News that Justice Anthony Kennedy is stepping down from his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court is giving the pro-life movement a renewed sense of jubilation and hope.
“If the next justice supports the basic human right to life for all people, we could see the horrific, immoral, and unjust 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade overturned,” said Live Action founder and president Lila Rose in a statement.
“The right to life is the foundation for all other human rights — without life, no other rights can be enjoyed,” added Rose, whose group is based in Arlington, Virginia. “It is the job of government to secure the basic human rights of its people, especially for those that are the most vulnerable. Science is crystal clear that an individual, unique human life begins at the moment of fertilization, and morality and justice compel us to protect every human life from his or her first moment of existence.”
Another group working hard for the rights of the preborn weighed in on Kennedy’s legacy.
“Justice Kennedy leaves a legacy of disappointing decisions when it comes to the first right necessary for all people — the right to life,” Students for Life of America, based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, said in a statement.
“Without protections for life, all other issues become irrelevant,” said the group’s president, Kristan Hawkins.
On the day before he announced his retirement, Justice Kennedy provided the deciding vote in nixing a California law that required pro-life pregnancy centers to promote abortion — in National Institute of Family and Life v. Becerra.
Still, “he did not address the most critical issues and allowed for a swamp of mismatched abortion laws that permit the abortion industry to continue to operate in ways that harm women as well as preborn children,” said Hawkins. “We expect that President Trump will live up to his promises and appoint a justice in the tradition of Justice Antonin Scalia who respects the law as written and who understands that life is the foundation for all other rights.”
Another organization working to change hearts and minds on the local level feels there is reason to be hopeful.
“We are witnessing the beginning of the end of abortion,” Shawn Carney, president and CEO of 40 Days for Life, headquartered in Bryan, Texas, told LifeZette. “Roe vs. Wade has been threatened for decades.”
He added, “His [Justice Kennedy’s] retirement reflects why so many pro-life Americans voted for Donald Trump — the hope that President Trump would fulfill his promise to name pro-life justices.”
“The abortion industry has neglected the local level for so long and put all of their hope in the courts and in Washington. Now that is falling apart. And the impact of a 40 Days for Life campaign will increase even more. There has not been a worse or more discouraging time to work in the abortion industry than right now.”
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Carney’s organization, an international pro-life advocacy group, aims to show local communities the consequences of abortion.
To date, it counts 750,000 volunteers in 769 cities and 50 countries worldwide. More importantly, the organization claims to have saved nearly 14,000 lives, according to its website. Myriad testimonials from the pro-life community speak volumes about the meaningful work Carney’s organization is doing — and they’re changing hearts along the way.
“I am in this movement today because of ordinary people who took on an extraordinary task,” according to a poignant website blurb from Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director in Texas. “My former abortion clinic is closed because of their sacrifice. Babies are alive because of them. Women are no longer being hurt by abortion in their community. You can do this. You can save a life. I now stand alongside you in this 40 Days for Life movement.”
“This is a refreshing and motivating week for all pro-life Americans.”
The group has the admiration of the pro-life movement.
“40 Days for Life helps us to be spiritually aware of the need to pray for our unborn brothers and sisters, empowering us to be on the front lines, reaching out to mothers and fathers with a message of hope,” said Live Action’s Lila Rose. “There is no movement more important, and 40 Days for Life is leading the fight, spiritually, and practically, in the trenches every day.”
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As for Carney, he concedes he was caught off-guard — as were many — by Kennedy’s announcement. That didn’t diminish his elation, though.
“I’d hoped he was the next one [to be a staunch ally for life], but I thought it was wishful thinking,” he told LifeZette. “We have seen so much momentum in changing hearts and minds on abortion, but many disappointments in our movement have come from Washington. This is a refreshing and motivating week for all pro-life Americans.”
Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.