In 2022, pro-lifers must unite around a bold argument for overturning Roe v. Wade and empowering the people to protect women and children. With a decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization expected in late June or early July, during the heat of campaign season, the abortion issue and its presence on the political stage won’t fade any time soon—and going on offense is the only way to win.
The pro-life movement has achieved success in recent years by asserting that every child is a gift, that everyone deserves a chance to fulfill the American dream, and that the people should be trusted to reach consensus through the democratic process our founders provided. That vision is vastly more compelling than the fear-based cynicism of those who support unlimited abortion and use the courts to impose radical policies that would never pass the ballot box.
The potential overturning of Roe has led abortion advocates to spread fear about a coming apocalypse for women’s rights, and they brandish plenty of polls purporting to show the popularity of Roe to make their case.
The pro-life movement cannot cede ground. In fact, refusing to do so will give pro-lifers a strong advantage—just look at Virginia. Democrat Terry McAuliffe spent millions on TV ads touting his support for abortion, including one featuring Barack Obama. He even campaigned at an abortion center. Republican Glenn Youngkin, on the other hand, slammed McAuliffe for supporting unlimited abortion up to birth. It worked: Eight percent of Virginia voters cited abortion as their top issue in exit polls. Youngkin won these voters by a seventeen-point margin.
With that said, here are the messages we should uphold in the next year.
Unborn children are human and feel pain by at least fifteen weeks’ gestation.
Science and technology have advanced dramatically since Roe. It’s no longer a mystery when life begins. We also now know that by fifteen weeks, an unborn baby’s heart has already beat almost 16 million times. We can watch in real time via 4D ultrasound as babies in the womb make faces, suck their thumbs, and even cry when given a painful shot of anesthesia before surgery. It’s time the courts caught up with the science.
Overturning Roe won’t automatically ban abortion nationwide, but will allow the people and their representatives—in states and Congress—to debate and find consensus.
Thanks in part to misleading media coverage, many Americans don’t realize Roe imposed abortion on demand nationwide, right up to birth. At the same time, 76 percent of Americans support significant restrictions on abortion that Roe doesn’t allow. When asked who should set abortion policy, by two to one, Americans say the people and their elected representatives—not unelected judges—should decide.
If advocates of abortion on demand want to argue unlimited abortion up to birth (funded by taxpayers) is good policy, they’re free to do so—but very few voters will stand with them.
Support for abortion on demand—even brutal late-term abortions when unborn children feel excruciating pain—is extreme.
Under Roe, the United States is one of a small handful of countries worldwide—including China and North Korea—that allow late-term abortions for any reason more than halfway through pregnancy. Forty-seven out of fifty progressive European nations protect unborn children and mothers from elective abortion after fifteen weeks, making Mississippi’s proposed fifteen-week limit (the law at issue in Dobbs) positively mainstream and a step in the right direction.
The pro-life movement cares about both mother and child and provides the resources necessary to choose life.
America’s 2,700 pregnancy centers provide vital services to millions of people each year at virtually no cost. Another good example is Texas’s $100-million-per-year Alternatives to Abortion program. Of course, some women will still seek abortions after Roe, if it’s overturned. But we will continue to strengthen the pro-life safety net, while pushing for the most ambitious legal protections possible.
The Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, once said: “With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.” Right now, many Americans in the “mushy middle” don’t have to confront the reality of abortion. The outcome is almost invariably predetermined—legislatures pass laws, the abortion lobby sues, courts block laws under Roe. In a post-Roe America, pro-life leaders would forge a consensus. Unlike pro-abortion elitists who have to hide the violence of abortion from the public eye, we need not fear the people. Life is a winning issue, and by putting it front and center in the political arena, we can change the culture and save countless lives. Now is the time to lean in, not back down.
Frank Cannon is president at the American Principles Project.
First Things depends on its subscribers and supporters. Join the conversation and make a contribution today.
Click here to make a donation.
Click here to subscribe to First Things.
We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.
Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on firstthings.com.
Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.
Will you give today?