by Sophie Trist
It’s been over a year since Dobbs vs. Jackson reversed the calamitous Roe decision and returned the authority to make abortion policy to the states. This has resulted in a patchwork of laws across the country, under which abortion is banned in some states after a fetal heartbeat is detected, while in other states, preborn children can be killed up to the point of viability and beyond. Tracking abortion statistics is a tricky business, because reporting mechanisms vary widely across states. However, it is generally agreed that abortions have decreased in the year since Dobbs. The mainstream media universally treats the drop in abortions as a negative thing, and the language they use completely erases the thousands of babies alive today who probably would have been killed if Roe was still the law of the land.
According to a report released by the Society of Family Planning in April of 2023, abortion declined 6% in the six months following the Dobbs ruling. The thirteen states with near-total bans saw 7,000 fewer abortions. It isn’t yet clear if some of this decline can be attributed to people exercising more caution in sexual activity or contraception use, but some babies who would have otherwise been aborted are now getting a chance to live and change the world. From the available data, we can estimate that somewhere in the neighborhood of 32,000 children are alive today because of Dobbs.
In its coverage of the abortion decline, the mainstream media is almost universally negative. An NBC news article lamenting the aftermath of Dobbs highlights the story of a woman with a high-risk pregnancy whose daughter was born fourteen weeks premature. While the article does quote the mother as saying she loves Elena, this quote is left for the very end of the article. The authors spend more time emphasizing Elena’s health problems and disabilities, insinuating if not outright stating that she and her family would be better off had she not been born. The article also devotes significant space to abortion advocates who bemoan the reduction of abortion access for low-income Americans, promoting the killing of preborn children as a mechanism for ameliorating poverty.
An article in Jezebel, known for its rabid support of on-demand abortions without apology, erases the voices of pregnant people and children altogether, solely focusing on abortion providers talking about the unrelenting trauma of unplanned pregnancy. Nowhere in this article is there any redemption for people who continued unplanned pregnancies or their children; they were denied abortion, so their lives will be unending misery and poverty. The worth of a child’s life is reduced to whether she or he is wanted or unwanted, financially stable or financially struggling.
An NPR piece goes even further in dehumanizing Dobbs babies and emphasizing the financial burden they impose on their families. Most of the piece is devoted to Lationna Halbert’s financial struggles and dreams of cosmetology school, which had to be put on hold after the diabolical Dobbs decision. Of Lationna’s second child, the reporter says, “But it’s definitely a struggle, and it’s going to be more of a struggle as Kingsley gets older. She’s starting to have to buy bigger clothes. He’s in childcare. So the expenses are growing, and their incomes are not.” No mention of the family’s love for Kingsley, no acknowledgment that despite the hardships surrounding his birth, he is a human being with the same inalienable right to life as his parents and brother, or as the NPR reporters who shared their story.
One positive aspect of the NPR piece was its indictment of state legislators for a lack of progress on supports for pregnant people. While some states have extended postpartum care and resources after Dobbs, robust parental leave and affordable childcare remain shamefully out of reach for most Americans. I do not expect every story of a child born after Dobbs to be a rosy fairytale. But these stories should at least recognize that thousands of children—unique, irreplaceable human beings for whom all things are possible—draw breath today because of restrictions on abortion violence. We will never know the names of all, or even most, of the babies saved because of Dobbs. But it is unconscionable to treat their existence as a negative development. We must remember that despite their struggles, these saved children and their families have voices worth hearing, lives worth living. It is our moral duty to continually look for ways to support pregnant people and their families and to work for lasting cultural change that recognizes abortion for the inhuman, violent act that it is. The taking of human life should never be framed as a positive good or an acceptable solution to poverty or systemic injustice.