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The next 50 years

The pro-life movement after Dobbs

Pro-life demonstrators hold signs outside the U.S. Supreme Court after the Dobbs decision on June 24. Getty Images/Photo by Stefani Reynolds/AFP

The next 50 years

The Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision should be a cause for celebration—not just for pro-life Americans but for every American. Human dignity, the core American principle, now has the chance to prevail at the state level because of a cultural movement that did the hard work of building institutions and winning hearts and minds.

America is rooted in an extraordinary belief: Every human being is created equal and endowed with intrinsic, inexhaustible dignity. Our history has been a struggle to uphold this principle—living up to the high standard set by universal human dignity is a never-ending task. In 1973, when the Supreme Court fabricated a constitutional right to abortion in Roe v. Wade, it turned its back on this principle of dignity and equality. Last week, the Supreme Court corrected Roe’s injustice.

For the first time in 49 years, states will be able to extend the protection of law to the most vulnerable persons among us. With Dobbs, we have taken an important step toward the recognition of the dignity of every American. This issue will be debated in the 50 states, and 330 million Americans will work through this debate in a way that’s healthier than Roe’s top-down mandate. Our pro-life movement is uniquely suited for these coming debates.

This legal victory was not a fluke. It’s the fruit of a half-century of relentless work. Roe v. Wade inspired a movement that has swelled with each generation. This movement worked not to destroy and subvert American institutions but to develop trust, build new institutions, and work toward a more perfect union.

Our politics has been transformed by campaigners and activists who engaged and persuaded their neighbors and held politicians accountable to their principles. It was a transformational First Amendment undertaking unlike anything this nation has seen before. Ordinary citizens volunteered to organize county, state, and federal groups to educate, lobby, and campaign.

Our law has been transformed by generations of litigators and scholars who have worked within our constitutional framework to defend life and uphold a fuller understanding of justice.

But the most important thing the pro-life movement did to overturn Roe was not political or legal, it was cultural. The pro-life movement’s strength never came from laws or court cases—it came from truth and love.

More than ever before, we have reason to be hopeful. We are pro-baby, pro-mom, and pro-science. We’re ready to speak the truth with love. We’re ready to win arguments with compassion and truth while our opponents continue to hide behind euphemisms.

Over the last 50 years, the lives of millions of women, children, and families have been transformed by the pro-life volunteers and caregivers who, with love and compassion and generosity, have shown that there are better options than abortion. There is a reason that pregnancy care centers now outnumber abortion businesses nationwide: Every day pro-life advocates prove that it’s possible to love mother and child. Mothers in difficult situations don’t have to submit to a false choice.

The pro-life movement has worked slowly, unyieldingly, through setbacks and disappointments, because it is buoyed up by hope and the firm conviction that this country can make good on its founding principles: that America can recognize the dignity of every man, woman, and child. The pro-life movement is self-government at its best: The will and intelligence of the people have been engaged and elevated by a campaign of charitable dialogue, political action, and neighborly love.

As we look to the next 50 years of the pro-life movement, the same guiding principles will win. Dobbs is not the end of a struggle. It is, in a certain sense, only the beginning. Many states recognize abortion rights until the moment of birth. In the last few weeks, we have seen large corporations promise to pay employees’ out-of-state travel costs to obtain an abortion. And, of course, pro-life advocates face a national media environment that is openly hostile to our arguments. Abortion’s advocates are still rich and powerful. Our movement is still kind and compassionate.

More than ever before, we have reason to be hopeful. We are pro-baby, pro-mom, and pro-science. We’re ready to speak the truth with love. We’re ready to win arguments with compassion and truth while our opponents continue to hide behind euphemisms. With Dobbs, a new future is possible. Let’s come to the aid, like never before, of pregnant women in distress. Let’s give them the help they need—material, emotional, spiritual. Let’s cherish every baby and make it possible for them to flourish no matter what circumstances they happen to be born into. Let’s make sure that every time someone chooses life, a community of love and support is gathered around them.

For 49 years, Roe v. Wade has poisoned our politics, distorted our law, and destroyed lives. The wounds of that decision are not only visible in the anger and mistrust that mark our body politic; the wounds, visible and invisible, are borne on the bodies and in the hearts of countless women, children, and families.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s celebrate Dobbs. Let’s love our neighbors. Let’s envision a future renewed by love for every person, no matter how small. Grace brought us this far, and grace will lead us home.

Ben Sasse

Ben Sasse is a U.S. senator from Nebraska.


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