Get Ready!

Jan. 22, 2022, commentary by Penny Pullen, president, Life Advocacy Resource Project

             While the Supreme Court mulls its upcoming ruling in the Dobbs case reviewing the constitutionality of Mississippi’s post-15-week abortion ban, pro-life citizens – particularly those involved in pro-life advocacy or ministry organizations – are contemplating (or should be) the impact the Court’s ruling will have on society and on their own work.

             Based on history, it is important for all of us to do that, for the questions and comments of the Justices during the Dobbs oral arguments December 1 suggest a majority on the high court will – at the least – conclude that the Mississippi statute can stand. Beyond that, it is, as many observers have stated, entirely possible that a majority of the Justices will go so far as to vacate the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion that upended America’s jurisprudential embrace of the right to life of all human beings, born and unborn.

             Much as we long for that outcome, we need to face the expected late-June Dobbs ruling not just as cause for celebration (ranging from modest to jubilant) but as a time when America will be shaken up as a result. There are two camps in the abortion wars, after all. It is critical that the pro-life side gear up, for the abortion cartel most surely are doing that even now. Why do I think this? Because of what I observed (and experienced) the last time the abortion lobby feared Roe was going down.

             It was the Supreme Court’s Webster decision in 1989 that brought the most volcanic change in abortion-lobby behavior. Since Webster is seldom cited, we’ll quote here from the Wikipedia definition of the case: “Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, 492 U.S. 490 (1989), was a United States Supreme Court decision on upholding a Missouri law that imposed restrictions on the use of state funds, facilities, and employees in performing, assisting with, or counseling an abortions [sic]. The Supreme Court in Webster allowed for states to legislate in an aspect that had previously been thought to be forbidden under Roe v. Wade (1973).”

             While the high court deliberated on Webster, in the early months of 1989, the abortion industry and its political allies developed a strong defense of their lucrative industry, expecting that Roe could be overturned. The high court, as it turned out, took a middle ground, upholding a reasonable state-legislated limit on how abortionists did their business but clinging to its wrongly decided Roe “precedent.” The abortion cartel’s conclusion: We’re going to have to fight this out in the political realm and not depend solely on the Court. And the political realm in which they placed their chips was the states.

             In 1989, I was a Representative in the Illinois General Assembly. Over my years of membership in the Illinois House, I had become one of the leading voices for the right to life of unborn children. Much of the legislation being enacted during the 1980s was regulatory; Roe v. Wade stood as a barrier to bold initiatives, but every time a colleague or I sought merely to regulate abortion, we had to fight Planned Parenthood and other abortion lobbyists to enact legislation bringing to Illinois a minor regulation here or there. I was honored to sponsor a major bill criminalizing the intentional homicide of an unborn child by means other than abortion; it established a principle without actually interfering with the abortion lobby, and one of our committee witnesses testified he was personally “pro-choice” when it came to abortion but was at the committee to endorse my proposal – a memorable moment!

             The Webster ruling scared the abortion lobby, though, giving them impetus to develop obfuscating language like “pro-choice” (not mentioning abortion), and to build networks of volunteers and paid operatives to mount political campaigns to take out overt pro-life lawmakers and intimidate wobblers into submission.

             In the summer of 1989, the abortion lobby moved its developing political machine into Virginia, whose legislators are elected in odd-numbered years. Their suddenly well-funded, carefully planned attacks on pro-life lawmakers there drew blood in November that year. Abortion had never before been an issue in state legislative campaigns, and some of the Virginia General Assembly’s pro-life members had not thoroughly thought out their stand. Their constituents had not thought through the issue, either, and were thus gullible to attacks of “extremism” against lawmakers they had thought they knew.

             Not knowing how to respond to the attacks, too many of the Virginia lawmakers defensively insisted they were not extreme and proved it by abandoning their pro-life stand in “the hard cases,” such as when a young woman’s pregnancy results from a sex crime. Running for the tall grass only made matters worse, and many of these nominally pro-life legislators lost their elections that year. The abortion lobby was emboldened and sharpened its verbal weapons as it moved on to flood other states with sudden controversy.

             Illinois was next, and I was targeted in the 1990 March primary, challenged by a political unknown whose willingness to embrace unfettered abortion drew hundreds of thousands of dollars from Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Rights Action League and a newly formed state-based abortion PAC. Though I did not back away from my pro-life stand, I did not know how to combat the leviathan’s arrival in my previously conventional, politically favorable suburban district, where I had not faced a primary challenger in years and had always handily defeated my general election opponents. On primary day, the returns showed me down by 31 votes, and a six-month recount and court proceeding put me back on the ballot for a six-week general election campaign. My opponent’s campaign never stopped, and the rematch in the 1992 primary took me off the ballot for what would have been my ninth term.

             I brought in a professional strategist for that 1992 round, and I have never regretted the advice he gave me. We took the abortion issue to my opponent, and seasoned political observers on the scene concluded that I won the abortion issue in that campaign. The damage done to my reputation among voters in the uncertainty surrounding the 1990 battle – plus abortion lobby attacks from places as far away as New York and San Francisco into my Chicago suburban district – was too much for us to overcome, and I soon found myself planning a future I had not expected.

             All this to say, it is critical that pro-life politicians and activists be ready for the next onslaught. Life Advocacy Resource Project was founded to pass along to pro-life communicators – especially the front-liners – the lessons I learned the hard way. We have been doing that since 1992 and have achieved successes in many contests. We stand ready for our front-liners this year.

             Our candidates and officials should not be reticent about raising the abortion issue and illustrating the extreme positions taken by their political opponents who favor “abortion rights” but never elaborate on the implications of their stand. Since the Roe edict was passed down in 1973, after all, there have been more than 63 million abortions committed in the United States. Numbers from the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion “research arm,” indicate at least ten percent of those babies killed by abortion were very late in their development. As many as five to six million American babies, then, were killed even though they could have lived outside the womb (or had come close to reaching that ability). The Mississippi law being debated in the Supreme Court this year gives such unborn human babies the right they deserve – to live. And political candidates and officials who oppose the Mississippi law can and should be called out for their extremism. Our pro-life candidates should be encouraged to challenge their abortion-backing opponents on this injustice.

             It is critical, too, that ordinary pro-life citizens prepare for the coming fight. Among the ways we all can do that is by putting more emphasis on donating cash and volunteer time to pro-life ministries such as pregnancy care centers. Whether the Supreme Court in June overturns Roe or even falls short but upholds Mississippi’s law, ministries offering alternatives to abortion for distressed moms are going to need to be strengthened. An onslaught is coming – in the political world and also in the world of service to expectant mothers. Let’s prepare our candidates – and our front-line ministries – to meet the coming challenge with joy and also with both discernment and courage. Amen.