Guest Post by Pro-life Leader Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life
Voting has begun on “Issue 1” in Ohio, and it must be rejected. Issue 1 would invent and impose a “right to abortion” without restrictions onto the State’s Constitution. This is consistent with efforts that abortion advocates are making throughout the nation, having already put such measures in place in Michigan and elsewhere, and preparing such efforts in about eight other states for 2024.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when discussing this effort.
- This is a sign of weakness. If you think this is a sign of the strength of the abortion “rights” movement, think again. If they really believed their own rhetoric that most people are on their side, they would simply introduce a law, as the Dobbs decision says they can do, and make abortion as widely available as they and the citizens and lawmakers who agree with them want.
But in most of the states they are targeting, they have already lost on the legislative level, and they know they would lose again.
That’s because the lawmaking process involves hearings, extended debate, witnesses, documentation, questions and counter-questions, amendments, a moveable timeline, and the opportunity for each citizen to lobby their lawmakers and persuade them of their position.
That’s an intense process. And it might make people think about what abortion is, what harm it does, and what reasonable limits most people support.
The abortion lobby is scared of that. That’s why, for 50 years, they hid behind the robes of the Justices. “It’s a Constitutional right!” was the mantra, the false dogma, that shut down arguments generated by the clear evidence that abortion kills children and harms their families.
They desperately want that mantra back again.
But to impose a “Constitutional right to abortion” in a State Constitution can be done without much thinking on the part of the public. Just draft a few sentences and formulate some soundbites through slick advertising and voila! – you have a Constitutional roadblock to any future efforts at engaging that dangerous lawmaking process that would require abortion supporters to actually defend abortion.
- Americans oppose unlimited abortion. Choose whatever poll you want stretching all the way back to the start of Roe vs. Wade, and you will see that the American people have never supported a policy of unrestricted abortion. Most Americans want more protection for the unborn, not less.These Constitutional amendments are marked by the theme that abortion is a fundamental right, and therefore should not be restricted either by time or any other conditions, including parental involvement in a minor’s abortion.
That alone, if brought to the attention of voters, is enough to persuade many of them to reject these amendments.
- Long Live the Legislative Process! Building on a previous point, rejecting these amendments is not the same as making abortion illegal. What the pro-life side is saying is the same as what the Supreme Court said in Dobbs: let the people decide, through their elected representatives.
Rejecting these radical amendments simply keeps abortion policy in neutral, allowing both sides to continue to educate the public, elect the lawmakers of their choice, and lobby them one way or the other. No existing or future pro-abortion law is affected by rejecting these amendments.On the other hand, passing these amendments violates the will of the people if that state has already passed pro-life protections, as Ohio has done multiple times. The amendments would block enforcement of existing pro-life laws and prevent more pro-life laws from being passed in the future.
- The “abortion right” does not exist. A central argument of the Dobbs decision of the Supreme Court regarding a “constitutional right to abortion” is summed up in three words: “it’s not there!” As the Court said, “Until the latter part of the 20th century, there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain an abortion. No state constitutional provision had recognized such a right. Until a few years before Roe, no federal or state court had recognized such a right. Nor had any scholarly treatise. Indeed, abortion had long been a crime in every single State” (p. 3).This observation obviously carries as much weight on the state level as on the federal level. The absence of any basis for asserting a federal “Constitutional right to abortion” is also the absence of any basis for asserting a state “Constitutional right to abortion.” Where was such a right ever asserted in the interpretation of the Ohio Constitution, or that of any other state? That argument needs to be pressed.
- Show the American people what an abortion is. Anything can be justified by words, by complex arguments, and by slick advertising. In my 30 years of national pro-life leadership, I have yet to find anything more powerful or persuasive to make the pro-life case than the photos of what abortion is. At sites like org, we have the most powerful tools in the debate. Challenge those who want a “right” to unlimited abortion to look at what they are supporting, and to describe what they defend, and watch how frequently they can’t.
Combine this with the testimonies of those who have been devastated by abortion, and you have a powerful case.
A final observation: every state battle needs to be a national battle. The pro-abortion groups bring in money, door-knockers, and advertising agencies from across the nation. The pro-life groups need to do the same, and increasingly are doing so. In my own work, we bring pro-life leaders together on the state and national level to increase the collaboration. This kind of unity is essential to victory.
The battle rages. But that is how it has always been. As was said in the civil rights movement, No lie can live forever. That includes the lie of abortion.