions have also been passed!
As AUL notes, this extraordinary progress was made in the midst of a pandemic that has disrupted and suspended many ordinary processes. However, pro-life legislators and political organizations successfully pivoted to meet the demands of the time and have championed the cause of life all across the country.
States Move to Protect Life in a Big Way
AUL singles out two states in particular – Montana and New Hampshire – where significant electoral gains created the space for pro-life legislators to begin to change the face of abortion law, where previously it had been impossible to do so.
In 2021, Montana passed six pro-life laws. This included a pain-capable abortion ban, which bans abortions after the point when science has shown the unborn child is capable of feeling the pain of the abortion procedure. Another law requires that mothers be given the opportunity to listen to the heartbeat of their child before going through with an abortion. Other laws ban state funds and federal Title X monies from funding abortion or abortion providers, place strict regulations on chemical abortion drugs, and mandate that children born alive after botched abortions be given life-saving care.
Other states, however, have had similarly blockbuster pro-life legislative sessions. Arkansas, for instance, passed fifteen pro-life bills. One of those bills – S.B. 6, or the Arkansas Unborn Child Protection Act – is a near total ban on all abortions. While that law can’t go into effect until – or unless – the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, its passage is a powerful testament to the commitment of pro-life legislators to prepare the ground for a truly pro-life culture, in which abortion has no place.
Many of the other laws passed in states like Arkansas are smaller, incremental gains, that won’t necessarily dramatically alter the number of abortions performed. However, even such laws often have the impact of keeping abortion front and center in political discourse, ensuring that legislators and citizens can’t long forget the plight of the unborn children who are dying every day in their midst.
Two important legislative trends highlighted by AUL involve bills protecting the lives of children born alive after botched abortions (like the bill passed in Arkansas) and regulating abortion drugs, which are becoming an increasingly popular way of committing abortions. As AUL notes, nine states passed laws relating to chemical abortion, “which include prohibiting its use in telemedicine, providing informed consent and information about pill reversal, improving complications reporting, and informing women about assistance for victims of sex trafficking or abuse.”
Meanwhile, in three states – Montana, Kentucky, and Wyoming – the governors had previously vetoed born alive bills. This year, however, legislators in Kentucky and Wyoming reintroduced and passed the bills again, with the result that the governors backed down and signed them! That is proof of the power of dogged determination. In Montana, the new pro-life governor happily signed the bill after it was again passed.
These are just some of the pro-life legislative victories over the past year. To read them all, check out AUL’s annual state legislative report.
AUL Optimistic about Supreme Court Case
AUL, however, in addition to optimism about the progress at the state level, is also optimistic about the possibility of significant changes at the U.S. Supreme Court.
As I have mentioned in previous articles, the Court is soon to consider a legal challenge against a Mississippi law (Dobbs v. Jackson) that, if allowed to stand, would ban most abortions after 15 weeks gestation. So far that law has not been able to go into effect. Courts have struck it down for violating Roe v. Wade’s requirement that abortion be permitted after the point of viability.
AUL is clearly hopeful that the Court will issue a significant ruling in that case, either striking down Roe v. Wade entirely, or charting a middle course that gives individual states more leeway in enacting abortion restrictions that reflect Americans’ increasingly pro-life views.
In the conclusion to their report, AUL notes,
“In light of the overwhelming support for legal abortion limits in the states and the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to affirm even greater state authority over abortion in the Dobbs case, Americans United for Life looks forward to the 2022 legislative sessions with great anticipation.”
Adding to the optimistic mood that something truly significant is happening on abortion in the United States right now, is the fact that the prestigious National Review magazine just dedicated a complete issue to the theme “Roe Must Go.”
The lead article is by Professors Robert P. George and Matthew J. Franck, both of whom teach at Princeton. The article is titled, “Roe Undermines the Supreme Court’s Legitimacy.” Speaking of the Mississippi case, the pair write, “There has been no better moment in the last half century than the present one for the righting of an injustice — an unconstitutional injustice.”
Please Pray that Justices will have the Courage to Overturn Roe
George and Franck caution, however, that hopes were similarly high when the Court was faced with Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, in which the high court’s justices were presented with a similar opportunity to reject Roe. That case ended in despair for the pro-life side, when three Republican-appointed justices – Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter – chose the route of cowardice, declining to overturn Roe in part over concerns that doing so would harm the appearance of the “legitimacy” of the Supreme Court. In other words, they prioritized appearances and prestige over the biological truth that life begins at conception, and the legal truth that Roe was atrociously decided (a fact that even some pro-abortion lawyers will be found quietly admitting).
George and Franck are scathing in their critique of that decision, arguing that it amounted to nothing but the barest fig leaf to cover the nakedness of the court’s legal reasoning, which was little more than a chicken-hearted ploy to avoid doing the difficult, but right thing, or to risk rocking the boat.
“There is never a good reason not to do the right thing,” the pair conclude. “There will never be a better time than the present to do it. We are confident that six justices know that the right thing to do is to consign Roe and Casey to the ash heap of Supreme Court precedents that were later overturned precisely because they dishonored the Constitution in whose name they were handed down.”
Let us hope and pray that AUL’s optimism is justified, and that the pro-life justices on the Court will find some of the same courage that has led so many state legislators and governors this year to take risks, proposing and passing laws that would bring them into direct conflict with Roe. The time is long past to reject the safe and easy road of respectability, and instead to deal a mortal blow to the rotten legal reasoning that has led to the slaughter of so many innocent unborn children.
As president of Human Life International, Fr. Boquet is a leading expert on the international pro-life and family movement, having journeyed to nearly 90 countries on pro-life missions over the last decade. Father Boquet works with pro-life and family leaders in 116 counties that partner with HLI to proclaim and advance the Gospel of Life. Read his full bio here.