‘Leave-it-to-the-states’ won’t work: Why we need a federal abortion law

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun12,2024

Over the last few weeks, we have seen intense debate reignite over the role the federal government plays in limiting abortion. The backdrop to such debates is the upcoming presidential election, as well as the cultural reverberations around the overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022.  

There has been some confusion about the Dobbs decision. It did not simply “return abortion to the states.” Rather, it returned the power to protect the unborn to the voters, who can exercise this power through both their state and federal elected officials.  

The Dobbs decision empowers states to enact pro-life laws that cover the period before viability — that is, approximately 22 weeks into a pregnancy or earlier. Under the Roe regime, states were not able to enforce such laws. Thankfully, many states have now implemented life-protective laws since the decision came down. To date, 24 states protect women and unborn children prior to viability. (Three of these are currently in litigation.)

Of course, the reverse is also sadly true. Twenty-six states currently have few or no protections for unborn babies, even at the stages where their hearts are beating, where they suck their thumbs or where they can feel pain. Seven of these states, along with Washington, D.C., have virtually no limits on abortion — not even a prohibition on painful dismemberment abortions. 

This is why the U.S. must enact some form of a federal limit that protects unborn children nationwide. Otherwise, we continue on our deadly path, where over half of the country is exposed to the harms of abortion, and the human rights of the unborn are ignored. 

It can be hard to comprehend that the most developed country in the world, the U.S., permits late term abortion in more than half of our states, even though 65 percent of Americans consistently believe that abortion should be illegal at least after the first trimester (about 12 weeks), and 80 percent believe that it should be illegal after the second trimester (about 24 weeks).

Our nation is in shameful company with its lack of protections for the unborn. Only seven other countries allow late-term abortions, including some of the worst international violators of human rights such as China and North Korea.  In comparison, 47 out of 50 European countries have stronger protections for the unborn, limiting elective abortion to 15 weeks’ gestation or earlier.   

Even pro-choice Americans know that a seven-pound baby, almost fully formed, who has not yet been born, deserves the right to live. But the law does not reflect this reality.

Pro-abortion rights activist groups are relentlessly fighting against this truth. The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood are pushing to increase the number of states with a right to abortion in their state constitutions through lavishly funded abortion ballot initiatives that are often confusing, full of euphemisms and deceptively worded to hide their true meaning. 

Their efforts have successfully turned even pro-life states like Ohio into abortion destinations, and they are set on doing the same this fall in Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Missouri and numerous other states.  

National pro-life protections are critical as these pro-abortion rights activists continue to fight for extreme abortion legislation at the federal level, such as the abortion lobby-backed Women’s Health Protection Act, which goes even further than Roe, nullifying the commonsense protections in place in pro-life states and allowing abortion everywhere until the moment of birth.

President Biden has explicitly supported the passage of that bill, saying, “Put it on my desk, so I can sign it into law.” 

We cannot be naive. Abortion activists and elected officials have coalesced into a formidable, unified force that is laser-focused on legalizing abortion on demand, up until birth, in every state in the nation and enshrined at the federal level.   

This radical vision for America will become reality if pro-life elected officials do not similarly unify around a strong federal stance to protect human life. In the face of this aggressive assault on life at both the state and federal level, we simply do not have the luxury of abandoning the federal fight.

We must remember our ultimate goal of saving unborn children, protecting vulnerable women and ultimately making abortion unthinkable — and we will keep Marching for Life in the nation’s capital, at the doorstep of our federal policymakers — until we have achieved this goal. 

Ignoring the need for federal protections of unborn life will do untold damage: in actual lives lost, in women who regret being involved in abortion and in our culture at large. Mother Teresa once famously said of our country and abortion laws, “America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation….Human rights are not a privilege conferred by government. They are every human being’s entitlement by virtue of his humanity. The right to life does not depend, and must not be declared to be contingent, on the pleasure of anyone else, not even a parent or a sovereign.”  

The cultural stakes are high; the world is watching to see if our great country, land of the free and worldwide arbiter of human rights, will remove itself from the radical ranks of China and North Korea on abortion policy, and instead embrace a culture of life.

Jeanne Mancini is president of the March for Life.   

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “‘Leave-it-to-the-states’ won’t work: Why we need a federal abortion law”
  1. Why is there so much debate over the federal government’s role in limiting abortion? Can’t the states decide for themselves?

  2. Do you think a federal abortion law would be able to effectively address the varying state legislations and protect unborn children nationwide?

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