Published June 27, 2022
Your labor was not in vain. The national regime of abortion on demand imposed by Roe v. Wade is over, thanks as much to the humble and unheralded as to the powerful and connected.
Yes, the Dobbs decision was made by Supreme Court justices, appointed by presidents and confirmed by senators, and they deserve the praise they receive. But the pro-life movement was sustained by the millions of Americans who just wouldn’t quit.
They didn’t quit when the Supreme Court said the issue was settled, then said so again. They didn’t quit when all of the cultural powers-that-be from academia to Hollywood disdained and reviled them. They didn’t quit despite decades of minimal gains and routine betrayals by politicians and judges.
Instead, they kept marching and praying. They kept volunteering and voting. They kept writing and speaking. And they were not just political activists. They built networks of crisis pregnancy centers and other charities to help women and children in need, providing everything from diapers to baby formula to health care.
Within families, churches, and communities, they made innumerable decisions to protect human life. They became adoptive and foster parents to care for the abused and abandoned. They are the grandparents who helped when told of an unexpected pregnancy, rather than encouraging the disposal of the unplanned child.
There are, of course, professional pro-lifers leading and staffing organizations. But the pro-life movement is sustained by its volunteers. And they are remarkable for their persistence and their unselfishness. They donate their time and treasure to a movement that they know will not make them safer, healthier, or wealthier.
They were not fighting for their own rights. They were not lobbying for more benefits for themselves. In a political system and culture dominated by self-interest, they have never demanded anything for themselves.
It is, of course, true that abortion is generally destructive to society. It breaks the primal social bond of mother, father, and child and hardens the hearts it doesn’t stop. Leaving a womb-shaped hole in legal protection for human life precludes a culture and politics of real solidarity.
But although pro-lifers recognized these broad evils of abortion culture, they are not what motivated the movement. If that was all they cared about, it would have been easier to just work on protecting their own families and communities (which is indeed a moral obligation). But pro-lifers care about the specific injustice of abortion: that it is the deliberate, violent taking of an innocent human life.
So they spoke for those whose voices could not yet be heard, and who were being discarded as inconvenient and unwanted. They marched and voted, yes. But they also gave and counseled and helped and taught. They just wouldn’t quit. Now, they finally won.
This is not, of course, a final victory. Overturning Roe only returns the question of abortion to the democratic process, and now even as some states restrict it others are funding it. But ending Roe breaks the legal siege that had trapped the pro-life cause, subjecting every restriction on abortion to the caprice of the federal judiciary.
Pro-lifers should rejoice and be rejuvenated by the end of Roe. This is an opportunity not only to restrict and even ban elective abortion in many states, but also to develop affirmatively pro-life and pro-family policies. There are pro-lifer scholars, such as my Ethics and Public Policy Center colleague Patrick Brown, who have been preparing for this, and their suggestions should be given consideration.
There will, of course, be disagreements about the best way to do this, and it is possible that one size will not fit all. What works for Utah might not work as well in Alabama. But the pro-lifers will be there, pushing year after year, in every state, to protect human life in law and provide help when children and families need it.
The battle against Roe is over, but the war for a pro-life American has just begun, as pro-abortion state legislatures are embracing abortion more than ever. Although pro-lifers in those states will have a harder task before them, they can take courage from knowing that victory is possible. The decades-long struggle to overturn Roe proves the pro-life movement will endure, and that it can win. And they will keep fighting, even if it takes generations.
The Dobbs decision is a victory, above all, for the humans in utero whose lives may now be protected in laws. And it is due to all of those who labored in the pro-life movement without knowing if this day would ever come.
This win is for the volunteer receptionist at the crisis pregnancy center. For the doctor spending Saturday mornings providing free ultrasounds and exams. For the grandmother quietly praying the rosary outside of an abortion clinic.
It’s for the college students who memorialized Roe on their campuses with fields of crosses despite insults and vandalism. For those running baby bottle drives for ministries providing support and resources to pregnant women. For the activists who worked to elect pro-life leaders locally and nationally, and the voters who voted for life, even as everyone said their vote never mattered.
For all of these and more, your labor has not been in vain. Lives were saved, a pro-life culture was nourished, and politicians and judges finally corrected one of this nation’s greatest evils.
There is more to do, but for now, thank you.
Nathanael Blake is a senior contributor to The Federalist and a postdoctoral fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Nathanael Blake, Ph.D. is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His primary research interests are American political theory, Christian political thought, and the intersection of natural law and philosophical hermeneutics. His published scholarship has included work on Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Alasdair MacIntyre, Russell Kirk and J.R.R. Tolkien. He is currently working on a study of Kierkegaard and labor. As a cultural observer and commentator, he is also fascinated at how our secularizing culture develops substitutes for the loss of religious symbols, meaning and order.