Women’s Lives Don’t Depend on Taking the Lives of Their Children

In hearing oral arguments tomorrow in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court should not be swayed by the ‘women rely on abortion’ trope.

Accompanied by her seven children, Amy Coney Barrett arrives Oct. 12, 2020, for her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation in Washington, DC.
Accompanied by her seven children, Amy Coney Barrett arrives Oct. 12, 2020, for her Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation in Washington, DC. (photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

“Surely it is dubious to suggest that women have reached their “places in society” in reliance upon Roe, rather than as a result of their determination to obtain higher education and compete with men in the job market, and of society's increasing recognition of their ability to fill positions that were previously thought to be reserved only for men.” 

With that dissenting opinion in the 1992 Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Chief Justice William Rehnquist pointed out the absurdity of the argument that women need abortion to succeed.

In the 20 years since Rehnquist’s dissent, the argument has ricocheted around the nation and our courts and in fact has been used as a rationale to invalidate a Mississippi law that protects babies from abortion after 15 weeks. 

Oral arguments in that case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow. Of the many outcomes possible — including the invalidation of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision — among the most absurd would be if the justices bought into the bogus belief that women can’t succeed unless we can kill our children.

Dozens of friend-of-the-court briefs were submitted to the court on behalf of Mississippi and a number of them refute directly the “abortion reliance” fallacy. Among the most noteworthy is the “Brief of 240 Women Scholars, Professionals and Pro-Life Feminist Organizations”. It pulls no punches in asserting — and backing up with facts — that far from helping women “there is evidence that widely available abortion has disadvantaged women.”

The brief points out that the first woman was elected to Congress in 1916, four years before the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. Several laws aimed at banning discrimination against pregnant women were passed decades before Roe. The roles that women assumed during World War II showed society — and women themselves — what the “fairer sex” was capable of accomplishing.

The National Organization of Women’s “Statement of Purpose” in 1966, drafted before the bizarre notion of “reproductive justice” was dreamed up, did not even mention abortion. 

And as the abortion rate and ratio has continued to go down in recent years, the success of women in society has continued to go up.

To say that women cannot succeed without abortion both offends truth and denigrates women. 

Look at Cathy Lanier, the former Washington, D.C., police chief. She gave birth at 14 years old, was married at 15, divorced at 18 and on her way — through hard work and a supportive family — to earning multiple degrees and becoming the first woman to lead the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia.

Look at Wendy Davis, who got famous for filibustering the Texas Legislature for nearly 11 hours in opposition to laws that would protect the unborn and their mothers. As a young single mother of two daughters, Davis — again, with family support — graduated from Harvard Law and went on to become a Texas state senator. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, another abortion cheerleader, has five children and doesn’t seem to have been held back by it.

While Davis and Pelosi avidly support abortion, this story of one of the many successful pro-life moms is instructive. She has seven children, including two who are adopted and a biological child with Down syndrome. On her way to accept a nomination to a big job, all seven children accompanied her on an early Saturday morning — a feat every mother who has raced against a school bus can admire.

The good news is that this mother is Amy Coney Barrett, the third of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominees. She will not be swayed by the ridiculous “women rely on abortion” argument, as we hope the other justices aren’t either.

As the arguments in this Dobbs case point out, Roe vs. Wade, aside from being immoral, unconstitutional and unworkable, is simply obsolete. It is based on obsolete history, science, law and cultural assumptions. 

And among those cultural assumptions that needs to be jettisoned once and for all from the court’s jurisprudence is this offensive and unsubstantiated idea that somehow, in order to achieve the fullness of their own lives, women have to be able to take the lives of their own children.