Published May 4, 2022
For many conservatives, myself included, the goal of making abortion not just illegal, but unthinkable, has been a driving force behind our interest in politics.
The first rally I ever attended, at the age of 8 or 9, was a March for Life at the state capitol in Olympia, Washington. My first job out of college was working for Catholic Charities, motivated by building a network of material and emotional support around expectant moms in need. My work as a Capitol Hill staffer and beyond has focused on supporting parents and families and reducing the demand for abortion.
When news broke Monday night of the leaked draft opinion in the pending Supreme Court case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, I know I wasn’t the only one feeling a rush of conflicting emotions. Concern over the breakdown in the Supreme Court’s traditional processes – for starters – and apprehension about what the leak could mean for ongoing negotiations among the justices.
The end of Roe looks within our grasp
More than anything, the headlines felt surreal. The goal for which so many have worked, and marched, and rallied, and prayed, finally looks to be within our grasp. Of course, the movement that begun in the wake of the egregiously decided Roe v. Wade decision has too often felt like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, and there’s still plenty of time for Lucy to snatch it back.
The end of Roe might firmly be on the table, something I felt sure many of my fellow conservatives in 2016 were making less probable, rather than more, by electing President Donald Trump.
I didn’t vote for him.
Trump delivered for conservatives
If the leaked opinion holds, I will have been wrong. The gamble I found myself unable to make back then will have paid off, and the unlikeliest of champions – a thrice-married New York City real estate developer who made the cover of Playboy – will be to thank.
Friendships were tested, and some fractured, by my continued skepticism of Trump. I wasn’t sure if he would double-cross the social conservatives who helped him get elected, and was concerned over how many conservatives were willing to abandon long-held principles to defend a president I found personally unfit for office.
During the battles over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, I wondered openly whether the fight was worth it when there were other nominees in the wings who would be much more reliable votes to overturn Roe v. Wade.
But Trump’s brazenness and eagerness for the fight, as well as his self-evident disinterest in the finer points of conservative jurisprudence, counterintuitively made it easier for advisers like Leonard Leo to select impeccably qualified men and women who had come up through conservative circles.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell played hardball to get justices who treat the Constitution seriously confirmed. And the three Trump-appointed justices may prove to be a crucial voting bloc to make it easier for states to protect unborn children from the violence of abortion.
I am still uneasy about the long-term ramifications that Trump’s bare-knuckle style of politics will have on the conservative movement. I worry about how crass our politics has become, the pro-wrestling-like kayfabe that candidates now espouse, not even bothering to advance a positive agenda so long as one has the right enemies.
What happens if Roe v. Wade ends?
And I sincerely hope that conservatives who would describe themselves as “pro-life” and “pro-family” don’t end up like the proverbial dog who caught the car, uncertain where to go next. The movement should, ideally, use the moment of a win in Dobbs to champion a public policy agenda oriented toward making parents’ lives easier, expanding tax benefits for families and easing the pain points that make starting a family a challenge.
Beyond protecting the child in the womb, conservatives must place strong family and communities at the center of social and economic life, ensuring that moms in crisis pregnancies know they will have the material and social support necessary to support their new addition.
Overturning Roe v. Wade will allow states to choose their own path on abortion, and hopefully inspire more efforts to advance a pro-family agenda. If Justice Alito’s powerfully worded draft ends up being the majority opinion in Dobbs, I will admit that my friends who pulled the lever for Trump in 2016 made the right gamble. Trump’s antics and divisiveness will have been a high price to pay to secure the end of the Roe regime.
But it will have been worth it.
Patrick T. Brown is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Follow him on Twitter: @PTBwrites