Today’s guest author is David D’Auria. David is a statistician from Arlington, Virginia. He currently serves as acting president of Rehumanize International’s DC-Maryland-Virginia chapter. All views are his own. This is the first article in a series.
Think for a moment about where the pro-life movement was this time last year, and how much the discourse has changed.
Dobbs is the law of the land, and deep red states are imposing abortion bans that haven’t been enforced in half a century. As we might have predicted, the resulting policy has not been spotless. Witness doctors who turn away pregnant patients before 12 weeks, because they have not been convinced that a miscarriage on their watch wouldn’t result in criminal investigation. Meanwhile, blue state politicians have a renewed antagonism toward pro-life groups, even charities that help mothers in difficult situations.
So we find that even with Roe gone, the political landscape is not at all friendly to the consistent life ethic (CLE). CLE groups have long aimed to provide enough resources for pregnant people, children, and poor families to “make abortion unthinkable,” but it is increasingly difficult to find a politician – left or right – who would back such a policy.
CLE groups also want to see legal protections for children, and this may be politically possible in some states. But making wise policy is much harder than opposing bad policy, and policies involving children and families are extraordinarily complicated, even when the children aren’t physically inside a mother’s uterus. Consider the fact that child abuse is chronically underreported, and yet even an investigation by child protective services can cause serious harm to innocent families. How much more harmful would it be if an ob/gyn or her pregnant patient had a reason to be afraid they would be investigated? Balancing the rights of children with the rights of families and other public health goals will not be easy, especially given that we are fifty years out of practice.
In this new and difficult environment, CLE groups are forced to engage in a harrowing life-or-death calculus. It’s true that increased legal protections for children could save thousands of innocent people from violent death. But if the pro-life movement bans abortion but bungles the execution, the backlash will impact the entire movement, shaping the views of generations to come. Such a reaction would endanger not just the children of today, but tomorrow, and tomorrow.
I stress these risks not to stoke fear, but to promote foresight. I want to encourage pro-lifers to take the long view.
It is possible to imagine a considered, deliberate policy to prevent violence against fetuses, while respecting other rights owed to other people. But it is a delicate task, and there are more ways for a policy to fail than for it to succeed. Unlike the anti-Roe advocacy of 2022 which built to a cathartic victory, the affirmative, pro-life advocacy of 2023 will be a slow process of judging particular circumstances, and correcting mistakes.
If we do it right, there won’t need to be another “historic victory” for the pro-life cause. Just a long arc of history, bending towards justice.