A Pivotal Year for Pro-Lifers

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: With a presidential election, a pair of abortion cases before the Supreme Court and numerous state measures on the ballot, Catholics must march for life all year long.

Pro-life activists march outside of the U.S. Capitol during the March for Life in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. This year's march is January 19, 2024.
Pro-life activists march outside of the U.S. Capitol during the March for Life in Washington, Friday, Jan. 20, 2023. This year's march is January 19, 2024. (photo: Jose Luis Magana / AP )

The 2020 presidential election cycle was uniquely challenging for faithfully pro-life Catholics — yet the stakes are even higher this time around in 2024.

After Joe Biden’s triumph in November 2020, the U.S. bishops were unable to celebrate the election of the second Catholic president of the United States without reservation. Instead, they were forced to take immediate steps in an attempt to counter the implementation of the new president’s extremist pro-abortion agenda, which runs completely contrary to what his professed Church teaches about the sanctity of unborn life. 

Three years later, the bishops’ worst fears about the direction of the Biden administration have been confirmed. At every opportunity, legislatively as well as administratively, the president has pushed forward with his abortion extremism, in open defiance to what his faith declares about the issue that the U.S. bishops have reaffirmed repeatedly as the “preeminent priority” for Catholic voters. 

Even worse, in close collaboration with the abortion lobby and the overwhelmingly pro-abortion Democratic caucuses on Capitol Hill, Biden is seeking to eradicate the opportunities for pro-life legislation at the state level that were created in June 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court finally overturned its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had wrongly held abortion to be a federal constitutional right. 

And he has already identified this objective as the central plank of his reelection campaign. In early January on NBC’s Meet the Press, his deputy campaign manager pledged that Biden’s Day 1 priority for a second term in the White House would be to thwart Dobbs, reaffirming the earlier promise by another senior reelection strategist that the focus on abortion “will be the central pillar of the campaign moving forward.” 

As primary season kicks off this month in Iowa and New Hampshire, Biden’s fixation on promoting abortion rights at every conceivable opportunity highlights a primary responsibility for Catholic voters during this year’s election cycle: assessing where individual candidates stand on abortion. In defense of unborn human life, it’s critical to find out which candidates are pro-life and strive to get them elected. And this time around, it’s an equally high priority at the state level as it is federally, given that Dobbs has returned authority over abortion law to individual states.

And while Dobbs was indeed a critical turning point, the Supreme Court will once again hear two important abortion-related cases this year. One involves the federal government’s move to expand access to the chemical abortion drug Mifepristone, a case that could have enormous implications, since roughly half of abortions today use this method rather than surgical means. At issue in the other case are medical exceptions to state abortion bans and whether the federal government can force doctors in hospitals that accept federal funding to provide abortions. Meanwhile, there are more cases working their way up through the lower courts. 

Another crucial priority is for local pro-life movements to mobilize to maximum effect in states where abortion-rights measures could be in play this November. Measures to enshrine on-demand abortion in the state constitution have already been placed on the ballot in New York and Maryland, and activists are pushing for additional pro-abortion ballot measures in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada and South Dakota. In Colorado, competing abortion measures are being advanced, with pro-lifers there promoting an initiative that would prevent harming a fetus.

The composition of state legislatures can also be in play, when it comes to derailing state-level efforts to constitutionalize abortion. That’s currently the case in New Hampshire, where pro-life legislators might be able to forestall a ballot initiative because it needs the approval of a supermajority in both houses of the state Legislature.

Coming off the string of losses in recent state ballot initiatives that have taken place since Dobbs, it’s imperative to formulate strategies to counter the abortion lobby’s false rhetoric, as this misleads voters about what’s really in play. One key message to deliver to those who aren’t fully informed is the reality that abortion activists are pushing relentlessly for on-demand abortion, right until birth. Polls consistently document that the large majority of Americans oppose this extremist, life-destroying agenda. This point — that abortion activists, not pro-lifers, are the real extremists in this legal and political debate — needs to be emphasized at every opportunity.

The second false narrative that must be effectively rebutted is the abortion lobby’s lie that legal abortion helps women and that a pro-life legal framework hurts them. Here, the facts about the undeniable and permanent injuries that abortion causes to women should be persuasively communicated. 

But what’s even more successful in terms of countering this dishonest narrative is to highlight the loving commitment of pro-life centers to provide women in crisis pregnancies with nonjudgmental assistance free of charge, both before and after their children are born. 

Voters also need to know how the pro-life movement has mobilized in the post-Dobbs era across the nation, augmenting the help already provided by these pregnancy centers with additional initiatives, such as the U.S. bishops’ parish-level Walking With Moms in Need program. Pro-lifers are also taking the lead in crafting state-level legislation that will provide much-needed government support to further assist women in choosing life.

In fact, this aspect of the pro-life movement is the central focus of this year’s Jan. 19 March for Life in Washington. Organized around the theme of “Pro-Life: With Every Woman, For Every Child,” the event will highlight that the pro-life movement’s “backbone and heartbeat” is the support it provides to women struggling to cope with unexpected pregnancies. 

At this pivotal pro-life moment, U.S. Catholics need to commit ourselves to marching forward boldly with this life-affirming message — not only on Jan. 19, not only throughout this crucial election year, but, rather, at every opportunity in our daily lives. The stakes are life itself, so we can’t afford to do anything less in terms of carrying our faithful convictions into the public square.

God bless you!