The Supreme Court has officially ruled, in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to overrule its holdings in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. States are now free to pass laws banning or restricting abortion for the first time in almost 50 years. Millions of hours of work and activism have led to this moment, and it’s a pro-life victory worth celebrating.
But the work of the pro-life movement isn’t over just because Roe has been overturned. In this video, Josh Brahm explains the three primary tasks facing the pro-life movement in this new, post-Roe world, and he concludes with an admonition to pro-life people to celebrate this victory graciously and without confusing it for the finish line.
It’s official: the thing we’ve been waiting 50 years for has finally come to pass. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center has been decided, and Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land in the United States.
But even though this is a moment of celebration, we need to understand that the pro-life struggle is far from over; in some ways, it’s only just beginning.
By overturning Roe and Casey, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs has made it so that states are free to ban abortion. That doesn’t mean that abortion is now illegal; it means that each state gets to do what it wants. Several states have abortion bans that were previously ruled unconstitutional which are now in effect, while others have “trigger laws” that banned abortion as soon as Roe was overturned.
On the other hand, just as many states passed broad abortion laws enabling as much or more unrestricted access to abortion than what Roe required. States like New York, California, and Colorado will not only continue to provide abortions for the women in those states but will become destinations for “medical tourism” when people from other states seek abortions there.
In other words, legal abortion isn’t gone, and neither is the bitter divide among Americans about whether it should be a “human right” to kill unborn humans. This is a checkpoint for the pro-life movement; not the finish line.
There are three primary tasks for the pro-life movement in this new era in the fight against abortion.
The first task is to continue supporting women and families in difficult situations, especially when they are considering abortion as a response to pregnancy in challenging circumstances. Much of this work is already being done by pro-life people all across the country. Hundreds of pregnancy resource centers are, RIGHT NOW, providing vital assistance to women whose circumstances might lead them to consider abortion, both during pregnancy and after the birth of their children. PRCs will continue to provide these services as they face the challenge of continuing to scale when even more families need their help.
Sidewalk counseling will continue to be a means by which pro-life people can support women. Especially in the near future, sidewalk counselors can have effective conversations in which they save lives by giving women a chance to evaluate their options and decide that maybe they don’t want to go through with an abortion after all. In this post-Roe world, though, sidewalk counseling will probably take a different shape than it has in the last couple decades. Abortion facilities are going to consolidate in those states and cities most hospitable to abortion-on-demand, and they will utilize legal methods to eliminate as much access to women considering abortion as possible. On the other hand, fewer abortion facilities mean it will be more feasible for pro-life activists to maintain a constant presence outside any clinic for all hours they provide abortions. Prayerful presence and protest, such as that used in 40 Days for Life campaigns, have been effective in causing no-shows for abortion appointments, and they should still have some effect moving forward.
The second primary task is to change individual minds on abortion. Just because Roe is gone doesn’t mean that people will now suddenly agree that abortion is unjust killing. While Roe was the law of the land, lots of people had strong opinions on both sides of the abortion debate, but now that states can pass laws about abortion, those opinions can ACTUALLY AFFECT THE LAW. If enough of a majority opposes abortion in Oklahoma, abortion will be illegal in Oklahoma. Similarly, because enough people support expansive abortion access in Massachusetts, abortion remains legal there. In order to eliminate legalized abortion in America, we need to convince a large enough majority in the country as a whole, including millions of people in heavily pro-choice states, to choose the pro-life position. Absent access to mass media or education, the best method we have to gain a meaningful pro-life majority is to have conversations with individual people, especially in-person conversations with people we know and have existing relationships with, and convince them that the fetus is a person with the same rights as you and me.
Equal Rights Institute is helping mainly in this role; we’re training pro-life people in the best arguments against abortion, and we’re helping them learn relational strategies to connect with pro-choice people and help them to listen to what we have to say. THIS HAS NEVER BEEN MORE IMPORTANT THAN IT IS RIGHT NOW. You have to understand, while pro-life people are celebrating the Dobbs decision because it ended nearly 50 years of nationalized legal abortion-on-demand, pro-choice people are afraid because they believe something they consider a human right is about to be taken away from them. Part of what we need to do is show pro-choice people that we care about bodily autonomy, we care about human rights, we don’t want to control women’s bodies; we have to earn a hearing so we can make compelling arguments for why abortion is still wrong and should be illegal. And we have to do this while people are more angry and distrustful than anytime in recent history. The pro-life movement will need to change minds everywhere, but especially in the “hard” states where abortion remains legal.
The third primary task is one that will take place mostly in pro-life states: the pro-life movement needs to pass legislation to create new infrastructure to support women and families now that abortion is no longer an option. The legislatures of the pro-life states no longer have to fight to limit abortion, and instead they have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a pro-life future. These initiatives will probably look different depending on the different needs and means of each state, but they will have in common a focus on supporting families through laws that do things like provide more family and sick leave, policies that support pregnant women and young children, and expansions of programs like WIC and pro-family tax incentives. States where abortion is illegal can use legislative power to empower women to make the choice not to have an abortion. They have the ability to show that the pro-life future is better than the pro-choice past.
Roe is gone, once and for all. Pro-life people everywhere should take this moment to celebrate as this victory is a result of nearly 50 years of work, both in changing culture and changing law. Millions of hours have gone into this work, and it’s appropriate to celebrate, but I also would like to encourage you to be aware that pro-choice people are watching what you post. Again, pro-choice people are both furious and terrified right now. So be careful to celebrate without being obnoxious. We shouldn’t be dunking on pro-choice people with an attitude of “IN YOUR FACE.” Instead we should say that we’re grateful for this Supreme Court decision that is a big step toward giving all humans equal protection from violence while simultaneously saying that we will continue to care for women and will seek ways to offer help and resources to them, especially when facing an unplanned pregnancy.
So yes, celebrate this day, and build up momentum for the work that is yet to come. These three tasks will take years for the pro-life movement to accomplish, but they are necessary for us to reach our final goal: a country and even a world in which abortion is not only illegal, but unthinkable.