AUL President & CEO Dr. Charmaine Yoest is quoted in the current Time magazine in an article on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.


The modern era of state restrictions on abortion began in 1992 with the Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The court upheld Roe v. Wade but said states have a right to regulate abortion as long as they don’t write laws that impose an “undue burden” on women. Pro-life politicians enacting laws to limit abortion are now testing the limits of the Casey ruling. Their ultimate goal is to land another abortion case before a sympathetic Supreme Court in an attempt to overturn Roe. Along the way, in what Charmaine Yoest, president of the antiabortion group Americans United for Life, describes as a strategy to “work around Roe,” pro-life activists hope to severely–or completely–curtail access to abortion at the state level.


Establishment abortion-rights organizations oppose nearly all abortion-specific regulations. Pro-life activists view their opponents’ hard line as an opportunity to use public support to push for laws that have the indirect effect of making the process of terminating a pregnancy more time-consuming and expensive. “As we work on this common-ground package of legislation, we are more where the American people are,” says Yoest of Americans United for Life.

Activists like Yoest are playing a long game that kicked off when the antiabortion movement wholly adopted the label pro-life in the 1970s. Then, in the 1980s and ’90s, as pro-life protesters were dragged to court over their activism at abortion clinics–blockading entrances, “counseling” patients seeking abortions and occasionally resorting to violence against doctors and staff–they slowly built a formidable legal apparatus that serves their cause today, says Joshua Wilson, an assistant professor of political science at John Jay College whose book The Street Politics of Abortion will be published this year. Of pro-life activists he says, “If they can get laws on the books, great, because they have the legal resources to defend them when they’re challenged. It’s an integrated strategy that’s very impressive.”

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