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Roe on the ropes

The Supreme Court vacancy sparks legislative action on both sides of the life debate

Pro-life demonstrators at the Supreme Court on Monday Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

<em>Roe</em> on the ropes

Ohio Right to Life President Michael Gonidakis was at home with his family scrolling through Twitter when he found out Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died on Sept. 18. It was a Friday night, but he immediately started making calls to his board members and staff. The high court vacancy meant the Senate could confirm another conservative justice in a matter of weeks, potentially Judge Amy Coney Barrett of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “Smart money was on Barrett,” Gonidakis said. “So we started talking about how we could help get her approved by the Senate, and what does that mean for pro-life legislation?”

Gonidakis and his colleagues worked with pro-life representatives in the Ohio House to introduce the Human Life Protection Act, a bill that, if the Supreme Court reversed its decision in Roe v. Wade, would protect all babies from abortion in the state except to save the life of the mother. In Massachusetts, pro-abortion legislators are pushing for a bill that would endanger more unborn babies.

“It is a real threat that Roe v. Wade could get overturned,” Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, told the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Mass., the week after Ginsburg’s death. “This is not imaginary anymore.”

Massachusetts law protects infants from abortion after 23 weeks of gestation unless the mother’s life or health is in danger. Minors must have parental consent or approval from a judge to get an abortion. But a newly introduced bill would let minors get that approval from doctors instead of judges and allow abortions at 24 or more weeks in cases of fetal abnormalities. The bill’s lead sponsor, Democratic Sen. Harriette Chandler, said the state should act quickly on the legislation because of a possible shift on the Supreme Court.

Gonidakis also expressed a sense of urgency. “While there’s no guarantee that any … appointee will be solely responsible for overturning Roe, there is no doubt that Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the pro-life movement,” he said on the day President Donald Trump announced his selection of Barrett. “We have the momentum, and now is the time to act.”

Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel at Americans United for Life, said the expected changes to the Supreme Court do not guarantee Roe v. Wade will end soon: “There are numerous hurdles and obstacles, and we have to have realistic expectations of what the court might do and on what kind of time frame.”

He pointed to the roughly 8,000 appeals the Supreme Court receives every year. The justices accept about 80, or 1 percent, of those cases. Forsythe echoed Ohio Right to Life, saying Barrett as a justice could not singlehandedly bring up an abortion case. “There’s no reason from her writings to believe that she’s going to give greater attention to this issue than the hundreds of other … pressing legal issues that will be facing the court,” he said.

In addition to focusing on judicial action, Forsythe said pro-lifers should work to address practical problems in their states: discrimination against pregnant women at work, abortion facilities that do not meet safety standards, and disputes over the custody of embryos.

“It’s also important just to be widening legal protection for life in the states and passing more legislation in the states that are promoting a culture of life,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and we need to be prudent about our priorities in 2021 given precious time and resources.”

Leah Savas

Leah reports on pro-life topics for WORLD Magazine and WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute and Hillsdale College graduate. Leah resides in Grand Rapids, Mich., with her husband, Stephen.



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Why do responsible journalist continue to call those opposed to abortion Pro-Life?  They are Pro-Birth.  Words matter.  If they were Pro-Life "from birth until natural death" they would revisit their stance on capital punishment (inconsistently applied from state to state), gun ownership where reasonable proposals have been made that allows people to own one for protection and sport, and "well-regulated militia" (whatever that means today), immigration where hundreds die trying to get here and no Pro-Life conservative reaction except to agree with Trump and his sub-human rhetoric for them, police murdering people with an emphasis on "no justice no peace" response, anti-tax and anti-regulations in health care that leave people to die with no insurance.  Now, how about 200,000+ dead before natural death from COVID-19 and a response that was milk-toast?  I am Pro-Life in all those areas, including Pro-Birth.  I am not Pro-Trump.  As a retired journalist, I was chastised by a news director for saying "baby" in my reports on fetal research.  He asked why I didn't say "fetus."  My wife was pregnant at the time and I said because proper language is important.  I do not ask her how she and the fetus are doing when coming home each night.  I ask "How are you and the baby?"  My news director agreed.  I had the same issue come up with the word "homosexual" in my reports and the same result.  My boss asked why I said "homosexual" in my reports instead of "Gay or Lesbian" on LG issues (the rest of the alphabet wasn't there at the time).  I said, "Because I am gay."  He was shocked and said he didn't realize that considering my world view and I was married (to a woman - should I say "saint").  I also said, "But I am not homosexual."  Words matter.  Pro-Birth is not the same as Pro-Life.  So called Pro-Life conservatives have drunk the Kool-Aid.  The King has no clothes.  Character matters.


Leah nailed this one where she presents optimism about overturning Roe v Wade, but also puts forward a caution that we need to have realistic expectations about what can be accomplished. It will take some time for the right cases to come forward so that Roe v Wade really is overturned. 

I would also add that overturning Roe v Wade will light a fire under the Democrats and will likely see them capture the executive branch, where a Democrat will be president in 2024 and possibly even the House and Senate will be thrown into the Democrat's control.

As I have said before, the pro-life movement should understand that only when a significant number of citizens are pro-life that Roe v Wade will be overturned.  To accomplish this, we will need to move forward the cultural battle where we will have to take over Silicon Valley, the schools, universities, business in general, and entertainment industry - no small task! 

We need to move forward with vision and trust in God as we fearlessly take new territory. Rather than live mediocre lives, Christians will have to live extraordinary Christian lives impacting change around us!