Opinion

Where does the American pro-life movement go from here?

The sharpest opinions on the debate from around the web

After the end of Roe v. Wade, what's next for the pro-life right in America? One possibility: They'll look to build a "culture of life," one that breaks with traditional pro-business Republican positions to embrace an expanded welfare state that provides ample support to help would-be mothers and families thrive. 

There are some small signs that a shift is afoot. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has introduced legislation that would expand the child tax credit and provide other support for working families. "We can and must do more for unborn children and their mothers," he said in a press release. But Democrats and their allies are skeptical that the coalition of social conservatives and business-minded Republicans can pivot so easily away from long-held antipathy toward the social safety net. "Lots of post-Roe trigger laws criminalizing abortion without exception," The Atlantic's Adam Serwer noted on Twitter. "Unaware of one trigger law expanding Medicaid though." Can conservatives embrace Big Government social spending in the post-abortion age? 

America is going to see just how pro-life Republicans really are

"The places in America with the strictest abortion laws are also places where suspicion of state involvement runs deep," Elaine Godfrey writes at The Atlantic, "and investing millions more in government services is a political nonstarter." While there have been some efforts in those states to expand their aid to pregnant women — Texas appropriated $100 million to provide medical care — those efforts are mostly "small ball" and "aren't enough to address the scale of economic pressure facing families." But "restricting the supply of abortion doesn't stop the demand for it, as studies have shown." And that means that "abortion opponents who oppose a social safety net may come around to the idea that more social spending is the best way to reduce abortions."

Ending abortion means helping families 

"Every last pregnant woman in America needs to feel supported," says Timothy Carney at the Washington Examiner. But America "simply doesn't support parents enough." While banning abortion is a "necessary" part of achieving the pro-life movement's goals, "it's not the strongest weapon in the fight to end abortion." The best weapon? Love. Making abortion illegal won't change the fact that "women who end their pregnancies usually do so for lack of help and support." So conservatives must turn their culture war energies toward building a "pro-family" culture in America. That means "including the poor in our lives, strengthening community institutions, accommodating parental needs, and dedicating taxpayer funds to support families." That will help build a country that can "welcome every child, expected or unexpected."

The conservative movement may be too 'sick' to build a culture of life

"A movement animated by rage and fear isn't ready to embrace life and love," David French writes at The Dispatch. While "we should rejoice" the end of Roe, a true pro-life movement "carries with it a commitment to love, to care for the most vulnerable members of society, both mother and child." That's not what French sees among conservatives right now. While "grassroots pro-lifers are some of the finest people I've ever met in my life,"  the broader movement has problems. Instead, "life and love are countercultural on too many parts of the right" because the "culture of political engagement centers around animosity." Just one example: Pro-life churches were often also fonts of anti-vaccine misinformation that have killed hundreds of thousands of Americans during the COVID pandemic.  "The Dobbs ruling has landed in the midst of a sick culture, and the pro-life right is helping make it sick."

Conservatives need to prove they're not just punitive

Critics believe the pro-life movement is "piling burdens on poor women and doing nothing to relieve them, putting unborn life ahead of the lives and health of women while pretending to hold them equal," Ross Douthat acknowledges at The New York Times. Abortion opponents have to work on proving that perception wrong by promoting efforts to improve "the health of the poorest women, the flourishing of their children, the dignity of motherhood even when it comes unexpectedly or amid great difficulty." The danger for the movement is a future "in which women in difficulties can face police scrutiny for a suspicious miscarriage but receive little in the way of prenatal guidance or postnatal support." And that may undermine the pro-life movement's ultimate success — Americans aren't always swayed by whether a position is right or wrong, "but by whether that position is embedded in a social vision that seems generally attractive, desirable, worth siding with and fighting for."

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