The pro-abortion movement is running scared. It likes to portray itself as a popular movement representing all women and progressive ideas. Suddenly, pro-abortionists are realizing the bottom has fallen out of their assumptions. They are not popular. Many women, indeed mostly women, oppose them. Given the “choice” about unlimited abortion, nearly half of all Americans would choose life.
The risks to the movement are high. At stake are the 1973 landmark case of Roe v. Wade and the companion 1992 decision of Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The pro-abortionists’ nightmare is that the Supreme Court will use Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to override or render Roe and Casey unworkable.
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The Roe decision has been threatened before. In those cases, liberals have depended upon fellow liberals on the Court, aided by “conservatives” who jumped sides. That possibility still exists today. However, the chance is less since there are more conservative justices now than any time since the fifties.
Thus, the pro-abortion faction is more frightened than at any time in the last half-century. This was the point of a “guest essay” in the New York Times by Amy Littlefield, “abortion access correspondent” for the leftist magazine The Nation. Her essay “Where the Pro-Choice Movement Went Wrong” was based on 50 interviews with advocates, analysts, abortion providers and legal experts. It reveals a movement in disarray and thus merits serious examination.
The article is one of those rare times when the other side admits its mistakes. Ms. Litttlefield’s whining litany of complaints indicates that the pro-life movement has done something right. It also highlights the desperate state of the pro-abortion camp.
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From the journalist’s article, eleven significant errors stand out. They are listed below.
1. Overreliance on the Supreme Court.
As long as the Supreme Court held firm on Roe and Casey, this reliance was understandable. It meant that they didn’t need to dirty their hands by fighting for abortion in state legislatures. All they thought they had to do to keep abortion as law was to send their best lawyers to the Supreme Court in Washington and recite their favorite platitudes.
2. Overreliance on Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
When Justice Ginsburg came to the Court in 1993, she was an old hand at using the courts to implement feminism. She was a formidable adversary for her more conservative colleagues. However, she was not immortal and refused to resign to make way for a new liberal justice. The mistake proved disastrous for the pro-abortion cause.
3. Planned Parenthood’s and NARAL’s neglect of grassroots groups.
Relying on the Supreme Court meant that the national pro-abortion organizations (Planned Parenthood and National Abortion Rights Action League [NARAL]) could ignore their state organizations. Local organizers believed that the leaders in Washington seldom took their efforts and insights seriously. Thus, leading pro-life groups like the National Right to Life Committee put together a staggering 3,000 local chapters. Meanwhile, NARAL dedicated such little attention to state affiliates that it eventually ended up with 11 local groups and now has eliminated local affiliates altogether. This enormous lack of grassroots support shows how out of touch the movement is with American life.
4. Pro-lifers often outmaneuvered pro-aborts in many state contests.
The Supreme Court focus also meant that the national pro-abortion organizations paid little attention to state attempts to limit abortion, either through legislation or the ballot. Thus, the pro-life movement was emboldened to act in the states and took control of legislatures and state courts. That gave more conservative states ample room to experiment – leading to the new Mississippi restrictions and the Texas “Heartbeat” Law.
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5. Playing “Whac-A-Mole.”
This decision to concentrate on the national debate left the national pro-abortion organizations engaged in a process that the NYT article compared to a popular arcade game of “Whac-a-Mole,” in which one must constantly be putting out fires. The pro-lifers would promote multiple bills that overwhelmed the pro-abortion groups’ resources and focus. They set the agenda in the states while Planned Parenthood et al. had to shift efforts to beat down each new attempt. The pro-abortion side had to play defense to respond to the increasing activism of the pro-life side. Activists complain that they are constantly playing catch-up and find it hard to be proactive and think long-term.
6. Not Paying Attention to the Chipping Away of Abortion Access.
In 1992, the Supreme Court decided Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which allowed states to restrict abortion before viability as long as such actions did not impose an “undue burden” on those seeking an abortion. The decision opened the way for states to chip away at abortion access through incremental measures. Such a strategy made abortion unavailable in vast areas of the nation and prepared the way for the present pro-life victories in Mississippi and Texas.
7. Dominated by white liberals.
Both Planned Parenthood and NARAL are dominated by their donors, who tend to be wealthy, white, and liberal. These white-led groups focused on upholding Roe and ignored black and minority groups they claimed to represent. Such conditions suited their purposes until recently. Now, however, it has given rise to resentments inside the movement. Such situations are often deadly in a “woke” world of racial sensitivity. Both organizations now have women of color at the head, but it is probably “too little, too late.”
8. Being Outfunded by the Pro-life groups
Local pro-abortion groups complain that their activities are underfunded by national organizations that concentrate on big federal-level projects to the detriment of more local initiatives. The pro-life movement, by being local itself, can garner more resources to target individual clinics and local laws. This pro-life advantage has grown dramatically over the years.
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9. Not repudiating Margaret Sanger until recently.
The movement failed to denounce the racist legacy of Planned Parenthood’s founder, Margaret Sanger (1879-1966). A proponent of the once-popular Eugenics Movement, she openly believed African-Americans were lesser forms of humanity. Nonetheless, Planned Parenthood awarded a prize in her name until 2015 and only removed her name from their national headquarters in 2020.
10. Ignoring the impact of Donald Trump.
Like most liberals, the pro-aborts underestimated the impact of Donald Trump’s election until he clinched the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016. Even then, many took comfort in the pro-abortion statements that Mr. Trump had made as a private citizen. His adherence to his promises to nominate more conservative justices and support the pro-life movement surprised many on both sides of the issue.
11. Ignoring “sanctuary cities for the unborn.”
Another surprise for the pro-aborts came when several small towns and cities emulated a pro-immigration tactic declared themselves “sanctuary cities for the unborn.” By law, such declarations are symbolic and, escaping Supreme Court scrutiny. However, supportive local sheriffs and police chiefs have used such declarations to shutter or limit abortion facilities.
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These eleven mistakes are areas where the pro-abortion movement admits it went wrong. They are the cause of infighting and disagreements about the movement’s future. Some pro-abortion radicals are claiming the need to shift yet farther left as a means of finding a new identity.
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However, there are indications that this may be the problem, not the solution. The 11 errors are due to the movement’s reliance on a top-down political model. In adopting this structure, the pro-abortion movement embraces the socialistic strategy of ruling by direct action, state control and regulation. Like all socialist models, it imposes its radical agenda upon the people without garnering grassroots support.
Thus, pro-abortionists believed a Supreme Court decision was enough to make abortion legitimate regardless of the moral natural law that prohibits the killing of innocents. The pro-abortion cause is also represented by a few monolithic organizations that control everything. There are no backup plans should these organizations fail—as they presently are failing. Activists are finding out the hard way that it is too late to organize alternatives.
The anti-abortion movement has adopted a contrary approach by relying upon organic grassroots networks that work inside communities to move people to action. It works with human nature, not against it. There are no monolithic socialist-type organizations that control everything. Indeed, the movement is flexible, composed of thousands of organizations and groups that work at all levels of society and thus ensure its survival. These long, painstaking efforts are now paying off.
However, if the anti-abortion movement is to have complete success, it must above all have recourse to God and the Blessed Mother. The critical components of this fight are the prayers, efforts and sacrifices of those who seek not only the end of abortion but the return of America to a moral order.
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