The end of Roe v. Wade marks a great victory for American pro-life groups, but it’s not the end of their fight against abortion.
Roe v. Wade mandated that the government couldn’t regulate abortion in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, could not regulate the protection of fetal life in the second 14 weeks, and could only protect fetal life after viability. Now, abortion is once again a legislative issue.
The Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade gave American pro-life groups the high ground in the upcoming political battles over abortion. Even so, they will likely face new difficulties too.
At this point, the end of Roe still feels surreal to many in the pro-life movement.
“You’re pinching yourself for a while. When you work for something for close to 50 years, and then it happens, it takes the psyche a little while to adjust,” said Father Frank Pavone, the national director of Priests for Life.
Taking the High Ground
One of the most important aspects of the Supreme Court ruling that there was no constitutional right to abortion is the way law shapes moral boundaries, Pavone said.
Often, women assume that because abortion is legal, it’s also a moral decision to make, he said.
“The mother who is thinking about abortion is often thinking about it only because she knows it’s legal,” Pavone said. “We don’t find that abortion is the kind of a decision that a woman will crawl over broken glass in order to get it.”
If the law frowns on abortion, women choose it less often. In Pavone’s experience, many women don’t pursue abortion if there’s even a slight legal obstruction.
“They’re very ambivalent about their abortion,” he said.
National Right to Life committee president Carol Tobias agreed. She added that women who are pressured by their boyfriends or families to get abortions often might feel protected by the law.
“I saw a woman writing recently that if it had been illegal, she wouldn’t have done it,” Tobias said.
Now that abortion can be illegal, people are more likely to think it is immoral, said Tobias. It’s also more likely that discussions over abortion will explore its morality instead of stopping at its legality.
“You start getting into the discussion of, ‘every abortion ends the life of another human being,’” said Tobias.
Across America, 22 states have passed or will soon pass laws that ban or restrict abortion.
According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute, one in five pregnancies ended in abortion in 2020. The same year saw nearly 1 million abortions performed. It’s unclear exactly how much the end of Roe v. Wade will decrease these figures.
But Pavone estimated that even if the number of abortions decreases massively, the number of new babies won’t increase by the same margin.
Many women who get abortions get multiple abortions, he said. Some find themselves getting abortions again because of a cycle of guilt.
“The mom who has an abortion, very often she feels guilty. She wants to have a replacement pregnancy, so she gets pregnant again. And then she doesn’t feel worthy to have the child, and she repeats the abortion,” Pavone said. “Almost half of the abortions in America are repeat abortions.”
Now, many women who live this pattern will likely have their first child and stop getting abortions or new pregnancies, he said. Birth rates will likely go up as well.
Pregnancy centers are already “gearing up” for more new babies, Pavone added.
But Hugh Brown, the president of the American Life League, said he doesn’t expect the overturn of Roe will save many lives.
Companies like Amazon offer free flights to abortion states for their employees, and it’s likely easy to cross state borders to get abortions, he said. An America that’s halfway pro-life is functionally pro-abortion.
“Is that going to result in less deaths? More than likely not,” he said.
Pro-life leaders also say that the end of Roe v. Wade will intensify the legislative debate over abortion. It’s likely that Congress and state governments will see more bills for abortion restrictions soon, said Pavone.
He added that future abortion laws will likely not be outright bans. Instead, politicians will likely regulate abortion.
“We’re more likely to see some gestational limits that enjoy very strong public support, even among people who say they’re pro-choice,” Pavone said.
Perhaps the most ambitious pro-life goal is a nationwide abortion ban. But pro-life leaders have mixed opinions on whether it’s possible soon.
To get a nationwide ban on abortion, the Senate would likely have to end the filibuster, Tobias said. But this change would also make it easier for Democrats to pass extreme pro-abortion legislation.
“I don’t see the filibuster in the Senate being removed anytime soon,” she said. “I mean, we’re using it now to stop several horrible, horrible anti-life pieces of legislation coming through the Senate, including tax funding of abortion,” she said.
Students for Life of America president Kristan Hawkins said in an email to The Epoch Times that her organization hopes to change public opinion on abortion laws after the end of Roe.
Most Americans are confused about what Roe v. Wade meant, Hawkins said. Americans say they favor Roe v. Wade when polled, but the majority of Americans also support some restrictions on abortion that Roe didn’t allow.
“Radical abortion supporters have been in charge of the abortion debate for almost 50 years, with now stale talking points used for generations. One of those is that ‘most’ people loved Roe v. Wade and loved abortion,” she said. “If you like any limits on abortion, you didn’t like Roe.”
Current polls show that seven out of ten Americans support limits on abortion, she said.
“As an organization that has more conversations with the generation targeted for abortion than any other pro-life group, we’ve seen the need for education to help people understand the fine print behind the words ‘support for abortion,’” she said.
In politics, a big win can sometimes temporarily hurt the winners. Historical example suggests that ending Roe v. Wade will galvanize abortion supporters and leave pro-life supporters complacent.
But none of the pro-life leaders interviewed said they were experiencing a drop in funding.
“Perhaps that is because it’s well known in the pro-life community that our students are on campuses daily fighting for this generation and for their children, and that we are active in every state working to pass pro-life laws or oppose policy that would hurt women and their children,” Hawkins said of Students for Life of America’s fundraising success.