Right to Life March Falls on Deaf Ears as Dobbs Makes Abortion Issue More Difficult for Republicans

by Ken Reid

The 50th annual pro-life march took place in DC January 19; it has been held every year since 1974, the year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade, that women had a constitutional protection for abortion, and thus negated 50 state laws regulating the procedure.

It was cold and snowing, but thousands of committee pro-lifers showed up; could have been 100,000. I was not there, but the media coverage was quite limited.

You would think the pro-life movement won with the June 2022 “Dobbs” Decision, which overturned Roe and put the regulation of abortion back to each state. But alas and alack, that is not the case.

Abortion, as I wrote after “Dobbs,” still continues but is down in numbers since 1991 due to the advent of better ultrasound, home pregnancy tests and public education about unwanted pregnancies. There are no back-alley coat-hanger abortions, as the histrionic pro-abortion forces predicted, and if anything, prolife forces seeking six-week bans and the like are being flustered by the political process.  

The abortion drug, Mifeprex, was approved in 2000 and now comprises a majority of all abortions in the U.S. – only for use up to 10 weeks of pregnancy. A pending Supreme Court case may determine if the drug stays on the market or will be subject to state review  – thus negating the Constitution’s “commerce clause” and federal pre-emption, and creating more havoc in this nation. 

I don’t expect that to happen. Some 626,000 abortions occurred in 2021, the most recent year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has numbers 

Anti- abortion groups continue to press their cases with state legislatures for. restrictions and some want a national ban by Congress, which is counter to “Dobbs” and has no chance of passage.

In my view, the movement is a religious-based one that Republicans going back to Ronald Reagan have tapped into for political support. However, poll after poll through the decades tends to show that the nation supports abortion rights – – and even though a good majority support restrictions on “late-term abortions,” Democrats and pro-abortion groups have sown doubt in the minds of voters, mainly female voters, about what that means.

If anything, “Dobbs” meant taking away a “right” from women, regardless of the facts.   

Meanwhile, pro-abortion forces have figured out a means to circumvent state  bills and other restrictions by going to the voters with constitutional amendments. One such amendment passed in conservative Red Ohio last fall,  and similar efforts are underway for the 2024 ballot in 11 states —  Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Maryland (which has no real restrictions in law), Montana, Nebraska, Nevada and New York (which also have no major restrictions on abortion at all) and South Dakota.

Besides Ohio, Michigan, Vermont and California citizens passed constitutional amendments to enshrine abortion rights, according to this informative web site .

Currently, 23 states enable citizens to put constitutional amendments on the ballot, while others only allow a state legislature to put them before the voters.  

Virginia’s Democrat controlled General Assembly is sure to pass an Ohio-like constitutional amendment in this session, and by law, it must pass two-consecutive GA sessions, but apparently cannot be on the ballot in 2025, but must wait until 2026. 

Whether on the ballot or not, the fact that abortion is on the front-burner means benefits to Democrats, as we saw in the 2023 Virginia GA elections. Nevada activists, for example, just got court approval to start collecting signatures to put the abortion-on-demand constitutional amendment on this fall’s ballot, which could generate a lot of Democrat voters, thus hurting Republican chances.

And the same could happen next year in Virginia’s statewide elections – even if the amendment won’t be on the ballot until 2026. The liberal media are complicit in the Democrats’ efforts to stoke fear and limit rational debate.

The election of another Democrat governor in 2025 will definitely turn Virginia into another failing Blue state, unless Republicans can redefine the debate, which we have failed to do.

As much as I have been pro-life since the 1990s when my ex-wife and I went through fertility issues, as a former elected official  I supported states’ rights on abortion, but federal pre-emption over abortion drugs to preserve our Constitution’s commerce clause.   

But it’s very apparent given the backlash against “Dobbs” that it was easy for GOP candidates to say they were pro-life as long as Roe was in effect and we did not have to take a stance on it or vote on any bills to regulate it. Now that state politicians have control over it, abortion has become the “4th rail” of politics and Democrats are using it to their advantage.

In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin decided to touch this new “4th rail” by introducing a 15-week restriction in the 2023 GA session. It was moderate, as it would impact no more than 400 abortions in Virginia and the bill proposed exceptions for rape, incest and to “protect the mother’s health.”

As such, few abortions in Virginia would be restricted and there were other states for women to go to if they really needed one. However, Democrats argued to voters: How far will Republicans go if they have a majority? As a Republican candidate for State Senate, I tried to focus on issues that impacted way more people, but the media/Democrat fear campaign put the issue on the forefront and we lost control of Richmond – perhaps for good.   

In my view, national Republicans failed to get ahead of the issue in 2022 and quell the histrionics with fact  I think they were afraid of insulting the pro-life forces by reminding them that abortion on demand is still available in some 24 states; that the abortion drug will stay on the market and that “Dobbs” merely put this medical procedure back to where it belonged (state control).   

So, to those pro-lifers who celebrated the  50th anniversary of their DC confab, I wish you well in your pursuits but in many respects, you did not win the war with “Dobbs,” just a battle, and we Republicans are losing the war on the state and national level as a result of our embrace of your movement.    

Ken Reid is a former Loudoun County supervisor and Leesburg Town Councilmember who was the GOP nominee for State Senate in District 37 in Fairfax County in 2023.  He also is a journalist by trade, and published newsletters in the FDA field for 30 years.