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Opinion: After pro-choice ruling, pro-life hope still reigns

Reagan Barklage of St. Louis, center, and other anti-abortion activists demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 27, 2016, as the justices struck down the strict Texas anti-abortion restriction law known as HB2. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

There’s no getting around the fact that the Supreme Court struck a blow to the pro-life movement in its June decision on a Texas abortion law. There were tears of joy among abortion-rights activists when the decision was handed down.

But ideology doesn’t always like common sense, or even common ground. Moving from Democratic party rhetoric about “safe, legal and rare” to celebrating abortion as freedom is something we ought to work to declare our independence from.


And there are people doing just that. After the decision, I still saw reasons to be heartened: beacons of encouragement in the wake of the Supreme Court news.

That very same day, Abby Johnson — a former Texas Planned Parenthood director, now a vocal pro-life activist — was overflowing with hope. She had just spent a weekend at a rally in Dallas with 550 pro-life women.

As she explains it: “We came together to proclaim that being truly pro-woman means embracing life, not destroying it.”

She sees these women as an “antidote to the dangerous narrative being promoted by Planned Parenthood.”

Having women from across the country on the same page is an opportunity to form a unified counter-strategy to the “war on women” narratives Planned Parenthood and its political candidates tend to drive, news cycle after news cycle, campaign after campaign.

A highlight of the weekend was a panel where mothers talked about their experiences with adoption.

“In the pro-life movement, we need more education on adoption … how to talk about adoption, how to present adoption as an option and the realities of adoption,” said Johnson. “These women were able to so beautifully and candidly share their experiences in a way that resonated with every woman in attendance.”

Johnson runs a ministry that offers people who work in the abortion industry a way out. She herself knows what it is like to believe you are helping women, and then watch women come back for second and third abortions — and seeing how their lives aren’t better for it.

Her breaking point, she says, was participating in an ultrasound-guided abortion; when you see life and death before your eyes, it’s hard to look away. There’s got to be a better way, she thought. And now she invites people to join her — including abortion clinic workers who need jobs but want out of that industry.

Johnson said: “I encourage those celebrating this decision to really look at what this is doing to women’s health care. Women have been treated as second-class citizens when it comes to the basic standards of health care for far too long. It is time for all women to demand better treatment and better regulations.”

Legislation can obviously only go so far. As Johnson put it: “This ruling only confirms what we already know to be true. While pro-life legislation is important, our focus cannot simply stop there. Our goal cannot be to simply make abortion illegal … It must be to make abortion unthinkable. Now is the time for us to step up our support of the organizations that are providing practical assistance to those in need.”

And now is also the time — a point made by Students for Life (SFL) in the wake of the decision — when millennials are open to these messages. According to a survey SFL and the Barna Group commissioned, “53 percent of millennials think abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances.”

The Supreme Court will do what it will. But the most powerful voices in our country might not be in the halls of power in Washington, D.C., but rather in our homes and neighborhoods.

It has often been said in pro-life circles that women deserve better than abortion. Women may indeed “mother” us to something better — as mothers and sisters and leaders of a culture of life, welcoming all.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USA.

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