In 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States legalized abortion on-demand through all nine months of pregnancy via two sequential court cases: Roe v. Wade, and Doe v. Bolton. These were federally rulings which laid down precedent for the entire nation. These rulings have been hearkened back-to by abortion advocates for decades as the final word in abortion rights and legislation.
But what abortion advocates frequently overlook – and what they would like us to overlook – is that the sweeping abortion legislation that forever changed our nation in 1973 started in a single state, in one city where one woman in crisis was set up by a lawyer with an agenda. Attorney Sarah Weddington, whose goal was the legalization of abortion on-demand, led a vulnerable pregnant woman, Norma McCorvey, to believe that abortion was the best option for her troubled situation. With her token pregnant lady in hand, Weddington took the case – denied by Texas courts – all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States where it became Roe v. Wade, and even though McCorvey’s daughter was born before the court proceedings were adjourned, Weddington’s dream came true and abortion has been federally legal ever since.
Some pro-lifers may become discouraged by the thought of overturning a long-standing federal ruling like Roe v. Wade, and may believe that this is the key to ending legalized abortion in our country. But we have to remember that undoing the knot of abortion begins where it started: on the state level. Every single piece of pro-life legislation on the state level contributes to the arsenal that will one day overturn Roe v. Wade. Every piece of state legislation has the potential to ultimately become the modern-day Supreme Court case that will rule abortion on-demand unconstitutional. In the process, local legislation on the state level incurs grassroots interest, and large numbers of local citizens are able to understand Life issues on a more personal level than if they were happening far away in DC.
Pro-life laws on the state level also set valuable precedent for other states. For example, following the intrepid lead of Nebraska just three years ago, nine states have now outlawed abortion after the 20th week of gestation, and this number is rapidly increasing. This means that thousands of pre-born children have been given life as a result of state legislation despite the death sentence that Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton initially afforded them. The swell of enthusiasm that follows one state-level, pro-life success can inspire similar advances very rapidly—many more pro-life bills will be seeking success in the coming months, and the forecast for these is more positive than ever.
The moral of the story is this: Don’t be discouraged by the legally-, scientifically-, ethically-, and philosophically-weak opinions found in Roe v. Wade. Instead, look to the state-level, grassroots successes that are carrying the incredible momentum of the pro-life movement today and find out what you can do to make a difference locally. Get involved with your state’s Right to Life affiliate, or join with other high school or college students as part of a Students for Life group on your campus.