50 Years Under Roe: A Look Back at the Pro-Life Movement

Apr 4, 2023

The overturn of Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court’s 2022 Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling ended nearly 50 years of federal recognition of abortion as a fundamental right, sending the abortion rights question back to the states. In that time, 63,459,781 babies were aborted in America, which equals 2,548 babies/day, 106 babies/hour, and 1.8 babies every minute! Nearly two generations of children were never given the right to life.

50 Years of Standing for Life

During the half-century leading to the Dobbs decision, pro-life groups joined forces to support women and save babies. In January 1974, 20,000 people attended the first March for Life in Washington, D.C. In 1975, a crisis pregnancy phone counseling ministry called Care Net was founded to help meet the urgent needs of women with unplanned pregnancies. By the 1980s, televangelists Jerry Falwell and D. James Kennedy began to raise funds to fight abortion.  

Christian psychologist James Dobson spent several decades using his Focus on the Family radio broadcast to educate Christians about abortion. Churches and nonprofit groups formed crisis pregnancy centers, unwed mothers' homes, and adoption agencies. Healing retreats such as Rachel’s Vineyard became popular for post-abortive women as did Bible-based studies to heal abortion’s emotional wounds to the mother. In 1993, a Roman Catholic priest, Father Frank Pavone, started Priests for Life, a ministry devoted to educating both clergy and lay people on how to advocate to end abortion. A decade later, a 15-year-old girl named Lila Rose started a pro-life abortion education ministry, Live Action. In 2007, Roman Catholics organized a national prayer and fasting movement for the unborn called 40 Days for Life, and in 2009, Abby Johnson, a Planned Parenthood director, left the abortion industry and founded And Then There Were None. This ministry helps abortion industry employees find help and emotional healing. Abby shared her life-changing story unmasking the horrors of abortion in the 2019 movie Unplanned.

For Liberty Counsel, protecting the sanctity of human life was integral to the founding of the ministry in 1989. In 1983, Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver watched a heart-wrenching documentary called Assignment Life, which educated people about the horrors of the abortion procedure. After seeing the baby body parts reassembled, Mat was convicted that abortion was murder and decided he must do something about it. In his research, the first case Mat read was the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. Afterward, he felt led to go to law school with the intent to dedicate his life to overturning Roe. In 1989, Mat started Liberty Counsel to protect the sanctity of human life and defend religious freedom.

One of Liberty Counsel’s most well-known sanctity of life cases involves Sandra Merritt. This courageous pro-life grandmother worked with David Daleiden, who filmed undercover videos revealing that Planned Parenthood executives were selling dismembered baby body parts for profit. Planned Parenthood was exposed, and in 2020, the organization sued Sandra and David. Sandra chose Liberty Counsel to defend her, and Liberty Counsel is still supporting her ongoing case.

As the states’ abortion fight intensifies, Liberty Counsel will continue to tenaciously support the pro-life movement, as well as congressional measures to protect life. In June 2022, when Roe was overturned, Mat Staver said, “Liberty Counsel will be engaged at all levels across the country to protect the sanctity of human life and end this terrible scourge of abortion.”

Looking to the next 50

As the war over abortion has entered its next phase, pro-life lawmakers are fighting most battles at the state level in a legislative tug of war. In 2022, 500 pro-life pieces of legislation were introduced in 42 states, 28 pro-life measures passed, and 33 were enacted into law. At the same time, pro-abortion forces responded by introducing their own legislation. In 2022, 231 pro-abortion measures were introduced in 29 states and D.C. and 11 pro-abortion pieces of legislation were entered into law. In eight states (Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont) and Washington, D.C., abortion on demand with few restrictions is legal through all nine months of pregnancy, and some of these laws are akin to legalizing infanticide.

Post-Roe, Liberty Counsel has filed amicus briefs in Oklahoma, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Indiana to support bans on abortion. In Florida and Arizona, amicus briefs will be filed to support each of these states’ 15-week bans on abortion. Our legal team is carefully watching and supporting pro-life legislation at the state level as the opportunities arise.

Liberty Counsel is also standing up for pro-life legislation introduced at the national level, including the Born-Alive Infant Protection Act (HR 26). This bill passed the Republican-led House in January 2023 and was introduced in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The Born Alive Act protects babies who survive an abortion from negligence and mandates lifesaving measures. Even if the Born Alive Act is not signed into law, Liberty Counsel will not shrink back from standing for life.

Our fight against abortion is far from over. Join us!

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