Forget the Kids' Menu: The Pro-Life Movement Wants Real Policy Engagement | Opinion

Life-long pro-life advocates know well that achieving real public policy change requires overcoming the home-court advantage of abortion supporters, who have strong networks in academia, politics, media and entertainment. But another obstacle is the dismissiveness of sometime allies who often don't take the time to understand our movement at all. Rather than engaging with the policy perspectives of a large and loyal bloc of voters, politicians offer us limited choices to bring conversation to an end.

While other movements are able to present their arguments directly and are invited to engage in policy debates—able to order off the adults' menu of political options—the pro-life movement's desires are often diluted by self-appointed parental figures. Case in point, a recent article in the New York Times described state lawmakers who aim to pass 15-week abortion limits, and stop there, as an alternative to doing what their pro-life constituents actually want.

Politically speaking, pro-life Americans get stuck with the abortion policy kids' menu. We're presented with a few watered-down options and a nice picture to color, in the form of photo ops, memes or a token line dropped in a speech about other issues.

But almost 50 years after Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, we're all grown up now.

Our movement is fueled by a dynamic base of pro-life Millennials and Gen Z, and has the advantage of seasoned operatives and experienced activists who have agitated for real change across the 50 states, in courts and in the nation's capital. Today the Supreme Court is reconsidering the flawed reasoning of Roe as it evaluates Mississippi's 15-week, pre-viability limit on abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson, laying the foundation for great change on abortion policy.

And we will not be ordering from the kids' menu of abortion policy choices.

Smart pro-life advocates will work in every state to achieve whatever is possible to limit abortion. Those efforts will vary by location in any given political cycle. But today's state policies do not necessarily reflect—much less limit—what the pro-life movement aims to build in the long term: a culture of life where all are protected in law and in service.

March for Life
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 21: Anti-abortion activists march during the 49th annual March for Life rally on the National Mall on January 21, 2022 in Washington, DC. The rally draws activists from around the country who are calling on the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

More than 9 in 10 abortions take place in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, which is why the pro-life generation advocates first for policies that place substantive limits on abortion, such as life at conception bills, heartbeat legislation and strict regulation of chemical abortion pills that can leave women injured, infertile or even dead, along with their preborn children.

Other policy proposals out there offer education and advancement on related issues, but the current political climate allows us to focus on the legislation we care about most. If we don't fight now for a future in which abortion is unthinkable and unavailable, we will never end the human rights atrocity that has cost more than 63 million lives.

This atrocity is made possible in part by dehumanizing attitudes that have infiltrated our culture. These attitudes excuse some abortions based on criteria their victims have no control over—such as a child's disability or the conditions under which he or she was conceived.

As for my organization, we don't support abortions based on people's feelings about how someone was conceived, perceptions of others' abilities or prejudices about their race or sex.

Our great nation has delayed addressing all kinds of social problems by ending lives through abortion rather than solving underlying problems and ensuring mothers have what they need to make new beginnings. Instead of addressing people's suffering, too many advocate for eliminating potential sufferers.

A person's worth does not depend on an ability to feel pain or to live alone and without assistance. A human life, that divine spark, must not be snuffed out because a judge said so or a politician wants to get reelected.

Many speculate about what a post-Roe America looks like. It will require legislators to support mothers and their children—born and preborn—as Texas did when it established $100 million in new funds for young families. Policies like child tax credits, adoption support and flexible work and child care arrangements should be a priority. We should publicize public entities that women, along with private organizations like Pregnancy Care Centers and local church programs—following the lead of Standing with You—so that mothers in need can find help near them.

But to truly protect life from conception to natural death, the debate must not begin by narrowing our aspirations to a short list of choices. Keep the kids' menu; we are looking at all our options.

Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life of America & Students for Life Action, with more than 1,300 groups on middle and high school, college and university, medical and law school campuses in all 50 states. Follow her @KristanHawkins or subscribe to her podcast, Explicitly Pro-Life.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.