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The future of the anti-abortion-rights movement


Abortion opponents have waited decades for the moment that arrived on Friday when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Now their fight enters a new phase. Next up, a push for a national end to abortion.

Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life of America, one of the country's biggest anti-abortion groups. Welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

KRISTAN HAWKINS: Thanks for having me, Ari.

SHAPIRO: How do you see the next phase of this fight unfolding?

HAWKINS: Sure. Well, you know, we've been preparing for this moment, as you mentioned, for decades of preparing young people, getting involved, building relationships with legislatures across the country. And so I see it very much as a twofold fight that we have, you know, not only at the state legislative fronts, but also on the streets and in the communities.

SHAPIRO: That's happening at the state level. Is there also a federal effort in Congress to prepare Republicans if they take over the House and Senate to introduce legislation that would create a federal ban on abortion?

HAWKINS: Yeah, well, I was actually up at the Senate today meeting with some staff before I headed out of D.C., and yes, those conversations are happening. You know, we were pushing for our U.S. senators to act and to speak up against the violence of abortion.

SHAPIRO: You say our senators. Who's leading the effort on this?

HAWKINS: We've met with several senators. Obviously, they were Republican senators. But we, you know, more than welcome Democrats to join in this human rights movement.

SHAPIRO: You don't want to name names right now, I take it?

HAWKINS: No, I don't want to name names right now, but thank you for that and that push.

SHAPIRO: Because you have been working towards this for so long, I'm curious how far along the process is. Like, is there already draft language for a bill that could be introduced in Congress if the GOP took control tomorrow?

HAWKINS: Yeah. I mean, there's already bills that have been introduced. For example, Representative Alex Mooney from West Virginia introduced the Life at Conception Act this February. Just earlier last week, we are working with Representative Bob Good out of Virginia to get a discharge petition on that bill. We've seen the heartbeat bill - the ban abortions when heartbeats can be detected - already introduced in the House.

SHAPIRO: You're pointing to the fact that different laws have different standards, whether abortion is banned at six weeks or 15 weeks, whether they have exceptions for rape or incest or the life or the health of the mother. Is there consensus among the groups that you're working with?

HAWKINS: Yes. The pro-life movement is very much united because banning abortions, restricting abortions at the moment a heartbeat can be detected is a consensus issue. I just saw a Trafalgar poll out just last week - it was in the New York Post I believe this morning - saying, you know, more than 50% of Americans think that abortion should be restricted when a heartbeat is present.

SHAPIRO: One criticism of the state laws that have already passed is that they were not written by medical experts and in some cases are vague. Our colleague Leila Fadel is in Kentucky, where she spoke to an OB-GYN named Dr. Louis Monnig. He described treating ectopic pregnancy as a potentially life-threatening situation that will never result in a live birth. Here's what he said.

LOUIS MONNIG: Many of us are put in this hard position of having to choose between doing what we think is right and necessary and having to worry about possible criminal consequences. And it may be that there is that exception for life-saving measures. But that may not stop us from getting accused, charged with something and having to go through the whole process of dealing with that.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Are you scared?

MONNIG: I am scared. And I think a lot of us are because there's nowhere else in medicine that is policed and regulated and now criminalized to such a degree.

SHAPIRO: Kristan Hawkins, what would you say to a doctor in his situation?

HAWKINS: Well, I'd say it's very clear when a life-threatening ectopic pregnancy is occurring. There's an ultrasound that's performed, and it's clear. And the intention is to save the life of the mother. We know that child is not viable. The child cannot survive outside of the fallopian tube. Every single pro-life law in America that is introduced, debated, passed always includes an exception to save the life of the mother.

And so I would say that's a very tragic situation that we do know occurs. No one in the pro-life movement wants to see women die. This is, you know, why we are pro-life. And I think he's exploiting that very sad situation to try to make a case for abortion all nine months, which is what we're hearing over and over again from those who are pro-choice.

SHAPIRO: As you push Republicans in Congress to pass a nationwide ban on abortion, would you also like to see them advance programs designed to help families and children like the child tax credit, which lifted so many children out of poverty and ended when Congress failed to renew it?

HAWKINS: We've been very clear in the pro-life movements that, you know, it's not about just making abortion unavailable, it's also about making abortion unthinkable. That is why, you know, we have initiated students who are called Standing With You that list public and private resources and support. That's why...

SHAPIRO: But in terms of federal programs that actually lift children out of poverty, I mean, there are many things that Congress could pass, whether that's...

HAWKINS: Absolutely there are. There are.

SHAPIRO: ...Universal child care, and those are things Republicans on the whole have not pushed for.

HAWKINS: Yeah. I mean, we - I think there are substantive policy debates that we can have about the different policies and what policies we believe. And we know using statistics would be the best to advance and end child poverty, end child hunger, to support women and families who are, you know, unexpectedly pregnant and now, you know, have a family to feed and clothe and house. And we would love to have those discussion.

I love to have these discussions about specific policies. I love to get into the facts. I worked in the government. I certainly have a lot of opinions about health care, having two children with advanced genetic life-threatening diseases myself. But I would say we need to start with this discussion that if we say every human life is valuable, then we need to protect human life in the womb. And that's what we're saying in the pro-life movement.

SHAPIRO: Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life of America. Thank you.

HAWKINS: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.