Is Post-Roe America More Pro-Life, or Less?
You’ve undoubtedly heard that Republicans have found themselves, as Caroline Vakil relates over at The Hill, in “political quicksand when it comes to abortion,” evidenced by underwhelming performances at the polls since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The end of Roe was a pyrrhic victory for Republicans, say both forlorn conservative squishes and giddy leftist pundits. The suggestion by both is that Republicans underestimated Americans’ appetite for laws allowing babies to be slaughtered in the womb by the tens of thousands each year. The most recent example cited for this crisis in the pro-life movement is the popular ballot initiative in Ohio that legislated a right to abortion at the state level.
Among these voices is Jon A. Shields at The Atlantic. He suggests that “abortion foes” dreamed that the end of Roe would pave the path to a “more pro-life America,” but “that’s not how things are panning out.” He contends that as soon as Roe was overturned, “voters turned against the pro-life cause everywhere they could, resulting in even some red states legalizing protections for abortion.” He further suggests as evidence that Republican presidential candidates who “might have pressed for sweeping abortion restrictions” in previous cycles are instead “advocating for a 15-week limit, a policy that would protect the large majority of abortions.”
Is it true that we do not live in a more “pro-life America” today than we did prior to the overturning of Roe? It’s hard to say, and it very much seems to depend on where you live. For example, in the six months after the Dobbs v. Jackson decision overruled Roe, the monthly tally of abortions had fallen nationally by six percent, from roughly 82,000 to 77,000. One year after the decision, however, the abortion reporting effort called #WeCount found that there was actually an increase in monthly abortions after Dobbs, from 82,115 per month before Dobbs to 82,298 per month in the year that followed.
In #WeCount’s findings, not only is it apparent that abortion drastically decreased in states with limitations while the number of abortions increased substantially in states like California and Florida, but the data show that there were 10,000+ more abortions than the monthly average that were recorded in March of 2023. This is a curious spike in the data that skews the results dramatically. For example, if we remove these 10,000 abortions from the annualized number of abortions, it yields 977,576 abortions in the year after Roe was overturned, which is 81,465 per month — a marked reduction from the pre-Roe sample monthly average.
With regard to the question as why this anomaly occurred, the answer is almost certainly the phenomenon known as “abortion tourism.” Almost immediately after the Supreme Court handed the decisions on abortion back to the individual states rather than the federal government, corporate leviathans began incentivizing employees in states where abortion was curtailed to get pregnant and abort their children as an annual vacation package.
Why corporations might do such a thing is no mystery. As Becket Adams writes at The Washington Examiner:
If you wrote a dystopian thriller about a world where multibillion-dollar corporations subsidize abortion to keep female employees on the clock and avoid paying increased insurance premiums, a good editor would send it back and say, “This is too on the nose.”
When companies like Amazon began offering their recent college grad employees “up to $4,000 in travel expenses annually for non-life-threatening medical treatments including abortions,” it represented a direct incentive to young women. We shouldn’t be mystified as to how or why several thousand young women flocked in 2023 to Florida for abortions, a state which saw the “third most abortions overall” and “the second largest increase” in the wake of Dobbs — and in March of 2023, there were 9,020 abortions in Florida, 3,020 more than the pre-Dobbs average of 6,000 per month.
Indeed, you don’t have to be a sleuth or an avid reader of dystopian fiction to calculatewhy several thousand young women, likely unhappy in their jobs and struggling to get by as young, single earners, might take advantage of a financial incentive to go to Florida in the month of March. And hey, for the company employing them, paying for a Panama City vacation for a few days is certainly a cheaper proposition than delivery costs of a child in the hospital and the required maternity leave.
At any rate, it appears that the Florida Spring Break abortion spike was a one-time deal. Governor Ron DeSantis has since signed a bill banning abortion after six weeks, commonly known as a “heartbeat bill.” Given that from June of 2022 to June of 2023, there were nearly 100,000 abortions in the state of Florida, I think we can safely say that Florida is doing its part to make America more pro-life.
Florida’s new abortion law has been cited by Donald Trump as a mistake as he attempts to paint himself as a moderate on the issue, saying that he personally thinks it’s “too harsh.” He’s certainly entitled to that opinion, but the question isn’t what Donald Trump thinks about a heartbeat bill. It’s what the people of Florida think about a heartbeat bill.
If effectively communicated, this pro-democracy and pro-federalism message would be a tremendous selling point for both Republicans and many Democrats. Rather than having some corrupt politician or unelected judge in Washington decide what you can and can’t do around abortion, your state can carefully and nimbly craft laws around the issue of abortion that work for its specific population.
If you’re among the 22 percent of Americans who love abortion and think they should be available at any point up to birth, you’re likely to live in a place like California, and you can take solace in the fact that there will continue to be lots of abortions in your state.
If you are pro-life and are among the 13 percent of Americans who believe that abortion should never be allowed because it is always the ending of a human life, you may live in a place like Texas. Your state legislators now have the ability to craft laws more aligned with your values and beliefs, and you can likely take solace in the fact that your state will be industrially killing thousands fewer babies in the womb than neighboring states.
If you’re the among the 65 percent of Americans who maintain that at some arbitrarily defined point in pregnancy, the child is gestationally developed enough that destroying the child would trouble your conscience, your state legislators can now craft a law that is closer to your liking, too.
This is all possible only because Republicans have been promoting a decidedly pro-life agenda these past years. Ten years ago, the idea that Roe would not be a permanent touchstone for America on abortion was outlandish, and my advocating for a ban on late-term abortion made me an extremist. Five years ago, we had a president who got elected promising to nominate judges who would overturn Roe, and my arguing for a 20- or 24-week “viability” abortion ban made me an extremist. Now Roe is dead, and my arguing that a child with a beating heart is a life worthy of protection may make me an extremist, sure — but a 15-week ban is now considered a fairly moderate and sober policy goal.
It would be incredibly difficult to appraise that trajectory and these circumstances as anything other than America being a much more firmly pro-life country today than it was pre-Dobbs. But if, in fact, we are not living in a more pro-life America today, that’s certainly not the fault of Republicans. It’s a clear result of the incestuous relationship between soulless, multibillion-dollar corporations and Democrats bent on maintaining high abortion levels in this country.