“In an ideal world, we’d have no need for abortion…. I feel comfortable with the things I did and the decisions I made.” – Abortionist Kermit Gosnell, serving 3 life sentences for the murder of 3 born-alive babies.
In the same year marked by the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, an abortionist – who reported over 40,000 abortions over two and a half decades – was convicted in one of the most gruesome crime scene investigations ever.
A world without abortion is among the noblest of goals. To believe we can end abortion, however, by just throwing out Roe is simply wishful thinking. The solution is not found just in overturning the court decision. If we want to end abortion, we need to do much more.
Laws are more than just a set of rules. They also shape the thinking of society; influencing what is thought to be acceptable, beneficial and “right.” Abortion law brings us to believe that we can choose when life begins by killing unborn babies – and in some states at any time before birth.
Imagine a scenario where abortion was legal in all fifty states up to the point of birth. The law would be saying – and people would begin believing – that at no point is an unborn baby a human being. Beyond just allowing it to happen, this legal sanctioning would, by its nature, encourage the killing of unborn babies by furthering the perception that it is acceptable.
But take, for instance, one state – Pennsylvania. Because of the laws on the books, a pregnant teen contemplating abortion will not be able (legally) to have an abortion past 24 weeks. She also needs to reflect on her decision for 24 hours, have a parent give consent of her decision and be told that she cannot be coerced into making a decision.
That’s one state’s current law – and those laws have saved lives.
Laws and regulations keep abortionists in check. Abortionist Kermit Gosnell was allowed to operate a fully-licensed facility in Pennsylvania because politicians turned a blind eye towards abortion. Gosnell’s clinic – his House of Horrors – went uninspected for decades. Finally, after Gosnell was uncovered and a year’s worth of push through State legislature, Pennsylvania now requires all abortion clinics to follow the same rules and regulations as any other surgical facility in the state. With inspections – both announced and unannounced – along with facility requirements, the law is now working to ensure another Gosnell does not happen in Pennsylvania.
What if Pennsylvania had even better pro-life laws? What if that pregnant teen was also informed that she could see an ultrasound of what’s inside her – and she agrees? What if she could only obtain an abortion before 8 weeks – before her baby’s heart starts beating? Do you think adding those laws in Pennsylvania would cause even more teenage girls to choose life for her baby?
Pro-life laws not only save lives but can help set a precedent for ending legal abortion altogether. Did William Wilberforce want to end slavery? Absolutely. But it took years of working tirelessly in precedent-setting efforts like ending the trade of slaves before the British Parliament ultimately abolished slavery. The same strategy should be sought regarding abortion.
Laws are not the be-all, end-all of ending abortion. The law is not what a scared pregnant teenager is going to seek comfort in. That comes from the volunteer at your local pregnancy care center. Or groups like Save the Storks who work with care centers to bring mobile ultrasound units to abortion-minded mothers.
Ending abortion comes from the college students who join Students for Life and their Planned Parenthood project to educate campuses about the largest abortion provider in America. It’s the filmmakers who produce a documentary telling the story of women affected by abortion.
These are the heroes in the war on abortion. What equips these heroes are more states passing pro-life laws. The truth is, lives are saved when women see an ultrasound of their baby. Lives are saved when abortion limits are placed at 20 weeks, or 16 weeks or 8 weeks. The more laws recognizing life, the more help we give the heroes on the front lines of this culture war. And, by God’s grace, they help make the case to overturn Roe v. Wade and ending abortion.
Dan Bartkowiak is policy associate for the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization based in Harrisburg.