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Rolling back abortion rights was central to conservatives. What's the focus now?


I spoke earlier this morning with Helen Alvare with George Mason University School of Law. She has been central in helping shape legal theory and strategy for abortion rights opponents. I asked her what the movement's focus is now.

HELEN ALVARE: Pro-life efforts will be concentrated on things like state legislation, state Constitutions, resisting what are going to be probably some pretty intense federal efforts to ensure abortion for nine months for any reason. Pro-life groups have been assisting single mothers and their children with thousands, thousands of centers over the last 50 years. I think they'll try and reach across and maybe have pro-choice organizations start to help them on this. They haven't for the last 50 years. So they'd like to have that.

Finally, I think, know, Janet Yellen and other economists have actually written some law and economics articles showing that you might have fewer unintended in-crisis pregnancies once abortion is just known in the atmosphere to be less available. And then finally - and this is a, you know, religious and spiritual but also just a philosophical and cultural effort - there will be efforts to ensure that, you know, corporations in particular, but also government and other institutions, value caregiving (laughter). I mean, this is the entire future of the country. Millions and millions of women do it and need their help.

MARTIN: Well, let's talk about that because you mentioned pregnancy centers that are out there to help pregnant women through unwanted pregnancies. What happens to all the babies who will be born into potentially unsafe circumstances because the mother is at risk in some way?

ALVARE: Right.

MARTIN: How are those babies going to be cared for?


MARTIN: Because support like that has not materialized over the years.

ALVARE: Well, the first thing is, I guess, to say that pro-life groups have been materializing that support. And I just - I can't emphasize enough how much they would like pro-choice groups to step in instead of just focusing on providing abortion, to step in and provide assistance...

MARTIN: But I have to push back. I mean, the U.S. is the only country in the group of the largest economies without a federal paid family leave policy.

ALVARE: Oh, yes.

MARTIN: The child tax credit hasn't been extended.

ALVARE: Right.

MARTIN: And these are programs many on the conservative right have voted against.

ALVARE: Actually, if you look at the literature on this - one of the most wonderful sites is the Institute for Family Studies - you'll see a huge push in the pro-life movement. It's not everybody, but it's an awful lot and an increasing number who are supporting things like mandatory paid leave, expansion of the child tax credit. We know, however, because we have experiments on this, that money is great. And corporations in particular have got to step up and government should force them. I'm in agreement with that. On the other hand, we also know that sort of this focus on autonomy is problematic on itself. And we really need to talk about a narrative of care for all the lives involved. It's expensive. It's more time-consuming. Corporations would rather pay for abortions, I think, than actually provide this paid leave. But that focus on caregiving as a successful narrative of life that the public loves and accepts ought to be increased.

MARTIN: And of course, it doesn't just fall on corporations. It falls to lawmakers in Congress to pass laws like that.

ALVARE: Absolutely.

MARTIN: I want to ask - 11 states have already passed so-called trigger laws banning abortion or severely limiting it. Do you think a woman who wants an abortion should be able to cross state lines to get one?

ALVARE: You know, what the Dobbs decision says is, states all have rights to pass health, safety and welfare laws. So they do have a right to control in their borders the protection of the health of both the child and the mother together and not just one over the other. People are going to be able to cross state lines to do it. Are people going to be able to give abortion medicine across their state lines in violation of their pro-life laws? No. Are women going to be allowed to go out of state? Yeah. That's been something that, according to the Constitution's interstate right to travel, has been protected from the beginning.

MARTIN: I want to conclude with this question about Justice Clarence Thomas' concurring opinion. He wrote that the court should now, in light of Dobbs, reconsider all the precedents established under the 14th Amendment's due process clause, including contraception access and same-sex marriage. Do you agree?

ALVARE: So I think the court was really, really clear. And Justice Alito is right when he says abortion deliberately terminates a human life. And that is extremely different from all of these other things. And you really can't say that this opinion on one is a decision about these others. I think they would have a fairly easy time on the contraception question, rooting around in the right of privacy, the private home, a private relationship. So I think that that's a very different question.

MARTIN: OK. Law professor Helen Alvare from George Mason University, we appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

ALVARE: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.