Pro-Life Advocates Fight the Wrong Fight

By: Nicholas Chapman-Hushek

Saturday, January 22 marked the thirty-eighth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), which held State legislation that criminalized abortion unconstitutional[1] President Barack Obama marked the occasion by acknowledging the event’s historical importance and recognizing the validity of the Supreme Court’s decision. [2] Moreover, the President asserted that he would continue to “help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.”[3] The President’s statements beg the question of whether opponents of abortion are fighting the wrong battle in their efforts to overturn thirty-eight years of judicial precedent.  In continuing to wage this fight, are some pro-lifer activists protesting the decision for reasons other than the welfare of children?

Pro-life organizations essentially advocate for a Supreme Court that will eventually overrule Roe v. Wade’s holding.  If these organizations get their wish, State legislatures would have the right to severely restrict access to abortions or outlaw the procedure entirely.  However, the current Supreme Court has neither implied nor given any sense of impression that it would overrule Roe v. Wade.  For example, Chief Justice John Roberts stated to Congress, “Roe is the settled law of the land. It is not–it’s a little more than settled. It was reaffirmed in the face of a challenge that it should be overruled in the Casey decision. Accordingly, it’s the settled law of the land. There’s nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent, as well as [Planned Parenthood v.] Casey.”[4] Although the Supreme Court is unlikely to revisit Roe v. Wade and overrule its historic precedence, pro-lifers continue to shout against settled authority supporting a woman’s right to choose.

Unfortunately, pro-life organizations have neglected to exert their resources efficiently to address issues where they might meet with more success:  teenage pregnancy, rape, and incest.  Pro-life organizations admittedly encourage young people to act responsibly regarding the choice to become sexually active.  Unfortunately, those metered voices are often drowned out by picket signs, rants from clergymen, and on occasion, violent acts.  Anti-abortion organizations regularly resemble groups bent on control and coercion.  In 2009, 10,124 criminal incidents occurred in the name of pro-life activism. [5] These crimes included trespass, arson, kidnapping, and murder.[6] This past week, numerous abortion protest rallies took place on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision.[7] These groups claiming to protect the welfare of the mother and the American family generally would prefer to stir up commotion on the national stage rather than tailor their message toward achievable and manageable goals.

Pro-life organizations should follow President Obama’s statements and focus their efforts on preventing unintended pregnancies. Such action would obviously help decrease the market for abortion procedures in the long-term and would help pro-life organizations improve their reputation. Sadly, these organizations’ rarely step back from their telescopic vision to allow for the development of different points of view.  Until one of these groups discovers the broader issue, anti-abortion organizations will continue to indiscriminately and unsuccessfully champion for and anti-abortion Supreme Court. Pro-life protesters could achieve great successes through peaceful action and rational discussion toward the continued evolution of our common consciousness.  To this point, abortion protesters have failed to recognize this potential.  Hopefully, a revolutionist within the anti-abortion community will initiate a new way of thinking so that we may solve the actual underlying problem of unintended pregnancy without violence or abrogation of our collective Constitutional rights.


[1] 410 U.S. at 164.
[2] President Barack Obama, Statement by the President on Roe v. Wade Anniversary (Jan. 22, 2011).
[3] Id.
[4] Confirmation Hearings on Federal Appointments, Committee on the Judiciary, United States Congress, One Hundred Eighth Congress (2003).
[5] National Abortion Federation, Violence and Distribution Statistics, Incidents of Violence & Disruption Against Abortion Providers in the U.S. & Canada (1977 – 2009), available at http://www.prochoice.org/pubs_research/publications/downloads/about_abortion/stats_table2009.pdf.
[6] Id.
[7] Jennifer Duck, Anti-Abortion Groups Rally on Capitol Hill, ABC News, January 22, 2007, available at http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=2814823&page=1.

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