As more pro-life justices get appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, talk of overturning Roe v. Wade and returning the decision about abortion to the states has significantly increased. In preparation for this federal action, many states have passed abortion legislation on both ends of the spectrum. Students for Life America is the nation’s largest pro-life organization, and works to train thousands of students in preparation for the battle against abortion that has already begun.
Kristan Hawkins is president of Students for Life America, and she joins Traci DeVette Griggs on Family Policy Matters to discuss the plethora of battles and victories her organization has seen across our nation on the life issue.
Abortion advocates are “terrified Roe is going to fall,” says Hawkins. “So states like New York, California, Illinois, they’re rushing to firm-up abortion for all nine months of pregnancy for whatever reason—and taxpayer funded—because they already have a post-Roe v. Wade America in mind.”
“This is why our states need to be passing more abortion restriction laws,” Hawkins urges. “This is a two-pronged goal. Our vision as states isn’t simply to make abortion illegal; it’s also to make it unthinkable.”
“And so it’s not just passing a law saying no more abortions; it’s also passing laws that assist women and help women and give women the truth, so that no woman ever feels like she has to choose between her life and the life of her child.”
Tune in to Family Policy Matters this week to hear more from Kristan Hawkins on this critical issue, and how we all can become involved in the pro-life movement.
TRACI GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. What would a Post-Roe America look like? Well, that was the question on the minds of tens of thousands of Americans who braved the winter cold recently to march on behalf of America’s smallest citizens, the unborn. But this year’s March for Life in Washington, DC was historic because for the first time ever, the sitting President of the United States attended in person.
Kristan Hawkins played a key role in events surrounding the March this year. She is President of Students for Life of America, the nation’s largest pro-life organization, that has helped build over 1,200 student pro-life organizations and has trained more than 55,000 students nationwide. Students for Life was a sponsor of this year’s National Pro-Life Summit designed to, “bring the generations together under one banner,” and which hosted a variety of sessions on the theme, “History Maker: Casting a Vision for a Post-Roe America.” Kristan joins us today on Family Policy Matters to discuss what that would look like.
Kristan Hawkins, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
KRISTAN HAWKINS: Thank you for having me today.
TRACI GRIGGS: Let’s start with the headlines. What was the impact of having the sitting President of the United States attend the March for Life in person this year for the first time ever?
KRISTAN HAWKINS: Well, I think there are several major impacts that we saw. One, allowing the press to cover the issue. This has always been an issue for us in the pro-life movement of getting the mainstream press, who doesn’t really want to cover our issue of abortion, to actually cover the March for Life. You know, largely it’s unreported, despite the fact that this is huge. The March for Life is the world’s largest annual social mobilization; it turns out more people than any cause in the history of the world ever. I mean, hundreds of thousands of people, yet it gets largely zero coverage. So I think one, having the President there was just largely impactful for us to get our message across and having people talk about abortion, which we know any time abortion is discussed on media it helps. It changes minds because truth is ultimately on our side. I also think it showed just how far the pro-life movement has come. Historically, our movement has had challenges of getting politicians, getting political leaders on both the left and right to pay attention to this issue of abortion, to see it more than just something they talk about on election year and not engage on, not take action on the rest of the year. And I think it showed just how important ending abortion is to the President, to his Administration, the fact that they made this a priority to be there.
TRACI GRIGGS: We hear a lot about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, and people seem to think that we’re closer than ever. But of course we know that even if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the battle is far from over. So you of course know very well that the pro-life movement has to be addressed on many fronts. We have federal laws, state laws, local cultures, even individuals’ attitudes. So let’s start at the top. What is good news for the pro-life movement at the federal level?
KRISTAN HAWKINS: At the federal level, there’s a lot of good news. We have appointed pro-life justices in waves. So we have two new pro-life Supreme Court justices sitting on the [U.S.] Supreme Court. We technically have that pro-life majority in the court. I think we need more, especially when we talk about ensuring that the Supreme Court justices have the courage to do what they need to do—which is reverse Roe v. Wade—and think we do need more, but that’s huge. And you’ve got justices not only sitting on the Supreme Court, but then in lower district courts. I think there something like 113 District Court judges have been approved, and 43 U.S. Court of Appeals judges. And these are all following President Trump’s initial campaign promise back in 2016 to appoint only pro-life Supreme Court justices. So this is going to be, I think—when we look back in the history books and looking at President Trump’s tenure, what he did for the movement, the judges—that’s going to be the number one thing we look at because this is going to have impact for decades.
President Trump’s Administration has allowed states to go ahead and defund Planned Parenthood of Title X family funding. That’s huge. We’ve stopped overseas taxpayer abortion, so U.S. tax dollars are no longer supporting organizations overseas that are promoting or committing abortions. Required health insurance companies to disclose their health insurance plans through the Obamacare exchanges, if they cover abortion. So that was actually one of the things that most Americans didn’t realize. When Obamacare passed, they were told they weren’t even allowed to disclose if your health insurance plan—that you had to sign up for through Obamacare—was funding abortion. You also have strong pro-life appointments to good positions, to cabinet positions. Personnel is policy in Washington D.C. and the President has upheld those promises.
TRACI GRIGGS: Also on the federal level, I know Students for Life of America has been closely following the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). We’ve seen that come back into the national conversation recently. What does the ERA have to do with abortion?
KRISTAN HAWKINS: The ERA has everything to do with abortion. It has this nice sounding name, Equal Rights Amendment. Everyone’s for equal rights, I mean because that’s actually what we are for in the pro-life movement, correct? We as pro-lifers, we believe at the moment of conception you are equal to me, that it doesn’t matter your age, your size, your location or your level of dependency, you are equal to me because we’re both members of the same species; we’re both human beings. We actually, in the pro-life movement, make equal rights arguments every single day on college and high school campuses. The Equal Rights Amendment? That’s a Trojan horse for abortion. So we know this, and I can read you the statements from the abortion industry leaders.
But I think the best way to look is at states that have passed state ERAs: New Mexico, Connecticut. Their state Supreme Courts, after the passage of their state’s ERA, held that their state must allow for abortions in all nine months of pregnancy for whatever reason—and taxpayer funded—because it was unfair that women can get pregnant and men can’t get pregnant. And so therefore making women equal to men in the eyes of the law means that you have to pay and use tax dollars to pay for abortions. This is what this whole fight has been about. The abortion industry, Planned Parenthood, the political left is very afraid that Roe v. Wade is going to fall, that Roe v. Wade will be reversed, and the decision of abortion will go back to the states. And so they’re looking at ways, they’re looking at places they can engage to force taxpayers to pay for abortions to ensure and enshrine abortion into our Constitution. But don’t be fooled: ERA is the “Everything Related to Abortion” act.
TRACI GRIGGS: Wow. Okay, so let’s move to the state level. You’ve mentioned states, but there has been an increasing polarization among the states, with many states passing strong pro-life laws aimed at protecting the dignity and rights of the unborn, and providing help to pregnant mothers. While several other states have moved in the opposite direction, lifting restrictions on abortion, even to the moment of birth in some cases. So what do you make of all of this?
KRISTAN HAWKINS: We can very clearly see that the “issue”—and I hate calling it an issue of abortion—hasn’t really been worked out by the voters, and we’re starting to see that. I think what I talked about earlier about the abortion left—those who advocate for abortion—they’re terrified that Roe is going to fall, and so that’s what we’re seeing on a state level. So states like New York, states like California, Illinois, they’re rushing to firm-up abortion for all nine months of pregnancy for whatever reason, and taxpayer funded, because they already have a Post-Roe v. Wade America in mind. They’re already thinking about it. “What do we need to do in our state to make sure we allow women to have as many abortions as possible?” And so that’s why we’ve been talking to pro-lifers to say, “Look, this is what they’re already doing. They’re already preparing for a Post-Roe America in their state. This is what we need to be doing as well in the pro-life movement. This is why our states need to be passing more abortion restriction laws of making abortion unthinkable and illegal.” As you all know, this is a two-pronged goal. Our vision as states isn’t simply to make abortion illegal; it’s also to make it unthinkable. And so it’s not just passing a law saying no more abortions; it’s also passing laws that assist women and help women and give women the truth so no woman ever feels like she has to choose between her life and the life of her child.
This is why state elections matter and when you have a state race—and it may not be a U.S. Senate race or U.S. presidential race—you still have to get out! Christians have to get out and vote because the left has seen how we’ve been successful. I mean, if you look at where we’ve had the most victories in the pro-life movement in recent years and recent decades, it’s been the state level. There’s a minimum of 500 laws that passed in state capitals, protecting life, saving babies, saving mothers lives. And so the left has seen that and so now they’re going to go back and focus on state capitals because they realized the majority of state legislatures are pro-life; they’re controlled by Republicans. And so this is a big concern for Christian people of faith to know. You’ve got to be engaged in state level politics. I think when we look in the 24-hour news media and we watch Fox or CNN or whatever we’re watching, it’s always focused on Washington DC, as if Washington is the epicenter of power, but it’s not. It’s your state Capitol. And when Roe is reversed, when the decision of abortion comes back, each and every state, the battle is going to be there. And that’s what I’ve been working for with Students for Life, and what we’ve been building with our 1,200 now 1,300 chapters, and all the students. So much of the pro-life movement focuses on Washington, DC. At the moment Roe is reversed, the battle goes to 50 states.
We will have to be ready to execute 50 simultaneous battles to make abortion illegal. Some battles we’ll win instantly, and there’s going to be really long-term states like California and Illinois and New York. But every single one of those states, even the states that move to make abortion illegal immediately, we’re going to have more work to do it. So there’s a lot of work to do and to be honest with you, that’s what keeps me up at night.
TRACI GRIGGS: I hope people across North Carolina are hearing you loud and clear because as a person that works in public policy, kind of behind the scenes here in North Carolina, I’ve seen these radical pro-abortion bills that get introduced and because we have pro-life people in leadership, they get squashed immediately, they don’t even see the light of day. But they’re waiting, they’re waiting for the opportunity to get a hearing. So you’re right, you know, we’ve really got to be vigilant here on the state level and continue to elect pro-life people or we could be just like Virginia.
KRISTAN HAWKINS: Yep, that’s exactly right. North Carolina? They are coming for you, North Carolina! They have made it very clear; you can read their strategy documents. North Carolina is always listed and so just don’t think it’s going to stop in Virginia. We’ve fought a piece of legislation in California for three years called SB 24. It was just signed into law in October, just went into effect last month, that’s going to now transform every single state university in California to an abortion vendor. Every state campus health center now must dispense RU 486, the abortion pill on campus. It’s a terrible, terrible bill. Not only are more babies going to die, women are going to die on these campuses from these toilet-bowl abortions. It’s a horrific abortion procedure. They were very clear and open during the entire three-year battle, “This is our test case, this is our test case.” Guess what? Now I’ve got legislation in New York and Massachusetts and Illinois all saying, “Oh yeah, we want to pass that too.” So they’re going to start in one state and they’re going to move to the next. So North Carolinians need to be ready.
TRACI GRIGGS: Great. Well we are about out of time. Do you want to give us some parting words of encouragement as far as what we need to be doing to change hearts and minds, or how we can prepare for this Post-Roe world?
KRISTAN HAWKINS: I want to encourage you because I think so many people say, “I want to be involved, but where can I be involved? I don’t know where I can be involved.” Every single person can be involved in the pro-life movement. It doesn’t matter your experience, your skill-sets, your gifts, your fears, you can be involved. There’s a place for you, because the pro-life movement isn’t just political. The pro-life movement isn’t just praying in front of an abortion facility, or isn’t just working on a college campus or working in a pregnancy center. There are so many different places for you to plug in to engage. I actually was just thinking, I have a website we just put together with a bunch of other national pro-life organizations last month, it’s called beahistorymaker.org. I would encourage you, if you feel convicted to serve in the pro-life movement but you don’t really know where to get your start, go to beahistorymaker.org. It’s literally a two second process, put in your email and select the category where you want to get involved. We have listed out five different key ways you can get involved in the pro-life movement, and then we’ll actually send you an action kit, a toolkit for how to plug in—state, local and federally—into the pro-life movement.
TRACI GRIGGS: Oh great. So that’s easy, beahistorymaker.org.
Kristan Hawkins, President of Students for Life of America, thank you so much for joining us today on Family Policy Matters.