May 26, 2024
11 months ago

The Anti-Abortion Movement Gets a Dose of Post-“Roe” Reality

The Nation| by Amy Littlefield | June 28, 2023

Almost a year to the day after the Supreme Court ended the legal right to abortion, one of the main architects of the strategy behind the decision stepped to a podium in a Pittsburgh airport hotel. James Bopp had worked to defeat of Roe v. Wade since 1978, when he became general counsel for the nation’s largest anti-abortion group, the National Right to Life Committee. Nearly half a century later, he still serves in this role. As he worked to win over politicians to the cause, Bopp had recognized the significance of weakening campaign finance rules, which led to another major conservative Supreme Court victory, Citizens United.

Now, Bopp, dressed in a salmon-pink polo shirt and blazer, was about to admit that his life’s work wasn’t panning out exactly the way he had planned.

The Supreme Court’s decision to reverse Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization had been a “a monumental event that required enormous effort,” Bopp said during his panel at this year’s annual National Right to Life Convention. Still, the results had been disappointing. “We have 20-some states who have substantive, significant restrictions on abortion,” Bopp said. “We would have expected, like, 300,000 fewer abortions.”

But, thanks in large part to the herculean efforts of abortion funds and providers, the bans are not having the effect Bopp expected.

In fact, a survey by the Society for Family Planning found that in the nine months after Dobbs, the number of abortions provided by clinicians had dropped by just 25,000 compared to the nine months before. Bopp paused, letting the audience absorb the number in stunned silence. Somewhere, in the beige-paneled room, someone let out a whistle.

A year after the Dobbs decision, the anti-abortion movement is contending with two unexpected results. The first was neatly expressed by the banner headline in a newspaper that abortion rights groups We Testify and printed to mark the Dobbs anniversary: “We are Still Having Abortions All Across the Country.” Not only did the Society for Family Planning’s survey of reported abortions find less of a decrease than many expected; it doesn’t account for the untold number of people who are accessing abortion medications through overseas or peer-to-peer suppliers, even in states where it is banned. Meanwhile, other states and localities are taking historic steps to ease abortion access. On the day Bopp spoke, New York’s governor signed a law to protect abortion providers in the state who are openly planning to provide telemedicine abortions in states where it is banned.

The second debacle is that these bans have come at a profound political cost for the anti-abortion movement. Since Dobbs, abortion rights supporters have won all six abortion-related ballot measures, stifled the “red wave” in the 2022 midterms, and cinched a key Wisconsin Supreme Court seat. In the convention’s host state, Pennsylvania, outrage over Dobbs helped Democrats flip the state House, elect a Democratic governor, and send Democrat John Fetterman to the US Senate. Sitting in his booth in the convention hallway, Christopher Pushaw, executive director of Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, told me he wasn’t sure Dobbs had been worth the price.


Don't Miss