Opinion How do you stop abortion? Here’s what antiabortion marchers told me.

(Washington Post Staff illustration)
2 min

How do you stop abortion? By force of law.

At least it once seemed that way. It’s why, for decades, overturning the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision — which, along with Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in 1992, prevented states from banning abortion — was the antiabortion movement’s signature goal.

Yet the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision did just that last June, and abortion is still with us. While abortion might be harder to access in some states, the ruling has spurred others to codify abortion rights into law. Rather than quiet the debate, Dobbs has energized activists on the other side.

Among participants at this year’s March for Life, it was beginning to sink in that ending abortion would never be as simple as they might have hoped. A new question was in the air as various factions in the antiabortion movement began to contemplate their next steps. After Roe, what would it take to actually end the practice of abortion in the United States? I asked some of the marchers to write down their ideas.

Some proffered religious strategies.

Others recommended pursuing policies to address what many see as the root causes of abortion — from financial insecurity to access to contraception.

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Ahead of the march, Americans United for Life and Democrats for Life of America launched a campaign to “Make Birth Free,” lobbying to provide zero-cost prenatal and delivery care. Their policy would be modeled after the Medicare End-Stage Renal Disease program, which covers the cost of dialysis and treatment for patients with the disease, even those who might not otherwise qualify for benefits. Others cited Sen. Mitt Romney’s proposed child tax credit or expanded parental leave.

Among younger activists, especially, there was a new sense that the next effort would be to convince people outside the movement that abortion has to end.

The complicating factor here, of course, is that views on abortion are values-based: Where one stands is often a moral, ethical or religious choice. Yet the United States is, in principle, a pluralistic society. Some people believe wholeheartedly that abortion at any stage is murder, while others believe as intensely that abortion access is a linchpin of female autonomy.

It remains unclear how hearts and minds can be changed.

The range of responses reveals a movement surprised by its own success, and one only beginning to look ahead.