As the pro-life movement plans for a nation no longer bound by Roe v. Wade, and the fight for life moves to the state level, we need to be equipped and ready. We must not just talk about and pass laws to protect unborn life, but also challenge the underlying reasons why some of our fellow citizens view abortion as a vital form of “health care” and a constitutionally protected right.
Alexandra DeSanctis has co-authored a book with Dr. Ryan T. Anderson to help inform pro-life Americans as we move forward to making abortion not only illegal, but unthinkable. DeSanctis is a journalist and staff writer at National Review and visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. She joins us on Family Policy Matters this week to discuss her new book, entitled Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing.
Note: This interview was recorded before the U.S. Supreme Court released its ruling in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
DeSanctis explains that she and Dr. Anderson wrote this book to “arm pro-lifers with what we think is the best case against abortion, which goes beyond the fact that this kills an innocent human being—which is, of course, the fundamental harm of abortion—but also to be able to articulate how abortion has harmed our entire society.”
“How could any good come from a choice to kill an innocent human being?” continues DeSanctis. “How could our society be better off? Even though we recognize that women and parents are in all sorts of difficult situations that might make pregnancy or bringing a new life into the world difficult or challenging or involve a lot of suffering, killing that human being is never a solution. None of us are better off as a result of that.”
“Abortion basically says that a human being only has value and worth if he or she is wanted, if he or she is convenient, if some other human being who is in a position of power over him or her has decided that his life is valuable. I think that’s a really scary kind of slippery slope to head down. None of us wants to live in a society where our worth, our value, our right to life is determined by people who have power over us.”
Tune in to Family Policy Matters this week to hear Alexandra DeSanctis dive deep into how abortion harms everything, from relationships to society to science and medicine.
Note: The following interview was recorded before the U.S. Supreme Court released its ruling in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. Americans have been especially focused on the issue of abortion over the last year as the U.S. Supreme Court considers the Dobbs case that directly challenges the legal precedent set by Roe v. Wade, which of course established a nationwide mandate for abortion on demand with very few limitations. The debate surrounding this case has emphasized how important it is for pro-life Americans to be equipped and ready to not just talk about why the protection of unborn human life is important but to challenge the underlying reasons for why abortion is so important to so many of our fellow citizens.
Well, Alexandra DeSanctis is a widely published journalist and staff writer at National Review. She currently serves as a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and she’s written a new book with Dr. Ryan T. Anderson. It’s entitled Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing. She’s here to talk about how pro-life Americans need to move forward after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling.
Alexandra DeSanctis, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS: Thank you so much for having me.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So, talk about why you went ahead and wrote and released this book before we knew exactly how the Supreme Court was going to rule on the Dobbs case.
ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS: Ryan and I were kind of thinking about the challenge ahead for the pro-life movement and it occurred to us no matter how this Supreme Court decision goes—which we didn’t know as we were writing it and we don’t know as we’re recording this—the fight was going to be the same, right? And, of course, it would be a huge victory for the pro-life movement if Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey are overturned, but the fight against abortion is the same fight either way, right? We have to convince everybody around us that every human life has dignity and value, that it deserves legal protection. And we have to help mothers and families in-need choose life and give them the support they need to do that. And that fight matters regardless of what happens with Roe v. Wade. And it’ll be perhaps more crucial if Roe is overturned, as we hope it will be, because this will become a kind of 50 state battle in each state across the country over abortion policy. But, we just kind of wanted to arm pro-lifers with what we think is the best case against abortion, which goes beyond the fact that this kills an innocent human being, which is, of course, the fundamental harm of abortion, but also to be able to articulate how abortion has harmed our entire society.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Okay. So talk about that, because that’s basically your premise, right? Is that abortion…there’s like nothing really good about abortion. It just creates harm. So, talk about why you have taken that strategy in the book.
ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS: Yeah. I think this is a really crucial way to articulate our case for pro-lifers. And it’s our hope that the book will kind of equip pro-lifers to speak about abortion like this, because I think pro-lifers are great at talking about, you know, like I mentioned, the dignity of every human life, the right of the unborn child to live, to be born, all these sorts of things. And that’s obviously crucial, right? That’s the first, most fundamental thing we have to know how to articulate. But, if we think about that a little bit more and kind of go a little bit deeper, if it’s true that every abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being, we have to also believe that this is harmful to everybody, right? How could any good come from a choice to kill an innocent human being? How could our society be better off? And so, even though we recognize that women and parents are in all sorts of difficult situations that might make pregnancy or bringing a new life into the world difficult or challenging or involve a lot of suffering, killing that human being is never a solution. And none of us are better off as a result of that. And the case for abortion, I think, rests on the idea that this is necessary or even good for our society. And that’s simply not the case. It’s not good for women. It’s not good for families. It’s not good for any aspect of our culture.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: You talk about the fact that abortion, especially legalized abortion, actually challenges the roots of what it means to be human. Right?
ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS: Absolutely. And I think, you know, abortion basically says that a human being only has value and worth if he or she is wanted, if he or she is convenient, if some other human being who is in a position of power over him or her has decided that his life is valuable. I think that’s a really scary kind of slippery slope to head down, right? None of us wants to live in a society where our worth, our value, our right to life is determined by people who have power over us.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: You’ve even talked about how the acceptance of abortion challenges a justly ordered political community. What do you mean by that?
ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS: The idea is basically, you know, a lot of times an argument for abortion that we hear is maybe abortion isn’t right for you. And so you won’t choose abortion, but the government shouldn’t be involved in people’s private decisions, right? This is a decision that should be between a woman and her doctor, and the government doesn’t have anything to say about that. But, if a government doesn’t exist to protect the right to life of every human being, it cannot be a just government, right? That’s the first and foremost reason we surrender our liberties to the government is to protect our natural rights, the first of which and the most important and fundamental of which is the right to be alive. So, if we don’t believe that the government has the power to prohibit us from killing one another, what could it possibly exist to do? How could it be a just society without that kind of protection?
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: You know, you spend a lot of your book discussing the various relationships that are corrupted or destroyed by abortion. Why do you do that?
ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS: One of the most unfortunate things about abortion, of course, as we’ve mentioned here, it’s an act of lethal violence against an innocent human being, which is horrible, but that act of violence then has this ripple effect in our society, and I think, first and foremost, between the mother and father of that child. And we know from the data on abortion, what data we have, that a lot of times women choose abortion because they aren’t being supported, whether that’s by the father of their child or by their own parents. A lot of women feel like abortion is their only option because they don’t have that safety net around them. But sadly, abortion doesn’t do anything to bolster those relationships, right. Just kind of pretending the child never existed by eliminating it doesn’t solve that. And in fact, it compounds those problems, particularly between mothers and fathers who have a duty to care for one another and for their children.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: What are some other relationships that abortion might corrupt?
ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS: One thing we point out in the book is just the way in which the loss of the child in an abortion affects the entire family, grandparents who never meet a grandchild for example, aunts and uncles. It kind of ripples out to affect the entire family. We also talk a bit about the fact that these lives are just lost, right? And who knows what those people would’ve gone on to do. And, of course, we can’t say, you know, someone who was aborted might have cured cancer, and that’s why it’s bad that they were killed. Maybe they were going to go on to not be famous at all, or do anything like that that we’d never hear about, and it’s still a grave evil. But to have lost more than 60 million children, human beings, who would be living among us today is a catastrophic loss.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: We’re talking about the different ways that abortions, particularly legalized or accepted abortion, corrupts so many things in our culture. You also mentioned science and medicine. How does abortion corrupt those?
ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS: Well, this is a really important topic. And I think you know, most people, when they think about abortion, kind of think of the second wave feminist movement, which lobbied very heavily for legalized abortion in the 1960s and 70s. But what we talk about in the book is kind of the story of how major medical organizations, foremost of which were the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and then the American Medical Association, both lobbied the Supreme court very heavily in favor of legalized abortion. And that’s not to say that all doctors wanted abortion to be legal, far from it, but this kind of upper echelon of elite doctors made the case that, you know, legalized abortion is actually a protection for doctors, right? They said, doctors, we want to be free to exercise our medical judgment. And, at the time, abortion was illegal in most states, but the person punished was not the woman, women were not punished for seeking abortions. The people punished were the doctors who performed them. And so doctors, kind of at the elite level, at the upper level of these organizations basically said, look, the law is punishing us for exercising our medical judgment, you should legalize abortion, at least in cases that we think are medically necessary. And they defined this very loosely. That was a big part of what the Supreme Court argued in its decision in Roe v. Wade. They really, the majority really bought into that argument that doctors needed to be able to perform abortions. So I think that, from there, we’ve seen that kind of poison the entire medical field. And now, even though there are many, many pro-life doctors and many who won’t perform abortions, most obstetricians and gynecologists will not perform abortions, we’ve seen how this idea of “abortion as healthcare” has really permeated our rhetoric.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So, do you address in your book the concept that some states are taking up that women should be charged with murder if they abort their child? Do you guys talk about that at all?
ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS: We don’t talk about this directly. We talk a bit about just kind of the importance of charity amongst pro-lifers, as we debate what our eventual policy goals will be in a post-Roe world. We talk about that a bit in our conclusion, but we don’t respond to that issue specifically. My personal view, I won’t speak for Ryan, although I think we’re probably in agreement on this, is, as of now, we live in a society where a lot of people don’t understand what abortion is. A lot of women believe that this is fine. It’s been legal for 50 years now. And it would very easily deal with the problem of abortion if we punish doctors who are, you know, first and foremost responsible for conducting these procedures. And then, you know, down the road, who knows how our culture might change. And we could revisit that at that point.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: You’ve also said that, “Ultimately, the case against the evil of abortion is a positive case.” What do you mean by that?
ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS: Yeah. So, I remember kind of adding that into the book as we were working on our introduction, because it occurred to me, this is a very grim topic, right? And this is something I’ve spent six years thinking and writing about now at National Review and then with the book. And it’s just very sad and overwhelming, right? The reality of what abortion is and how often it’s performed, how many people it has harmed, how many people it’s killed, it’s just very grim stuff. But, I kind of wanted readers to realize, look, the reason this is so depressing and sad, and the reason Ryan and I want to encourage people to do something about it is because life is good, right? Abortion is evil because life is good. And we tell a story in the book in particular about a family that welcomed life in a very difficult circumstance, you know, a child who was disabled, who had a very difficult life, but who brought immense joy to his family. And his family learned to, you know, love in a way that they wouldn’t have, if they hadn’t had him as part of their family. And so, just kind of the reality that even in cases of suffering, life is good and beautiful and valuable.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: In looking at your book, the sheer number of footnotes is amazing. So, you didn’t write this necessarily as an academic book. I mean, you wanted it to be accessible to almost any reader. So why all the footnotes? Why was that important?
ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS: Thank you so much for noticing that because it took a lot of work, and I should thank my husband for his help marshaling all those footnotes. But yes, we did. We wanted it to be thoroughly researched. And for me, this has been part of my work now, like I said, for six years. And I always want readers to be able to see where I’m getting my information, because I don’t want them to just take my word for it or to share my opinions because I’m telling them, and I want them to assume I’m correct. I want them to be able to follow the breadcrumb trail, so to speak. I want them to be able to go and double check my work and check my sources, check our arguments against the facts and the research that we did, so that they can, you know, if they want to agree with us, they know exactly where our information’s coming from.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: That’s really important if people are going to be making these arguments out there in the public square, because that’s one of the first things that people come back at. “That’s not true. Or where did you get that information?” So to be able to go back and look in your book to find exactly where you found that information, I think is going to be very important for all of us. This is the last question. So just give us a general idea. What, from all your work over the past six years from writing this book and just being immersed in it, what do you feel like the pro-life movement needs to do next?
ALEXANDRA DESANCTIS: Yeah, that’s the million-dollar question I think. And the way we put it in the book is, nobody can do everything that needs to be done, whether it’s in a post or America or just kind of the new phase of the pro-life movement, no one can do everything, but everybody can contribute something. And so, you know, maybe that looks like writing, maybe it looks like, you know, writing to your Representatives or your Senators. Maybe you volunteer at a pregnancy resource center or you donate to one, if you don’t have time to volunteer. We mentioned in a book maybe that means, you know, welcoming life in your own family in a difficult circumstance and giving witness in that way, or, you know, adopting, being a foster parent. There’s a whole litany of things people can do. But I think the resounding call of our book and what we hope readers take away from it is first of all, that this is not something you can stand on the sidelines about, right? This is a pressing issue, the human rights violation of our time. We all have to do something. And second of all, we have to learn how to talk about this in a way where we can reach people around us and people who think, you know, abortion is not about me. I can sit on the sidelines. I wouldn’t do it myself, but it’s not my problem. We have to reach people like that and help them understand how this really has harmed all of us.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: A good first resource would be to read your book, Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing. Alexandra DeSanctis, co-author of this book, thank you so much for being with us on Family Policy Matters.
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