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‘Pro-Life’ Laws Have Failed Spectacularly

A little more than three years ago, I addressed what I considered a fundamental disconnect in the movement that still calls itself pro-life. Examining the policies of Trump (then still president) and Biden (then the Democratic presidential nominee), I came to this conclusion [1]:

The events of the last 40 years make it abundantly clear. The politics tell us Republicans are more likely to oppose legal abortion. The data tell us Democrats are more likely to save more pre-born children. Thus, pro-lifers should look to the Democrats as their party and to Joe Biden as their presidential candidate.

As it turns out, that post included two predictions that I must admit were wrong. The first was my skepticism that the Roe/Casey precedents would be overturned. Obviously, the Dobbs decision did just that. My second mistake was on what would happen in the aftermath of the decision. However, in that case, events turned out even worse that I predicted.

Here was my analysis from 2020 (same link, emphasis in original):

The more crushing blow to the GOP argument comes from data and projections regarding the potential effect of a Roe reversal. An analyst published last July (in Contraception [2]) found at most a reduction in abortions of just over 15 percent, and possibly as low as 10 percent. If we look at the CDC [3] data [4] on the ratio of abortions to live births from 1972 (the year before Roe was handed down) and 2016 (the latest year with data), we find a potential abortion reduction of less than 4 percent.

At the time, I argued that a reduction that small paled in comparison to economic policies that would address the financial concerns of prospective parents. Well, the data has come in, via the Society for Family Planning [5] (emphasis added).

In the year since the Dobbs decision, compared to the average monthly number of abortions observed in the pre-Dobbs period of April and May 2022, there were 2,200 cumulative more abortions during the 12 months July 2022 to June 2023.


You read that right, abortions have actually gone up in America since Dobbs. I can’t think of a single piece of data that more clearly refutes the effectiveness of abortion restrictions. A slew of states have implemented them; during that time, over 2,000 more pre-born children died.

I hope this will lead the movement to reconsider its methods. I had some ideas in my 2020 post:

There are plenty of policies that could allay those concerns (paid parental leave, backdating child support to include pre-natal cost, compensating for disruptions to development in career or in education, etc.) while also facing far less political and constitutional resistance.

A larger child-tax credit would also help.

I know I’m asking the movement to change its entire modus operandi. There are tribal political impulses that will get in the way, too. Still, what is more important? Scoring political points or saving children?