Marjorie Dannenfelser is the president of the Susan B. Anthony List. Chuck Donovan is president of the group’s research arm, the Charlotte Lozier Institute.
For the pro-life movement, the excitement about the possible reversal of the 49-year-old precedent of Roe v. Wade is real, even as we know the road ahead is uneven. There are strong views on both sides of this issue, and this historic moment arrives at a time when Americans seem to have lost the will for civic engagement and representative government.
In this environment, in addition to seeking peaceful change through electoral processes, the pro-life movement has clear priorities.
First, we welcome the give-and-take of the democratic process. For half a century, a small cadre of unelected judges has created abortion policy and wielded unparalleled power to strike down even the most modest statutes protecting nascent life. Now, we hope, the people will have a say and the chance to achieve consensus.
We will not act impulsively or rashly. Different states will reach different conclusions. Greenville, S.C., and New York City’s Greenwich Village will choose differently. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party, once the home to stalwart antiabortion voices such as Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey Sr. and Louisiana Rep. Lindy Boggs, chose to rush a vote in Congress on an extreme bill to mandate abortion on demand. In the name of codifying Roe, they would impose a “super-Roe” on all Americans — abortion without limits, everywhere.
Americans consistently reject this agenda. Sixty-five percent in an AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll last year said abortion should be generally illegal after the first trimester of pregnancy, 80 percent after the second trimester. More recently, 65 percent of women supported a 15-week limit such as Mississippi’s. The number and variety of antiabortion laws enacted in recent years show that the people and their elected representatives are ready to embrace the role reserved to them by the Constitution.
With the opportunity to save millions of lives finally on the table, we are eager for lawmakers in the states to be as ambitious as possible in their efforts to build consensus.
Democratic governors such as California’s Gavin Newsom vow to make their states into “sanctuaries” for abortion — the opposite of what a sanctuary should be. Fortunately, governors in pro-life states are leading the charge to enact meaningful protections for unborn children and increasingly creative ways to ensure mothers have the resources they need to choose life.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R), whose state is at the heart of the challenge to Roe, has been exemplary in this regard, signing two new bills to boost pregnancy centers and other community-based supports for pregnant women and their children. Having spoken to more than 20 governors over the past few months, we have been heartened by the way statewide leaders are embracing this phase of the pro-life movement.
Meanwhile, we agree that there is a role for elected leaders in Congress, and we will support the strongest federal protections we can achieve. It is worth remembering that legislation to protect unborn children from painful late-term abortions has already passed several times in the House and received majority support (though not the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster) in the Senate.
There are many such common-ground efforts that are already well within the mainstream but need a president who will sign them into law. Those who would champion and sign these bills would have a chance to distinguish themselves in the upcoming midterms and ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
We know that angry countercharges to these statements will come. We should be clear. The pro-life movement has never abided, and will not now abide, criminal charges against women who seek or have abortions. Women are harmed, not helped, by abortion. Given support by the circles of protection that should surround them — partners, family, community, providers and government — women will maximize their decisions for life. We oppose any measure that would penalize those who have already suffered grave hurt. In every pregnancy there are two people intimately connected, and we would surround both with love.
We also reject the charge that our care commences at conception and ends at birth. The pro-life movement maintains a vast network of pregnancy centers that offer free care. The movement is building maternity homes, backing child and adoption tax credit expansion, supporting massive alternatives-to-abortion programs in Texas and as many other states as will enact them. The social safety net has tears, but the solution is to sew them up — not dismember the children who should be swaddled in it. SBA List’s Her Plan program seeks to help local partners identify and fill gaps. Another example of creative leadership is Mississippi’s groundbreaking $3.5 million tax credit for donations to pregnancy resource centers to help serve families in communities across the state.
Fifty years ago, no family in America had access to a dazzling 3D image of their son or daughter developing in the womb; today such images appear on family refrigerators. Fetal surgery is commonplace. Conditions such as spina bifida, congenital diaphragmatic hernia, twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome and dozens more are being identified and treated in the womb. Public policy should also seek to make these miracles available to every child and family, not merely to a favored few.
We pray that respect for all human life will once again be recognized as the core of our Constitution and national life. The road ahead will be bumpy sometimes, but the journey is worth our toil, sweat and tears.