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With Abortion Rights Under Assault, Pro-Life Leaders See 2019 as a Success

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Supporters of Massachusetts Citizens for Life hold signs during a rally outside the Massachusetts Statehouse on June 17th, 2019, in Boston, Massachusetts. Opposing activists were rallying in advance of consideration by lawmakers of measures aimed at loosening restrictions on abortion.

In the United States, there’s probably never been a better time in the last 46 years to consider yourself pro-life. That’s been the case since the country elected President Donald Trump and handed him two seats to fill on the Supreme Court, tipping the balance toward justices with unfavorable views of Roe v. Wade (an opportunity enhanced by pro-life Republican presidents before him and the machinations of Senator Mitch McConnell (R–Kentucky) in the waning days of Barack Obama‘s presidency).

But the movement has been electrified through a spring of sweeping abortion bans in state legislatures. Suddenly it has seemed not just powerful, but supercharged.

The heady year of anti-abortion successes thus far represents the greatest assault on abortion rights since 1973, and it can’t be concisely summarized: The Guttmacher Institute’s count as of June 1st lists 17 separate kinds of abortion restrictions in 53 separate laws enacted in 17 states, covering an array of areas including health insurance and the concept of fetal personhood. But by far the biggest source of momentum has come from the “heartbeat” bills, laws enacted in five states this year that ban abortions at about six weeks of pregnancy, when an embryonic heartbeat can be detected (at that stage, simply the vibration of cells that could later form the heart). Missouri’s eight-week ban is based on a similar idea. And, of course, Alabama’s ban outlaws abortion nearly entirely (the only exception provides for circumstances of grave danger to a pregnant person’s health).

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