Whether talking about the family, politics, or culture, abortion has created division and continues to do so, Ryan Anderson and Alexandra DeSanctis say.
In a leaked draft opinion in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote, “Far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, [Roe v. Wade] and [Planned Parenthood v. Casey] have enflamed debate and deepened division.”
That statement, Anderson says, is a succinct description of what Roe v. Wade has done to America.
Anderson and DeSanctis are the authors of the new book “Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing.” They explain how abortion has affected many spheres of our society, and what can be done to instill a value for life across America.
Also on today’s show, we cover these stories:
- The Jan. 6 committee conducts more hearings on the Capitol riot.
- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., accuses Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., of stalling legislation to protect Supreme Court justices and “jeopardizing the safety of the Supreme Court.”
- A new study from The Heritage Foundation suggests making it easier for minors to access transgender care may actually bring about more—rather than fewer—suicides.
- Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, signs a new law authorizing teachers, principals, and other school employees to bring guns into classrooms after receiving 24 hours of training.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: We are entering a new era in the fight for life in America. And here with us to talk about that is Ryan Anderson and Alexandra DeSanctis, the authors of the new book “Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing.”
Ryan is the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the author of the book that is banned on Amazon, “When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment,” and Alexandra is a writer at National Review and a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Ryan and Alexandra, welcome to the show. Thank you both for being here.
Alexandra DeSanctis: Thanks for having us.
Ryan Anderson: Yeah. Thanks for having us. And you should mention, or I should mention that I’m also a very grateful Heritage alum, having spent nine wonderful years as a research fellow at The Heritage Foundation. So it’s good to be back.
Allen: We’re so grateful for all the work, Ryan, that you have done here at Heritage, and we miss you, but we’re excited that we get to still collaborate and do things like this. So excited for the conversation today about this new book that is out June 28. It’s available, though, for preorder now.
Alexandra, I want to get your thoughts. What exactly was the mission of writing this book? Because, of course, it’s such an important moment in history as we’re looking at the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned. Why did you and Ryan say, “Hey, we need to sit down and write a book on life”?
DeSanctis: Well, I think the timing is the first and most important thing to keep in mind here. And we don’t know what the Supreme Court will do in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization this summer, but it’s clear that there’s a big change in the abortion debate, at the very least, if not in policy.
We’re hopeful still that the court will overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. And if it does, that will launch a 50-state battle over what abortion policy is going to look like. If the issue is sent back to the states and people can vote, the representatives can craft abortion policy again.
And that’s a conversation that Ryan and I felt like pro-lifers needed to be well prepared for. And of course, that’s something that’s been going on for 50 years now and pro-lifers have been doggedly persevering in this fight very well.
But the particular angle we wanted to add was a broad case about how abortion has harmed everything, right?
I think pro-lifers are very good at talking about the unborn child is a unique, distinct, unrepeatable human being. He has the right to life. He or she has the right to life. Abortion harms women. But we hadn’t really seen this comprehensive argument about how abortion really harms every aspect of society, the law, our politics, our culture, the field of medicine is a very big one, all these ways in which legal abortion has just decimated our society.
And we wanted to, hopefully, people who disagree with us will read the book and find value in it. We wrote it with that in mind, too, but mainly we wanted to equip pro-lifers for whatever the next phase of the abortion debate will be.
Allen: Yeah. So let’s get into that a little bit more. The book is called “Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing.”
Ryan, in the draft Dobbs opinion that was leaked at the beginning of May, [Justice Samuel] Alito wrote, “Far from bringing about a national settlement on the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have inflamed debate and deepened division.” And I’m assuming that you agree with Alito since the book is called “Tearing Us Apart,” that you agree with him that Roe and Casey have deepened division.
So explain a little bit of that, of how abortion has actually affected our culture, what it’s done to create division within our culture.
Anderson: Sure. Great question. And Alito was exactly right. Roe v. Wade didn’t settle the abortion issue. If anything, I think it energized the pro-life movement even more so. It’s energized both sides, unfortunately.
Both Chapter 5 and Chapter 6 of our book looks at the harm that Roe v. Wade caused. First, Chapter 5, to the courts and to the constitutional system of government that we cherish in America itself. And then, Chapter 6, to the democratic political process.
And what we mean by this is, just think about the media circus that takes place every time there’s a vacancy on the Supreme Court and a Republican president nominates an originalist or a textualist or just someone who’s actually going to follow what the Constitution says. And people on the left flip out, because they know that if someone accurately interprets and applies the constitutional text, it means Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey are on the chopping block.
And so whether it was—first they borked [Robert] Bork. Then we have the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Then we saw in recent living memory what happened with [Brett] Kavanaugh, what happened with Amy Coney Barrett, etc., etc. That’s just a way in which it’s perverted something as simple as the Senate process of advising and consenting to a nomination to the Supreme Court.
In the democratic context, we used to have a category known as pro-life Democrats. We used to have two political parties that were committed to a fundamental human right, the right to life. And now the parties have sorted themselves. And it’s really, I think, stranded a lot of citizens who care about the life issue, but feel hostage to one of the two political parties because the other political party is so bad on this.
And so one of the things that would be good about getting rid of Roe is that would actually allow legislative compromises to take place as a starting point. It’s not going to be our finish line, but we could at least get to a better place than where we are today with the ultimate goal in mind of protecting every human life at every moment of existence.
Allen: Yeah. I love that in the book you are so strategic in how you talk about, in all of these different aspects that often we don’t really think about, but how abortion has played that role. And Ryan, that’s interesting to hear you draw that line at the court and what we see, how the media has continued to make, any time a Supreme Court justice is being appointed, now it’s just such a circus, especially, obviously, when it’s a conservative justice.
Alexandra, I want to get your thoughts, though, on how the conversation around abortion, how Roe v. Wade has specifically had an impact on the family. We see that marriage rates are continuing to fall. They’re at record lows in America. Single-parent homes are at a record high. Does abortion actually play a role in these trends do you think?
DeSanctis: I think it’s very clear that it does. And we obviously can’t point at abortion and say this is the single culprit in the dissolution of the family. It really came about after that process started almost as a way of bolstering the breakdown of the family. We needed abortion as this backstop.
If you have a model where sex outside of marriage is normal or expected of women in particular, then women need some backstop—or so the pro-abortion feminist argument goes, if they’re abandoned with the consequence of that, namely a child.
And so the argument from feminists is, “Well, women need abortion.” And of course we know that women don’t need abortion. Women are harmed by abortion, let alone the unborn child.
But actually one point we raise specifically in the book to your point is a paper by Janet Yellen, who most recently, the treasury secretary and her husband, George Akerlof, who made the point that abortion has actually been part of a drop in shotgun marriages and what they call the feminization of poverty as a result, that’s a major contributing factor. So I think there’s no question that this growing societal acceptance of abortion has fueled that whole trend.
Allen: I want to ask you a little bit more on that because I’ve recently been going out to a number of protests, pro-abortion protests, both in Washington, D.C., and at the homes of the Supreme Court justices. And Alexandra, one of the most common arguments that I’m hearing from those on the pro-abortion side is, well, women, shouldn’t be forced to have to give birth to a child. It’s dangerous for them and that they have the right to get to choose when they want to have kids. For people that are ending up in those conversations right now, what is your response?
DeSanctis: Yeah, this is something I’ve seen a lot more recently. I think this is probably the most common pro-abortion argument that I’ve seen, at least from the activist crowd, on this question.
And I think the real response is, look, we all know where babies come from. And in probably more than 99% of cases, the mother and father consented to an act that naturally resulted in the conception of a child. And so at the point where they agreed to participate in that act, they were assenting to the possibility of a human life coming into the picture.
And so it’s not fair to the child. It’s actually a abdication of their duty to care for their child to then say, “Oh, sorry, I actually didn’t want a kid now. I just wanted to have some fun.” And now the child has to pay the price via lethal violence. That’s the argument that they’re making.
And I think it’s like as though they talk about it as though the government is forcing women to become pregnant, which, of course, isn’t true. So I think we actually speak about this at great length in the first chapter of our book, because it’s really a red herring that abortion supporters like to use to make pro-lifers sound like we’re anti-woman, but it’s actually very clear where the responsibility lies and abortions an advocation of that.
Allen: Yeah. Yeah.
Anderson: Can I add one thing to that?
Allen: Please, go ahead.
Anderson: In the book we draw in the work of our colleague at EPPC, Erika Bachiochi, who just a year or so ago published a really excellent book titled “The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision.”
And she goes back to Mary Wollstonecraft to point out that there was a vision of women’s equality that didn’t embrace abortion. She points out that all of the founding suffragists in favor of women’s right to vote also thought that abortion was bad for women. They were more or less all pro-life. This is why the Susan B. Anthony List is named after Susan B. Anthony, pro-life women’s rights leaders.
And the movement that they launched was known as a voluntary motherhood movement. And by voluntary motherhood, they meant that motherhood should be voluntary, which means women, if sex is going to be justified, need to give consent to it. So what they were responding to was a culture in which marital rape had been normalized and accepted, a culture in which women were expected to be sexually available.
And so what they wanted to argue was not that women need abortion to be equal to men, but that women should have bodily autonomy and bodily rights, meaning that you need their consent before sexual activity takes place. But once you have a child in the womb, you’re already a mother. The decision for voluntary motherhood has already taken place.
And so I think it is a huge red herring when, if you’re at these protests and people say the decision to be a mother should be voluntary, we all agree about that. The only question is if you’re seeking an abortion, are you already a mother? And the original founding generation of women’s rights activists had a perfectly clear understanding of how abortion would harm women.
Allen: Yeah. And we know, obviously, that not only does abortion harm women, it also, of course, takes the life of that baby in the womb. And we also see that there’s trends that abortion has really negative effects on certain populations within our society.
You-all recently wrote in your National Review article that more black children are aborted each year in New York City than are born. Wow. Ryan, … it’s fascinating that the left, who claims to be the defenders of minority communities, they don’t talk about this. Why?
Anderson: Well, partly because there’s a terrible legacy here of Margaret Sanger’s. I think it’s only within the past year or two that Planned Parenthood finally stopped having an annual Margaret Sanger dinner, stopped giving out the Margaret Sanger Award.
But the push for first contraception and then abortion is hugely tinged with eugenics. That this was about, I mean, in the words of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, about populations that we don’t want too many of. That’s how Ginsburg herself described what Roe v. Wade and what abortion was all about.
I think it’s a huge blind spot on those who care about racial equality to not recognize that racial equality begins in the womb, and that if we see a segment of our population with these highly elevated rates of abortion, it’s a sign that we as a community are failing these women, these families, and these babies, and that the solution’s not opening a Planned Parenthood clinic in the middle of their neighborhoods, but providing them with the resources they need to choose life.
And yet we just saw just several days ago, the Capitol Hill Pregnancy Center, which does exactly that, was vandalized by pro-abortion activists. So the centers that actually are providing assistance and resources to women to choose life, to bring their baby into the world, to care for their baby, they’re the ones attacked. And yet many of the pro-abortion activists turn a blind eye to the violations of equality in the womb.
In the chapter where we discuss the eugenic roots to Planned Parenthood and we discuss the statistic that you mentioned about more black babies being killed in New York than being born, we also discuss sex-discriminatory abortion, where girls are targeted for lethal discrimination.
And we talk about discrimination on the basis of disability, where you’ll see these just perverse headlines of such and such a country eradicates Down syndrome. And you think, “Oh, they found a cure for Down syndrome.” And it’s no, they’ve aborted every Down syndrome baby that was conceived.
And so there are huge questions for human dignity and human equality that abortion on demand really elevates to the fore.
Allen: Yeah, yeah. When we have these conversations about abortion, of course, there’s this sort of big undergirding question of, when does life actually begin? And on the pro-abortion side, the central argument that I’ve been hearing most commonly from those who are pro-abortion is life does not begin until a child is viable, until a baby can survive outside of its mother’s womb. And then of course, for the pro-life side, we believe, no, life begins at conception.
Do you-all get into this in the book and how, as a culture, as a society, we can actually address this argument of when does life begin from both the moral philosophical side, but also from the scientific side? Alexandra, I want to start with you and get your thoughts and then, Ryan, feel free to jump in.
DeSanctis: Yeah, we do talk about this at great length, especially in our first chapter, just laying the groundwork for the whole book. It’s about the harm of abortion to the unborn child, which is that basic case.
But we go through and rebut pretty much every one of the most common arguments for abortion that’s targeted at the unborn child. So, like you mentioned, it’s not actually a human being or it’s not a human person, or the mother’s rights are more important, even if the baby is a human and a human person. We do respond to all those sorts of things.
I think it’s important to start there because these are very common arguments for abortion, of course. But I would say, on this point, they’re silly arguments for abortion.
We actually all do know that human life begins at conception. We don’t know a human mother in history [who] has ever gotten pregnant with a squirrel. … We know this has not magically become a human being at any line there before birth or at birth. This has always been a human being.
And so people who say that are just trying to avoid the heart of the debate, which is, why do you think abortion is morally acceptable? And then you’ll have people who realize that’s a very unsophisticated argument, to say this isn’t a human being. So they switch to saying, “Well, philosophically speaking, whatever this creature is, maybe it’s a human being, but it’s not a human person,” for whatever reason. It lacks consciousness, it lacks memory. It lacks the ability to form its own desires or it can’t breathe outside the womb or whatever the criteria might be.
And the problem with those arguments—aside from being false and an attempt at dehumanizing—is that they actually, in the process, unperson, so to speak, other categories of human beings who these same people would not want to unperson.
They don’t want to say that someone in a coma can be shot. They don’t want to say that a person on life support should be shot. Some of them do argue with that consistency, but typically you’ll find that they don’t actually want to extend that type of dehumanizing, de-personifying language or argument across other categories as you’d have to. And so their argument falls apart there. So we do go through these different steps and respond at each point to these claims.
Allen: I think that’s so helpful. Ryan, do you have anything you want to add on that?
Anderson: The only other thing I would add is, in that same chapter, we also respond to the ludicrous claim that you can’t base law on morality: Don’t impose your morality on me or don’t legislate based on religion.
And I think both of these claims are just patently false as applied to the abortion context. Both because, first, all of our laws are based on morality. Whether we’re talking about property rights or whether we’re talking about environmentalism, whether we’re talking about “fill in the blank,” it’s based upon some vision of justice, some vision of the common good, some vision of rights. And all those concepts, rights, justice, the common, good equality, those are all moral categories.
And none of us would want to live in a system in which the human-made law, the man-made law, the positive law wasn’t based upon the natural law, the moral law.
And this was an elementary point that Martin Luther King Jr. makes in his letter from the Birmingham Jail, that the problem with racial segregation laws, they were man-made laws that violated the natural law, violated the eternal law, violated the moral law, violated God’s law.
And all those things are true about abortion, which also then highlights that there’s nothing wrong with people drawing on the resources of their theological traditions, their religious traditions. The Founders did this in the declaration. They appealed to certain inalienable rights based upon the laws of nature and nature’s God.
Martin Luther King Jr. and many other civil rights leaders pointed to the brotherhood of man based upon the fatherhood of God. King cites both Augustine and Aquinas in his letter from the Birmingham Jail.
And so I think this is another way in which abortion has harmed our democratic system, in that it’s led so many people to internalize the lie that religion doesn’t belong in the public square, and that morality should be separated from the law, when, really, you can’t do either of those things.
Allen: As we’re thinking about the future of abortion in America and the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned, we know that the moment that Roe v. Wade is overturned that abortion laws go back to the states. And there’s so many states that have already put pro-life laws in place to protect life. But we do have to go further than that, what you-all are talking about. We have to create a culture of life. And so the arguments, I think, that you make in your book are so critical for thinking strategically about what is life, when does life begin?
But Ryan, I’ll start with you. And then Alexandra, I want to get your thoughts. Talk a little bit about how we practically do that, how we shift as a culture post-Roe to a society that values life, that treasures life, from all the way from the womb to the tomb.
Anderson: Great question. And that, to a certain extent, that’s the million-dollar question, because that’s everything we’re going to be needing to do as a pro-life movement.
And so I’ll preface this by saying, one thing strikes me as really important, that as pro-lifers try to answer your question, there needs to be a lot of charity, a lot of the ability to make prudential calculations, and possibly disagree with each other without writing people out of the pro-life movement.
… Compromises are going to have to do prudential, what’s the trade-off of going this approach versus that approach? And we should do it in a spirit of humility and charity. And the way that I think about this is that we should have a series of both/ands, where various forces will try to make us have either/ors.
In the very last chapter of the book, Alexandra and I go through a series of, some people say, should it be law or should it be culture? And we say, it should be both. It needs to be both law and culture. Some people say, should it be the states or should it be the federal government? And we say, both, both the states and the federal government.
Some people say, should you focus on the supply of abortion, meaning Planned Parenthood and other abortionists, or the demand for abortion, meaning, what are the reasons that lead women to think they need abortion? And we say, you got to focus on both.
So we need various forms of public policy to assist women experiencing unplanned pregnancy. And look at what Texas did. They got lots of media attention for the heartbeat bill, but they didn’t get any media attention when they added $100 million to the Texas Alternatives to Abortion program, providing women with tangible resources. But they also went after the supply side of abortion by passing a heartbeat bill.
And so we go through a series of these, and I think that’s going to be the overarching framework answers. Avoid false dichotomies and be willing to grapple with needing to walk and chew gum at the same time.
Allen: Alexandra, anything that you’d like to add?
DeSanctis: Yeah, I would just add one point. Ryan mentioned the charity that pro-lifers need to have for one another in terms of allowing different views maybe or on different questions, things like the welfare state or the death penalty. There’s a lot of leeway there. I think that we have to give and try not to define people out the movement as much as possible, as long as we all have the goal of making abortion illegal and unthinkable. Let’s start there and get to the other disagreements when we can.
But also, on that point of charity, and I would say prudence is, I think pro-lifers have to realize that the strategy is going to be different in all different states and that’s OK. And I think we might have a tendency or I’ve seen percolating this tendency to think we have to immediately rush to a complete and total ban in every possible place and nothing short of that will do. And of course, we have to get there eventually. That does have to be our end goal, but that’s actually not going to be politically feasible on Day One in most places.
And I think pro-lifers have to be, and I think most are and have shown a willingness to be, realistic about that and to push for the most protective pro-life laws we can get in each state and at the federal level, but while still making the case that only total protection for the unborn is just.
Allen: Yeah. The book is called “Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing.” It’s available for preorder now. It’s out June 28. You can follow Ryan and Alexandra on Twitter, Ryan at @RyanTAnd and Alexandra at @Xan_DeSanctis. Ryan and Alexandra, thank you both so much for your time today. We really appreciate you joining us.
DeSanctis: Thank you.
Anderson: Thanks for having us.
Have an opinion about this article? To sound off, please email letters@DailySignal.com, and we’ll consider publishing your edited remarks in our regular “We Hear You” feature. Remember to include the URL or headline of the article plus your name and town and/or state.