The pro-life cause has just secured a major victory for the unborn and their mothers, with further protections possible soon — if its champions stay courageous and don’t flinch. The Supreme Court’s decision to leave the Texas Heartbeat Act standing was an unexpected blessing and has resulted in an estimated hundreds of abortions prevented thus far. The goal of the pro-life movement has always been to make abortion illegal and unthinkable. Texans are doing just that, in defiance of the undemocratic stifling of debate wrought by the Supreme Court years ago . . . and we should celebrate it and support them. Political leaders need to speak up — this law has the potential to save a hundred or more unborn children with beating hearts from the brutality of abortion each day it is in effect.
The Heartbeat Act was co-authored by eleven pro-life women legislators, debated and voted on by the 181 members of the state legislature, approved with a bipartisan majority, and signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott. It is both the result of and a response to 50 years of undemocratic rule by unelected judges imposing their own policy views and calling it constitutional law — taking the fundamentally political questions surrounding this primal issue out of the hands of legislatures, making it impossible for states to enforce their legitimate interest in protecting unborn life in any substantial way.
Instead of resolving conflict over abortion policy, the Court’s prior actions have provoked it — as former justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once observed — and left our politics profoundly unsettled. After five decades, states are more eager than ever to challenge the status quo. Some 500 pro-life bills have advanced at the state level this year alone, more than at any point since Roe v. Wade, with approximately one in five being enacted into law.
This fall, the Supreme Court will hear a case that could give states the flexibility they deserve. The central question in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization is whether state legislatures have a role, before viability, in making their own laws that reflect the deeply held values of the people who live there. Because of decades of work by pro-life advocates to elect leaders who would appoint constitutionalists to the bench, finally we have a Court willing to face that question head-on.
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The pro-life movement goes into this momentous opportunity standing firmly on the pillars of science, public consensus, and moral justice.
Advances in technology over the past five decades reveal the humanity of the unborn child and the breathtaking complexity of life in the womb. We know that by six weeks, the child’s heart is beating about 98 times a minute. Even Planned Parenthood’s website concedes that human beings at this young age have a heart, at the same time they stop more than 354,000 hearts a year and counting.
Six-week-old unborn babies have a developing spinal cord and brain — which has divided into three primary sections responsible for sensing and decision-making, moving and tracking objects, and vital body functions. By ten 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, exhibiting hormonal stress responses to painful procedures. They are treated as patients by fetal surgeons, who administer anesthesia as standard care in order to treat conditions such as spina bifida right in the womb.
But thanks to the Supreme Court’s radical and hopelessly convoluted precedents, the United States is one of only seven countries in the world — including China and North Korea — that permit abortion on demand, for any reason, up to the point of birth. The strong majority of Americans agree this is too extreme, something they share with 47 out of 50 European nations that limit elective abortion prior to 15 weeks.
Mississippians set their limit at 15 weeks. In the future, other states might come up with widely different laws — but that’s how democracy works, and the chance to protect unborn children and mothers the way many states desire would be a welcome improvement.
This case presents us with a clarion call to love both mother and child. Unsurprisingly, Texas is leading the way in compassionate care for women facing unplanned pregnancies, with state and private programs providing real assistance to meet their material and emotional needs. “Alternatives to Abortion” began in 2006 and provides support services to pregnant women. Last session, the Texas legislature expanded funds for this program to $100 million. In addition, the Healthy Texas Women program helps low-income women with family-planning resources and health-care needs.
And if that isn’t enough, approximately 200 pregnancy center locations across Texas — nearly ten times the number of abortion centers — offer support and resources, typically at no cost, that profit-driven abortion businesses won’t deign to provide. In contrast to pregnancy centers that love and serve women even after a choice to abort, “abortion funds” facilitate one choice only — ending the life of a child.
The American people are not missing this crucial moment. Victory is within reach, but not inevitable — it’s ours to lose, if we fail to find our voice. I urge pro-life leaders everywhere to have courage, speak up, and be bold in defending the vulnerable ones who depend on them so much.
LifeNews Note: Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List and author of “Life is Winning: Inside the Fight for Unborn Children and Their Mothers.”