In December, I returned home to Florida from Washington, D.C., after watching the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Only days later, I was in the office of Florida’s incoming speaker of the House. I was there to discuss our 2022 pro-life legislative priorities. Moments after the introductory niceties, he directly asked this hypothetical: “The year is 2023. The Dobbs case has been decided. Roe is overturned. What are you going to ask me to do?”
I was stunned at the frankness of this question coming from the second-most powerful political figure in our state.
I fumbled around and discussed some policy options for him to consider, but I lacked conviction and focus. I should have had a well-thought-out response and should have immediately cast a clear vision for how we can and should end abortion in our state. But I didn’t.
After the meeting, my vague and meandering response to his question haunted me for months.
That experience helped me to see one thing clearly: I was not prepared to discuss a specific action plan for the very scenario I worked my entire adult life to see come to pass.
I also realized I wasn’t alone. Many leaders in the pro-life movement — much less many elected officials — are not ready to seriously think about a nation free from the ugly shadow of Roe v. Wade.
If Roe is overturned, this isn’t the end of the pro-life movement; it’s only the beginning. To prepare for that beginning, there are five areas we can address for what, God willing, will be the single most historic moment in the pro-life movement.
1. Care for women and children
If Dobbs overturns Roe, the most significant change and impact will be the immediate increase in the number of abortion-minded women with unexpected pregnancies who will not have easy access to abortion.
We must be prepared to serve them by helping them decide to parent their baby or place the child for adoption.
Imagine if all the resources spent to end lives through abortion policies could be redirected toward truly supporting mothers, their babies, and families. That future for America is far more hopeful and life-giving.
The pregnancy resource center movement is a remarkable and unique resource with a widespread physical presence in every state. Those centers will need to grow and expand their capacity to handle the increased needs within their communities.
Turnkey, franchise-like pregnancy resource center operations and training need to be developed so that churches and others with resources can quickly start up new centers.
It’s our obligation to explore both private- and public-sector solutions to support pregnancy resource centers.
Major national leaders need to make themselves more accessible and affordable as speakers at pregnancy center fundraisers. Major donors must significantly invest in this movement. Entrepreneurs, pastors, and elected officials will need to step up and be willing to serve on the boards of these remarkable local ministries.
Some states currently provide millions of dollars of direct funding to pregnancy resource centers. However, many centers, especially faith-based ones, are hesitant to take public funding. Centers that accept that funding are required to develop procedures to internally separate faith-based activities from strictly nonsectarian services.
Additionally, a state can extend Medicaid benefits to provide longer assistance to a mother after her child is born. For example, Florida extended Medicaid benefits to a full year after the birth of the child.
Some pregnancy resource centers have become comprehensive women’s medical care facilities. The public funds used for Planned Parenthood could be used to support these full medical centers instead.
2. Law and public policy
If the Dobbs case indeed overturns Roe, then abortion will no longer be considered a federal “constitutional right,” and the issue will be returned to the states.
Fifty state battles will continue, but with greater intensity and greater direct responsibility for the lives saved — or lost — in the states.
That will give many states a clear run at ending or restricting all elective abortions without the concern of a federal constitutional challenge. Anticipating that outcome, 13 states already have passed conditional “trigger laws” that will automatically prohibit all or most abortions after Roe’s demise.
In contrast, 17 states have already passed laws that legalized and codified abortion rights. Tragically, some of those states already have announced their intention to become so-called abortion sanctuaries.
“Purple” states can attempt to pass laws incrementally restricting and regulating abortions until they can realize sufficient political changes that allow them to prohibit all abortions.
A handful of states have state constitutions with express privacy provisions or decisions that grant a fundamental “state right” to abortion. These decisions must be carefully reviewed for potential human life amendments, judicial reinterpretation, or other strategic solutions.
Otherwise, those states will be stuck with state constitutional “abortion rights” for years to come.
At the federal level, pro-life lawmakers should move quickly toward a constitutional recognition of the human right to life for every person, regardless of that person’s location inside or outside the womb.
Both state and federal lawmakers in a post-Roe world also will need to immediately address the rapid increase in chemical abortions.
Chemical abortions lack proper medical oversight, are far easier to obtain illegally, and carry significant risk for women.
Existing and new laws passed after Roe that ban or regulate abortions will need to be correctly enforced. That’s an enormous challenge since district attorneys and local law enforcement agencies often turn a blind eye to violations of abortion law.
While it has been controversial, and even rejected by some pro-life leaders, the use of Texas’ enforcement mechanism that creates an independent civil cause of action for monetary damages with attorney’s fees provisions might be a way to deal with this enforcement problem in the future.
State and federal policymakers also must envision laws that create an American legal landscape where human life is truly cherished.
That means passing laws that recognize the equality of children inside and outside the womb, rerouting resources from funding abortions to supporting families, dramatically improving foster care and adoption options, and much more.
After Roe, it will be critical for legislators to be motivated and have the courage to take political risks without being concerned about the political ramifications of abolishing abortion.
We need to speak of, and think about, abortion as we now look back upon slavery — a shameful and unthinkable practice in a modern, civilized society.
One of the many reasons we could see this historic pro-life moment with the Dobbs decision is the effort to elect pro-life candidates at every level of government.
In pro-abortion states, elected leaders will have no more excuses to blame Roe as “existing law” for their pro-abortion stance. If those leaders continue to advocate for the killing of their youngest citizens, the electorate’s vote to hold them accountable will matter more than ever.
We must continue to maintain that abortion is a moral-disqualification issue. Politicians of any party who are pro-abortion are morally unfit for office, and we must actively work for their defeat.
While GOP convention battles over the Republican platform on life issues are largely a thing of the past, much progress is needed in making inroads into the Democrat Party.
Many states have at least a small handful of strong pro-life Democratic legislators who should be welcomed by the pro-life movement and by their Republican colleagues.
However, on a national level, there are virtually no pro-life Democrats due to the aggressive way party leadership targets pro-life candidates in primaries.
Abortion is not a partisan or religious issue, nor is it strictly a “women’s issue.” Instead, it is a human rights issue.
As such, we should welcome anyone into our movement who will defend the simple truth that innocent human beings, whether they are still in the womb or not, should have their rights protected and never be killed.
While traditionally the pro-life movement has been led by evangelicals and Catholics, it has the potential to expand and even achieve the tipping point necessary to create a more widespread and permanent culture of life.
The pro-life movement must continue to make it a priority to educate the public, and especially the church, regarding the science and beauty of early human development and the horror of what an abortion actually is.
We will especially need that in liberal, blue states with pro-abortion majorities in their legislatures.
Pro-life activists in blue states should begin to think through long-range education plans to change the hearts and minds of residents and leaders within those states.
Churches must be mission-minded on this issue — preaching, teaching, and directly engaging with and supporting pregnancy resource centers.
Every church in America should include one or more local pregnancy resource centers as an active part of their missions budget.
Pro-lifers in the arts, film, and entertainment businesses should expand production of music, movies, and other media that creatively speak to the value of human life and the evil of abortion.
Pro-life artists of every type should consider at least one unique project that somehow addresses the issue or contributes to the conversation.
The pro-abortion lobby will likely have a massive multimillion-dollar media campaign right after the official Dobbs decision comes out. We need to be prepared for this enormous propaganda blitz that will be seen and heard everywhere.
Pro-lifers should go on the offensive with smart messaging, and lawmakers in every state must be equipped with the pro-life messaging and talking points to engage the media.
5. Direct action
Other than the pregnancy resource centers, those involved with direct action outside of abortion clinics are some of the great unsung heroes of the pro-life movement.
Those in this role will need further support, growth strategies, collaboration, and networking. Many sidewalk counselors are local saints, not affiliated with any national group, but who faithfully show up at abortion mills to pray for, call out to, and offer to help women entering abortion facilities.
Such individuals need to become better organized and train a new generation to come behind them and do the same courageous work.
The other aspect of the direct-action movement has been pioneered by Lila Rose with Live Action. Single-handedly, this young woman, at the age of 15, began organizing undercover stings that recorded the lies, fraud, abuse, and other illegal activity by Planned Parenthood that should have been the work of law enforcement.
Those undercover efforts must continue, but will need to transform to counter the strategy the abortion industry will employ in a post-Roe world.
Perhaps the most important part of preparing for a post-Roe world is creating and casting a vision for an abortion-free society, especially for elected officials and other leaders.
We need to show them we can create a world where we can love children and not kill them, and that we can create a world where adoption is always the better choice.
We also need to show we can create a world where we care for both women and their children. Surgical abortions in Texas have almost completely stopped, and the sky is not falling.
Without a clear vision for an abortion-free world, we can’t see the goal, and that causes apathy and discouragement. Creating vision motivates and encourages people and gives them fresh faith for what can be in the future.
Truth, humanity, compassion, and science are all on the pro-life side. Most importantly, we can say with prophetic clarity that God is on our side.
If we work together with a clear vision, we will not only end abortion in America and beyond, but we will also see the life that comes after Roe.
Originally published at The Daily Signal.
John Stemberger is an Orlando attorney, former Political Director of the Republican Party of Florida, and leads the conservative organization Florida Family Action.