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Anti-Abortion Rights Activists Watch As Movement Gains Ground


Alabama officially has the most restrictive anti-abortion law in the United States. Governor Kay Ivey signed the measure into law yesterday. Doctors who perform abortions could now face up to 99 years in prison in that state. But Alabama is not an anomaly. Other states are trying to roll back access to abortion. Today Missouri's Republican-led Senate passed a bill aimed at banning abortions at eight weeks of pregnancy. Kristan Hawkins is president of the anti-abortion organization Students for Life and joins us this morning.

Welcome back to the program.

KRISTAN HAWKINS: Thanks for having me.

GREENE: So is the strategy of the anti-abortion movement to get laws like the ones I just mentioned to the Supreme Court with a hope of overturning Roe v. Wade?

HAWKINS: I think that's what you're seeing here. Various state legislatures, they're kind of rushing at this point to be that state that is the case that the Supreme Court finally takes up to reconsider their findings in the 1973 Roe and Doe decisions.

GREENE: Well, I mean, this Alabama law, even the conservative televangelist Pat Robertson said it goes too far. He said that if this law gets to the Supreme Court, quote, "this one will lose." Does this law go too far?

HAWKINS: Well, first of all, I don't think Pat Robinson (ph) represents the pro-life generation. I haven't heard...

GREENE: He's certainly been central to the movement over the years, though.

HAWKINS: I haven't heard from him in a very long time. I think what's unique about this Alabama law is that legislators are being consistent. In the pro-life movement, you know, we acknowledge the horror of rape and the trauma that sexual assault victims must endure. But, however, we know that our humanity doesn't depend on the circumstances leading up to our conception, that you're wanted-ness (ph) or the circumstances surrounding your conception don't change your value. You have value simply because you are a human being. And all human beings have that equal right to life.

Because we don't issue, you know, like, points on birth certificates where you're ranked higher based on your parents' income, or marital status, or level of education or whether or not there were candles lit when you were conceived. It doesn't work that way. Either all humans have a right to live, or none of them do.

GREENE: But you bring up cases of rape, which, I mean, this law doesn't cover. You know, and abortions in those cases would be criminalized, as I understand it. I mean, in the years before Roe v. Wade, a lot of women died as a result of illegal abortions that they felt they wanted and needed to get. I mean, how does the anti-abortion movement keep women from resorting to unsafe options like that?

HAWKINS: Well, I think one thing you have to acknowledge is a lot of the falsehoods that are out there surrounding the years before Roe v. Wade. 1960, Planned Parenthood's own medical director Mary Calderone declared that 90% of all illegal abortions were being committed by physicians in good standing. So this myth of the back alley abortion isn't actually true. Mary Calderone, just a few years, later claimed that because of the invention of penicillin, the deaths of - because of illegal abortion were under 500.

The CDC, the year before Roe v. hands down, measured abortion deaths, illegal abortion deaths, under 50. And while those deaths are tragic, that still doesn't justify legalizing abortion. You know, the 13th amendment banned slavery in our nation. And while it didn't completely stop all slavery - we know slavery still exists in our world today - it greatly, greatly reduced it. And so that's not really - that's not an argument for why we should keep something legal that's killing over a million people a year.

GREENE: Well, a lot of what you brought up, I mean, has been debated over time. We don't have time to get to it now. But let me just ask briefly, I mean, Brett Kavanaugh, in his confirmation hearings, said that Roe has been reaffirmed many times over 45 years. Why are you confident this court would do that?

HAWKINS: Well, I think, you know, dismantling Roe and reversing Roe, it may not be in one decision. And pro-lifers aren't certain as to how it's going to happen. The court, actually just this week, though, reversed a 40-year-long opinion. So I'm not worried about what the Supreme Court is going to find. I'm watchful, and I'm hopeful. I think Roe is destined to become a historical footnote. Once again, another tragic period in our history in which a group of people weren't valued equally.

GREENE: Kristan Hawkins, thanks so much.

HAWKINS: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.