From America’s inception, a tenacious defense of human rights and freedom has been integral to our national character. It is no accident that life comes first among the unalienable rights mentioned in our Declaration of Independence. Without it, all others are impossible.
Roe v. Wade was a shocking betrayal of those foundational principles. In a single day, the Supreme Court struck down every state law protecting unborn children and their mothers, imposing abortion on demand nationwide. This ensured deep division for decades to come and sparked a human rights movement both universal and quintessentially American.
Today, the pro-life movement has reached a culmination.
A strategy to elect leaders who would prioritize the unborn resulted in the election of the most pro-life president in history — Donald J. Trump — who, together with a pro-life Senate, transformed the federal judiciary and set the standard for future pro-life administrations.
Building on that success, American voters in 2020 elected the largest incoming class of pro-life congresswomen in history. In the states, pro-life lawmakers now introduce hundreds of pro-life bills a year, enacting a significant percentage into law.
The efforts of pro-life Americans, especially the heroic pregnancy center movement, have brought the abortion rate to its lowest point since Roe.
As of this writing, the Supreme Court is poised to consider whether any pre-viability limits on abortion are constitutional.1 Roe could be overturned, re-enfranchising the people. But even in the event of an unequivocal win, much more is necessary to build a thoroughgoing culture of life.
In a post-Roe America, each state will have a debate that has been stifled for two generations. We will see American democracy working as it was designed. This is long overdue.
We look with great hope to the opportunity not merely to legislate around the margins, but to save millions of little boys and girls intended for this world. Victory is not inevitable, but it is within reach. I hope this essay serves as a road map.
The Trump administration proved that having a pro-life president matters a great deal for saving unborn lives. Having seen what is possible, there is no going back.
The Supreme Court was only the most significant of many historic executive branch wins. One of the first was a resolution allowing states to defund Planned Parenthood — America’s largest abortion business — of Title X family planning funds. This action was followed by the federal Protect Life Rule, which resulted in Planned Parenthood forfeiting approximately $60 million in fungible taxpayer dollars.
Planned Parenthood is anything but the trusted provider of legitimate health care its carefully cultivated image portrays. In 2019-2020, it committed more than 354,000 abortions — a record high. Further, during the rise of Black Lives Matter, Planned Parenthood attempted to distance itself from the eugenic agenda of its founder, Margaret Sanger, as its own employees accused the organization of systemic racism.
Sanger’s mission continues today; nearly 80% of Planned Parenthood facilities are located within walking distance of minority neighborhoods.2 Among the black community, the abortion rate is almost four times higher than among whites.3 In New York City, more black children are aborted than are born alive.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Planned Parenthood has been caught engaging in the harvest and sale of aborted babies’ body parts for profit. Members of Congress investigated these practices and made criminal referrals to the Department of Justice, which confirmed in 2017 that it had launched an investigation in 2017 — but then went quiet.
Just months later, it was reported that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had entered into a contract to purchase baby body parts for research. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) canceled the contract, stopped funding unethical experiments at government labs, and made a $20 million down payment to develop modern, uncontroversial alternatives such as adult stem cells.4 HHS Secretary Alex Azar then activated an Ethics Advisory Board (EAB) to review grants for extramural research at, for example, university campuses.
Additionally, Trump took action to protect babies harmed by failed abortions. He repeatedly called on Congress to send the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to his desk, doing everything in his power to make good on a campaign promise to end late-term abortion. And, after the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act was introduced, he similarly urged Congress to send that legislation to his desk. Supported by 77% of Americans, this legislation would simply ensure that babies who survive failed abortions receive the medical care afforded to other premature babies. (Pro-abortion Democrats in Congress have repeatedly blocked both bills since their introduction.)
Another win came through pushing back on extreme state-level actions. In 2019, then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed the nation’s most radical expansion of late-term abortion into law. In Virginia, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, a physician, described in a live interview how babies who survive abortions can be denied care. President Trump personally challenged Cuomo, and his State of the Union address explicitly called out Democratic Party leaders’ extremism.5
The Trump administration also preserved the Hyde Amendment, which prevents taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, saving an estimated 60,000 lives each year.6
Lastly, the Trump administration worked to build a culture of life that protects babies not only while they are in the womb, but after they are born as well. In 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to ensure that newborns receive the care they deserve — including through an increase in funding for neonatal research.
Under a pro-life administration, we also secured wins in fighting abortion abroad.
America’s stance on abortion has profound consequences for human rights globally. President Ronald Reagan spoke of America as a shining city on a hill — a beacon of freedom and hope to the world. Yet under Roe, the United States is one of only a small handful of countries — including China and North Korea — that allow abortion on demand after five months of pregnancy.7 American progressives frequently cite Europe as a model for social policy, but on abortion, Europe is less permissive than the United States; as of July 2021, 47 out of 50 European countries limit elective abortion to 15 weeks or earlier.8
Under pro-abortion Democratic administrations, the United States has bankrolled Planned Parenthood, Marie Stopes International, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Groups like these lobby against other nations’ pro-life laws, or even facilitate illegal abortions.
This funding is a deeply offensive form of cultural imperialism. It is also contributing to genocide under China’s communist regime.
As Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) and I explained: “In China, the UNFPA is listed on official documents as a partner with the National Health Commission, the agency responsible for implementing the government’s infamous population control policies. As recently as 2019, the UNFPA bragged about its work to enhance ‘reproductive health’ in the Xinjiang region…Coerced abortion and sterilization have reduced the birth rate in that region by almost half, according to a 2021 report.”9
Moreover, sex-selection abortions — wherever in the world they occur — victimize women and girls. Women, Mother Teresa observed, are “three-quarters” of abortion victims — half of the babies and all of the mothers. One disturbing report found that sex-selection abortion due to cultural preferences for boys over girls may have caused as many as 8,400 girls in the United States to be missing for the years 2014-2018 alone.10 Imbalances in gender ratios then fuel human trafficking.11
The Trump administration took steps to rectify these injustices. The administration reinstated and expanded the “Mexico City” rule, which stops U.S. taxpayer funding of the abortion industry overseas, applying it to all U.S. foreign health assistance — nearly $9 billion — and swiftly defunded the UNFPA.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and HHS Secretary Alex Azar then invited world leaders to stand with the United States against efforts within the United Nations to create an international “right” to abortion on demand.12 They spearheaded the landmark Geneva Consensus Declaration, which states that there is no international right to abortion; it was signed by 34 nations.
Tragically for the unborn and their mothers, the Biden administration has made it a priority to reverse the Trump administration’s pro-life actions, both at home and abroad.
Almost immediately, President Joe Biden unilaterally withdrew from the Geneva Consensus Declaration. House Democrats passed a spending bill that more than doubled UNFPA’s funding and gutted the Helms and “Kemp-Kasten” amendments, which prevent U.S. tax dollars from funding abortion on demand as a method of “family planning” and from funding organizations that abet coercive abortion or involuntary sterilization, respectively.13
President Biden also disbanded the EAB and resumed funding for barbaric experiments using aborted babies’ body parts. And under the Biden administration and a Democratic Congress, the Hyde Amendment, which ensures that taxpayer dollars are never used to pay for abortion, is continually under threat.
Despite these setbacks, there is still tremendous pro-life progress being made. Some of the greatest successes have been at the state level.
In April 2021, the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute (which was, until 2007, an arm of Planned Parenthood) opined about “the most devastating anti-abortion state legislative session in decades.” By October, more than 100 pro-life provisions were enacted across 19 states, including some of the most ambitious protections yet.14
Numerous states have passed laws protecting unborn children with a detectable heartbeat and stopping late-term abortions when unborn children can feel pain.
Science shows that by six weeks, unborn children have a heartbeat and a developing brain and spinal cord. By 10 weeks, they have arms, legs, fingers and toes, and they can kick and jump. By 15 weeks, they have fully formed noses, lips, eyelids and eyebrows; and by that point, if not earlier, they can feel pain.
North Dakota passed the first heartbeat law in 2013. A dozen other states followed. Their laws were immediately enjoined by courts, until Texas enacted the Heartbeat Act. Although the Texas law’s mechanism allowing it to be enforced by private citizens ignited controversy, a majority of Texans15 and 46% of all voters support it.16
Nearly half of U.S. states have passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.17 These laws went largely unchallenged until recent years. More than 10,000 late-term abortions take place nationwide each year, mostly for socioeconomic reasons.18
States have also enacted laws protecting unborn children from discriminatory abortions based on their race, sex or a prenatal diagnosis such as Down syndrome. In the United States, an estimated 61-93% of babies with Down syndrome are killed before birth. This contrasts with research showing that 99% of people with Down syndrome are happy with their lives; they like themselves and are loved by their families.19
A growing number of states are passing laws to end these discriminatory abortions. Indiana’s law — signed by then-Governor Mike Pence — reached the U.S. Supreme Court. While the court declined review without expressing any opinion about the law itself, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the issue of whether Roe protects abortions for eugenic reasons remains an “open question.” More recently, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a similar Ohio law, causing a “circuit split,” or a disagreement that greatly increases the possibility of a Supreme Court review.
Moreover, numerous state legislatures have continued to put forth legislation to protect babies, including protections for babies born alive in failed abortions and limits on the expansion of chemical abortion drugs.
With legislation stymied in Congress, several states have passed their own born-alive acts.20 Some, like Kentucky, defied a pro-abortion governor’s veto threat.21
Abortion advocates claim abortion pills (RU-486 or Mifeprex) are “safer than Tylenol,” but large-scale, peer-reviewed studies have found chemical abortion is four times as dangerous as surgical abortion. More than 20 women have died as a result of taking these drugs. Other serious complications are likely underreported.22
Using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse, the Biden FDA dropped the longstanding safety requirement that abortion drugs not be dispensed without an in-person doctor visit, allowing them to be sent through the mail. Half a dozen states stepped up to safeguard women and unborn children, and more are likely to follow.
The battle after Roe will shift to the 50 states, which will reach different conclusions depending on where consensus is found. The majority of Americans support far greater limits on abortion than are currently possible.
In a post-Roe America, elected leaders will have to navigate a volatile time. This responsibility will rest acutely with the president, who must show the way forward for America and the watching world.
A future pro-life administration should build on the Trump administration’s pro-life progress while undoing the Biden administration’s damage.
Together with Congress, a top priority should be making the Hyde Amendment permanent and government-wide to ensure that taxpayer dollars are never used to pay for abortion. Additional pro-life bills could finally be signed into law, including the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.
A future pro-life president should also reinstate the Protect Life Rule and let all states exclude abortion businesses from their Medicaid programs. He or she should instruct the Justice Department to finish their investigation of Planned Parenthood and should work to end experimentation on the bodies of aborted children. Further, a pro-life White House and Congress should work together to permanently end U.S. taxpayer funding for abortion overseas, which 77% of Americans oppose.23
Pro-life advocates can also take steps to ensure our elected leaders can capitalize on a post-Roe United States.
Pro-abortion Democrats will undoubtedly attempt to push court packing and other schemes should Roe be overturned by the Supreme Court. Preparation is crucial to ensure we stop their attempts to enshrine the “right” to abortion on demand nationally.
To preemptively combat these plans, pro-life advocates must expose the lie that we only care about babies and their mothers before children are born. Now more than ever, the pro-life movement is earnestly coming alongside mothers and families to help them embrace life during every step of the process.
More than 2,700 pro-life pregnancy centers across America served almost two million people in 2019. Staffed largely by volunteers, these centers and networks provide a variety of vital services, typically at no cost.
In order to strengthen the existing pro-life safety net and help communities identify and fill gaps, Susan B. Anthony List launched Her PLAN (Pregnancy and Life Assistance Network). With initial pilot programs in Georgia and Virginia, the goal is to expand Her PLAN to 30 key states by the end of 2024.
Texas offers a model for how public and private sector efforts can complement each other. Approximately 200 pregnancy centers operate in Texas. Meanwhile, the state’s $100 million per year Alternatives to Abortion program provides counseling, material assistance, care coordination and housing support. The Healthy Texas Women program also helps low-income women with family planning and health care.
Additionally, all those who care about protecting life can work to further reduce the costs of adopting and fostering to help place children in stable, nurturing homes. This is both morally right and fiscally prudent,24 producing immediate and long-term savings for taxpayers.25
At half a century, Roe is on life support, and life is winning.
Now is the time to employ all our creativity and fortitude to right this injustice and restore the right to life to its central place in American law. Each of us has a role to play. With stakes this high, sitting on the sidelines has, for millions of Americans, ceased to be an option. By having this debate, we will have the chance to change hearts and minds and to save countless lives — to honor and live up to the promise of America. No fight is more worthy of a great nation, and we and our homeland will be so much better for it.