Jeanneane Maxon, Esq., Americans United for Life
I first walked into the doors of a pregnancy center when I was seven years old—when my mother started working as the Executive Director of a large pregnancy center network in Texas.
When I look back, I remember some times of real heartbreak; times when, in spite of our best efforts, a client chose an abortion. I remember times we shed tears of rejoicing, when a client who was set on having an abortion later walked into the center with a beautiful baby.
We grieved the lives lost; we rejoiced in the lives saved, and ultimately we sought to save as many preborn children as possible, all while showing love and compassion to the women facing the unplanned pregnancy.
Similarly, the whole strategy of Americans United for Life (AUL), the legal architects of the pro-life movement, is to save as many lives as possible, all while providing truth and protection to women, and ultimately working for the day when Roe v. Wade will be reversed.
Within the pro-life movement, there are several approaches designed to reverse Roe v. Wade and end abortion. The goal is always the same—protecting the lives of unborn children—but each approach emphasizes a distinct strategy.
Two of the most prominent approaches today are the “Statutory” approach, the approach championed by AUL, and the “Convention” or “Referendum” approach, sometimes called the “personhood” approach.
AUL’s Statutory approach seeks to save lives in the present day primarily through the enactment of AUL’s 40+ pieces of model laws contained in our annual publication Defending Life. These laws have the strongest potential of surviving a constitutional challenge in the courts based on our legal team’s extensive experience and analysis of both the legal record and the Justices’ writings.
AUL has been involved in every major life-related case that has come before the Supreme Court beginning with Roe, and we successfully defended the Hyde Amendment which prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for abortion.
Simultaneously, in a parallel track, the same bills that save lives now also directly attack the current legal foundation of Roe v. Wade and provide the Supreme Court the opportunity to reverse its horrendous decision.
Our work accomplishes three objectives:
- directly attacks the legal foundation of Roe v. Wade to reverse the decision or render it irrelevant,
- prepares the states for the day after Roe when abortion law is returned to the states; and
- saves lives now by enacting laws with the proven effect of reducing abortion.1
Importantly, the Statutory approach also allows the pro-life movement to enact laws that bring attention to the needs of the woman as well as the unborn child. These include protections like informed consent, waiting periods, the right to view an ultrasound, and safety and hygiene regulations for abortion facilities.
Woman-centered pro-life legislation can begin to save lives immediately after they are enacted. But this legislation is also written with a long-term strategic legal view. If Roe v. Wade is ever going to be overturned, the pro-life movement must overcome the false idea that abortion is synonymous with women’s health and well-being.
Currently, the legal status of abortion is dependent on the false notion that abortion is good for women. Several of the Justices, like many in the American public, view abortion as a “necessary evil.” In Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court developed a legal doctrine known as the “reliance interest” in order to continue its support for virtually unrestricted abortion despite the wealth of evidence that proves unborn children are living persons.
The reliance interest focuses solely on women, who supposedly “rely” on abortion to maintain their status in American society. Because of this doctrine, it is highly unlikely that the Court will reverse Roe v. Wade unless the Justices recognize that abortion does not help women—abortion harms women, a truth that pregnancy centers know all too well.
The Convention approach, on the other hand, seeks to protect human life by calling state conventions to amend the U.S. Constitution. To provide some legal context, there are two ways to amend the U.S. Constitution:
- through Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, or
- by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures.
The Convention approach has the proven impact of engaging the grassroots public and the culture overall on the life issue, and should be commended for those efforts.
Unfortunately, as a legal approach, it has historically proven to be very difficult, as none of the twenty-seven amendments to the Constitution have been proposed by state constitutional convention. AUL, in fact, had been involved in early efforts related to the Convention approach before shifting to a statutory-focused strategy.
In addressing the abortion issue, it is of the utmost importance that we are united as well as strategic. As it says in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (NKJ). Part of any overall strategy in the pro-life movement must involve bringing cases that we know cut to the heart of the reliance interest premise upholding Roe v. Wade.
Similar to pregnancy centers, we must work to demonstrate the harm of abortion to both women and their preborn children, while using our best efforts to save as many lives as we can today.
And like pregnancy centers, we are able to rejoice daily in lives saved.
1. Research conducted by Dr. Michael New of the University of Michigan in Dearborn found that even basic commonsense laws like parental consent/notification serve to reduce abortion significantly in states that enacted them. Michael J. New, Ph.D., Analyzing the Effect of State Legislation on the Incidence of Abortion Among Minors, HERITAGE CENTER FOR DATA ANALYSIS (2007), available at http://s3.amazonaws.com/thf_media/2007/pdf/cda07-01.pdf (finding that parental involvement laws and Medicaid funding restrictions significantly reduced the abortion rate during the 1990s).
Jeanneane Maxon serves as Vice President of External Affairs and Corporate Counsel for Americans United for Life.