Before I knew anything about the harsh realities of abortion, my grandmother gifted me a lapel pin featuring tiny silver feet.
I didn’t know what it symbolized but I liked it and wore it on my church sweaters. When I started learning more about abortion and the pro-life movement, I began to understand the pin — and my grandmother — a little more.
On top of raising her five children and serving in her church community, my grandmother was what I’d consider a pro-life activist. Along with other Catholic women in her area, she started a guild of pro-life mothers. She donated to her local pro-life charities.
But mostly, she prayed for an end to abortion.
I still remember listening to a news report blaring from her television one evening about an abortion law in our state. I ran to the kitchen and told her “Grandma! They might change the law on abortion” having no idea what my words signified to her. She looked at me, puzzled. But her eyes showed that her interest was piqued. She headed into the den where the news anchor was finishing up his report.
“Ah,” she said disappointed, “they’re always talking about that.”
Like most pro-lifers for nearly 50 years, she had become slightly weary about the possibility that Roe v. Wade — which nationalized abortion across the country — might be overturned. And yet, as I remember that story from over 20 years ago, it’s clear to me that she still had hope — enough hope to even believe in the possibility of the words reported to her by a child who didn’t know any better.
My grandmother died in 2011. She is remembered by many for her dedication to the pro-life cause. It certainly left an impression on me. As I went on to work in politics, I prioritized aligning with organizations that advocated for women and against the harmful practice of widespread elective abortion.
Yet, as I participated in the pro-life movement throughout my teens and into my twenties, I never thought Roe v. Wade would be overturned. I thought it was a tired piece of conservative rhetoric at worst — a far-off dream at best.
At the time, I thought the best the pro-life movement could do was provide women with better resources that helped them choose life while simultaneously working to codify conscience protections for pro-life medical professionals. I’d shrug off any politician or advocate mentioning the overturning of that decades-old legislation.
“Ah,” I would think to myself, “they’re always talking about that.”
Unlike my grandmother, I didn’t have much hope.
And then last year, something crazy happened. I distinctly remember June 24, 2022. I had been monitoring outgoing SCOTUS decisions for my job. I opened my laptop to check the SCOTUS blog and the words “we have Dobbs” flashed across my screen. My heart started racing.
Would the Supreme Court go with the opinion written by Samuel Alito which had been leaked several weeks prior? I clicked on the link to the majority opinion, and I remember the mixed feeling of elation and disbelief I felt when I saw the name Alito in the majority opinion. I already knew what this meant.
After scanning the opinion, I sent a text to my coworkers “Dobbs, Roe is overturned.”
I wished in that moment to be back in my grandmother’s kitchen so I could tell her the news — for real this time. In many ways, this was the moment she dedicated much of her life to.
In the aftermath of Dobbs, we heard a lot about the long game the pro-life intellectual and legal movement played to create that moment — how many years of political strategy and legal influence-building were required to end Roe v. Wade. That certainly cannot be overstated.
And, yet I can’t help but think of the many women just like my grandmother — the thousands of humble pro-life advocates across the country for nearly 50 years — who simply did what they could.
People who showed up for women facing crisis pregnancies. People who advocated for life among their friend groups and communities. People who prayed daily. The overturning of Roe is the culmination of all their efforts. As the pro-life movement continues into a post-Roe future, with much work to do, it stands on the shoulders of those advocates.
In many cases, pro-life advocates like my grandmother had what seasoned politicians and activists often do not: hope that Roe v. Wade would be overturned.
In the end, they were right.