Pro-Life Attorneys Inspired to Defeat Abortion Step by Step

by Kelsey Hazzard

Forty years ago, the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade, which struck down democratically enacted limits on abortion. Ever since, the courts have been a critical arena in the abortion war. Nearly every piece of pro-life legislation is challenged in court by pro-abortion groups like the Center for Reproductive Rights. Pro-life individuals unjustly (but routinely) find themselves in court for exercising their right to protest or their freedom of conscience. And every Supreme Court nomination is a drawn-out battle for the vote needed to overturn, or to maintain, Roe v. Wade.

Advocates for Life

All of this means that the pro-life movement needs a strong corps of ethical, intelligent, and experienced attorneys. Thankfully, many excellent attorneys have given their talents to the cause, often doing so pro bono. And thanks to the work of Advocates for Life, a new generation of lawyers is ready to continue the tradition of pro-life advocacy.

Founded in 2009, Advocates for Life is an organization for pro-life law students. Chapters exist at many of the nation’s top law schools, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia. Advocates for Life is an initiative of Americans United for Life (AUL), which has been described as “the legal arm of the pro-life movement.” Through Advocates for Life, law students become engaged with some of the most complex and morally significant legal issues of our day.

On January 25, just hours after the March for Life, pro-life attorneys, law students, and supporters from around the country gathered at AUL’s D.C. office for the annual Advocates for Life reception. The keynote speaker was Hadley Arkes, the architect of the federal Born-Alive Infant Protection Act (BAIPA). BAIPA, which was passed with massive bipartisan support and signed into law by the second President Bush, provides legal protection to babies who are born alive after surviving an attempted abortion. It was enacted in response to the gruesome practice of “live birth abortion,” in which labor is induced prematurely and the tiny newborn left to die without any medical treatment.

Arkes used the history of BAIPA to defend a strategic, incremental approach to ending abortion and establishing legal protections for unborn children. BAIPA, Arkes said, represented an invitation to dialogue with abortion advocates. In the ongoing debate over when human rights begin, BAIPA extended a simple option: how about after a baby is born? Can we at least agree that the child has rights at that point?

This presented a conundrum for pro-abortion groups. Naturally, they did not want to appear extreme to the public. But they also understood—“even better than we did,” according to Arkes—the fundamental challenge that BAIPA posed to the entire abortion rights philosophy. Supporting BAIPA meant acknowledging that wantedness does not determine a baby’s rights. Once the survivor of a live-birth abortion was treated as a legal person with rights, why not the baby who is halfway out of the womb for a partial-birth abortion? Why not the baby in the womb a week earlier? A month earlier? Five months earlier?

These concerns outweighed the desire to appear reasonable, and NARAL Pro-Choice America did not come out in support of BAIPA. But legislators, fearing a backlash from voters, refused to follow NARAL’s lead. In fact, BAIPA passed the Senate unanimously, demonstrating the power of the pro-life electorate.

As a pro-life strategy, BAIPA has two goals. One is to serve as a backdrop for future life-protective legislation: if the rights of newborns were not guaranteed, it would be that much more difficult to establish the rights of those not yet born. The second is to save lives in and of itself. Most abortions are not performed with the “live birth abortion” method—but as Arkes noted, even if we save only a few lives, those lives are worth all our efforts.

In a recent speech on the Sandy Hook shootings, President Barack Obama unwittingly echoed this theme, saying that “if there’s even one life that can be saved, then we’ve got an obligation to try.” He was speaking only about gun control, of course. When he was a state senator, Obama opposed Illinois’ version of BAIPA, saying that it would “undermine Roe v. Wade.”

There is no doubt that Obama is the most pro-abortion president our country has ever seen. But the pro-life movement will not stop fighting. With the help of a new generation of attorneys, we will continue to act strategically to save more and more children, until abortion is finally made history.


 Kelsey Hazzard is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and a legal fellow at Americans United for Life.

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