But that was part of the pro-life plan: Incremental protections of the unborn had been the pro-life strategy, but many legislators have switched tactics in an attempt to get one of their bolder bills onto the U.S. Supreme Court docket. The hope is that the justices will use such a bill to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Flipping that decision will prove difficult, though—past attempts have borne little fruit. At the end of the 2018-2019 term, the newly conservative-majority Supreme Court disappointed pro-lifers by passing up cases that would have challenged Roe. The justices handed down a decision affirming part of an Indiana law that requires the cremation or burial of aborted babies but refused to consider the other part of the law that prohibits abortion based on disability, race, or gender. They also turned down an opportunity to reinstate an Alabama law banning “dismemberment abortion.”
One 2014 law out of Louisiana did make it to the Supreme Court in the fall. The legislation requires abortionists to have admitting privileges with a nearby hospital and, if enforced, would close two of the three remaining abortion facilities in the state. The case, scheduled for a March 2020 hearing, is unlikely to overturn Roe but could help whittle down that court precedent.
Pro-lifers aren’t entirely optimistic: Some are uncertain about the position Justice Brett Kavanaugh will take on the abortion issue. And even if Roe is overturned, the battle over abortion will continue at the state level. But the pro-abortion left has become increasingly frantic since Donald Trump’s election and his appointment of two conservative Supreme Court justices.
A December New York Times article fretted that complacency under the Obama administration, followed by cultural, financial, and political divisions, has weakened the pro-abortion left. One of the biggest divisions cited is that between political giant Planned Parenthood and the small, independent providers that perform around 60 percent of abortions in the country but lack a strong voice in the pro-abortion movement. Planned Parenthood is their main advocate in politics, but many don’t appreciate the organization’s emphasis on political power over the practical needs of small abortion facilities and their clients. The Times noted similar tensions within the Democratic Party itself: While the party has abandoned the language of “safe, legal, and rare” (the Democratic Attorneys General Association even made the pro-abortion stance a requirement for candidates to receive the group’s support), some abortion activists worry a radically pro-abortion stance will alienate moderate voters.
Meanwhile, some abortion allies seem to have learned a thing or two from pro-life pregnancy centers. One Alabama nonprofit, the Yellowhammer Fund, helps low-income women with abortion costs and gained overwhelming financial support from Planned Parenthood and Democratic presidential candidates after the state’s abortion ban passed. But the group set aside only a fraction of its budget for abortions: The rest will cover doula care and pay for pro-abortion versions of pregnancy centers that will offer pregnancy tests, diapers, and other essentials to pregnant women. According to the nonprofit’s director, Amanda Reyes, “If all we do as an organization is pay for abortions for low-income people, we are eugenicists. … That is not transformational work. That is slapping a Band-Aid on a huge problem.”
AS THE POLITICAL AND LEGAL BATTLES RAGE, the gruesome reality of abortion continues to play out in facilities across the country, ending an estimated 862,320 lives in 2017 alone. According to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute, this total represents a 7 percent drop from 2014 figures. One explanation may be that fewer women are conceiving in the first place due to increasing use of contraception, and others are using abortifacients and so-called emergency contraceptives, which can induce early abortions not counted in Guttmacher’s estimate.
But the drop in total abortions also came with a rise in chemically induced “medication” abortions. In this method, women take two drugs: mifepristone cuts off life support to the baby and misoprostol causes contractions that expel the baby’s remains. These drugs still require an abortionist’s prescription in the United States, although some organizations sell them illegally to U.S. women online.
Occasional visual reminders of the lives at stake spring before our view. Many are delightful, such as the 3D ultrasound of Abby Johnson’s 36-week unborn baby livestreaming on monitors in Times Square in May. Or the world’s tiniest surviving baby (8.6 ounces), born in late 2018 at the legal abortion age of 23 weeks of gestation, leaving a California hospital five months later.