NEW YORK — Even as pro-lifers express optimism that this could be the year Roe v. Wade is overturned, leaders in the movement warn that the potentially groundbreaking victory doesn’t negate the essential work that still needs to happen at state and local levels.
In a post-Roe nation, abortion law would return to the states, and while some states would move to more restrictive abortion policies, others would move to more permissive policies for both residents and women that travel across state lines, such as New York and California.
Daniel Williams, a history professor at the University of West Georgia, said that if the 16 states that he believes will restrict abortion (post-Roe) close all their abortion clinics, that number still wouldn’t equal the number of abortion clinics operating in New York.
“Given that reality, we need to talk not only about rescinding Roe v. Wade, but about creating a culture of life that will empower lower-income women, especially, who are facing crisis pregnancies to make choices that will enable them to keep their babies and raise them in a society in which their families will have food and healthcare and other resources that they need to thrive and succeed,” Williams said on Jan. 18.
“We need a pro-life strategy that will work in Mississippi and North Dakota, but also in places like New York and California and the entire Northeast and Pacific West Coast and that is a strategy that will work towards a culture of life whether abortion is legal or illegal.”
Williams spoke at a Georgetown University Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life event, “Pro-life Movement at a Crossroads: Dobbs and a Divided Society.”
Dobbs is a reference to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case before the Supreme Court that deals with a Mississippi abortion law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks.
A decision from the court isn’t expected until this summer.
In the meantime, Williams and other pro-life leaders believe there are important steps for the pro-life movement to take to change people’s hearts and minds, and better fulfill the broader definition of advocating for a person from conception until natural death.
For Erika Bachiochi, that means creating a more robust family policy.
“The greatest opportunity we face as a pro-life movement really is our greatest challenge as well and I think that is convincing those legislators who have been heroic in voting for judges to overturn Roe and Casey to see the critical importance of a robust family policy in support of women, children and their families,” said Bachiochi, a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author of “The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision.”
Bachiochi aimed her comments at pro-life Republican lawmakers, who she said aren’t doing enough in that area. She said if the nation is to move forward without Roe and handle abortion laws like the rest of the world, “then we also ought to be doing what those other nations are — and that is provide far more generous economic support for women and their families.”
Gloria Purvis, host of “The Gloria Purvis Podcast,” also highlighted the need to press pro-life Republican lawmakers on family policies, while also pointing to the need to challenge Democratic lawmakers “who say they are champions of women and help them understand abortion actually upholds a system of oppression for women.”
She noted the pro-life cause transcends political parties.
“We have no permanent friends or permanent enemies, just permanent issues,” Purvis said.
Purvis said she also sees a disconnect in the way some pro-lifers treat issues of racial justice “that seemed to betray pro-life values.” She highlighted the reaction of some “prominent pro-lifers” to the murder of George Floyd and the later conviction of police officer Derek Chauvin for that murder.
“We have to be sensitive to it that racism does not exist just in the womb with abortion, but outside the womb as well and we can’t be seen as enemies to those movements who are dealing with racism,” Purvis said. “We can be both pro-life and pro-racial justice.”
While acknowledging that legislative and political advocacy is important, there was a broad belief that the pro-life movement doesn’t need to be associated with any particular party.
Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, the president of New Wave Feminists, noted that the way conversations around the pro-life cause can turn political often distracts from the needs of mothers and children.
“At the end of the day, this has to be a cultural shift in consciousness. This cannot be one political party or one religious group. It has to be all of us understanding the humanity of the unborn,” Herndon-De La Rosa said. “Our focus is not on making abortion illegal as much as it’s on making it unnecessary and unthinkable and you do that through resourcing women so well that it’s unnecessary and making it unthinkable by humanizing the child in the womb.”