The pro-life cause has done well this year.
For the first time since the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973, states enacted more than 100 abortion restrictions combined; this year, states enacted 106 abortion restrictions as of Sept. 17, according to the Guttmacher Institute. This topped the previous record set in 2011 when states enacted 89 new abortion restrictions.
Abortion has been illegal after six weeks of pregnancy in Texas since September, more than 30 municipalities across the country have outlawed abortion, and a Supreme Court with a 6-3 Republican majority heard the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in early December. The case involves a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi from 2018 that never went into effect.
While this year has seen positive developments, next year could be even better.
State governments have made enacting pro-life laws a priority more so than in past sessions. There is still plenty of work for them to do, even with Roe v. Wade in place, to defend the unborn. And thankfully, the Supreme Court may give them a chance to do even more for the unborn. The Supreme Court will rule on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization at some point next year. At a minimum, it's reasonable to think it may uphold the ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, but these courts could also overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, sending abortion law back to the states.
Either one of those outcomes would give states more opportunity to protect the unborn by restricting abortion, although overturning the two previous Supreme Court rulings would be far better than changing the allotted gestational limit by five weeks since about 90% of abortions take place in the first trimester (12 weeks or earlier). Other than the current Texas law, the earliest cutoff for abortion in some U.S. states is 20 weeks.
Meanwhile, if the court overturns Roe v. Wade, states could outlaw abortion, enact heartbeat bills, restrict abortion earlier in the first trimester or the second trimester, and so on. The cutoff for abortion would vary greatly by state, but it would be an improvement over the current situation. Additionally, if the courts overrule Planned Parenthood v. Casey, states could enact spousal notification laws with which an abortion provider must notify a woman’s husband if she decides to have an abortion. Plus, states could further regulate the industry, including requiring clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.
As states make greater strides for the pro-life cause, they should also focus on the demand and cultural sides of the issue as well as the supply side.
Things such as expanded access to birth control, a child allowance, increased funding for crisis pregnancy centers, and lowering the cost of living could help with the demand side, while getting abortion fanatics such as Planned Parenthood and Advocates for Youth out of school sex-ed curricula could help on the cultural side.
While 2022 could be a good year for pro-lifers, the fight to protect life will be far from over. The pro-life cause must not settle for one good Supreme Court ruling.
Tom Joyce (@TomJoyceSports) is a political reporter for the New Boston Post in Massachusetts. He is also a freelance writer who has been published in USA Today, the Boston Globe, Newsday, ESPN, the Detroit Free Press, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Federalist, and a number of other outlets.