In politics, victory is rarely the end of anything; usually it’s just the beginning. Whether an election, passage of a bill, or a court decision, success always presents winners with new and more difficult responsibilities. Pro-life conservatives should have this iron law of politics in mind as we celebrate the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
With Roe v. Wade finally overturned, the conservative movement faces a new and even larger challenge. That task is rebuilding the public institutions that Roe has helped to corrode over the last 49 years.
Roe was not just a court case. It was a cancer injected into America’s constitutional order in 1973, and which has been metastasizing ever since. There is not a single major public institution today that is pro-life, nor a single institution the American people still trust.
Overturning Roe is a kind of constitutional surgery—the removal of a tumor so that the patient, our republic, can finally start to heal.
But 49 years is a lot of institutional decay to come back from. And with Roe gone, major political, cultural, journalistic, and commercial enterprises across the country will begin lobbying for abortion maximalism in every city hall and state house in the country, and on Capitol Hill.
Conservatives’ only hope for contending with the left’s discredited but still incumbent institutions is to build our own. Some may say that’s Pollyannaish. But in a post-Roe world, that assertion is self-evidently wrong.
The Supreme Court’s originalist majority, led by Justice Clarence Thomas, is one institution the right has rescued from constitutional vandalism. Dobbs, along with other decisions on school choice, religious freedom, and the Second Amendment, could open new avenues of constitutional entrepreneurism in coming years.
The coming crash of the university-industrial complex under the weight of America’s Great Recession baby bust will create new opportunities, too, for conservatives to reimagine our role in higher education.
The stunning success of the unabashedly patriotic "Top Gun: Maverick" augurs well for conservatives’ prospects in a diversifying entertainment industry desperate for audiences.
If San Francisco is recalling woke school board members and district attorneys, you can bet similar opportunities exist throughout our society.
With Roe now gone, the right must build: new institutions, new projects, new outreach to communities we have not reached before. And there is no better issue to lead with than the right to life.
Liberals often ask what, after Roe, conservatives will say to women suddenly faced with carrying unplanned pregnancies to term. It’s a fair question, one we need to answer.
What local, state, and federal policies need to change to make sure new moms and babies get the support they need? What new organizations, schools, or businesses need to be created to meet some of those needs—helping young couples, single moms, and their kids?
After Roe, the operative word in building a culture of life is building.
We are proud to say the American Cornerstone Institute and The Heritage Foundation are two of the institutions pro-lifers can build on. We are fighting to protect the lives of the unborn and be voices for those who do not have one yet. But in a post-Roe era, our work will have to grow.
The pro-life movement must become more entrepreneurial, more strategically diverse, and much more ambitious. Yes, we have to meet the abortion industry in every legislative chamber at every level of American government.
At the same time, we have to create a new, more pro-life society around the men, women, and children in challenging or unplanned pregnancies. That’s a new role, and all pro-lifers should embrace it. We have to be more than activists; we have to be architects, investors, and cultural bricklayers.
Teaching the success sequence—getting a high school education, working full time, and marrying before having children—will equip young Americans to make healthy decisions. Ensuring our welfare programs don’t penalize marriage and discourage work will set up mothers and children for long-term success. And emphasizing the importance of fatherhood will give children a better future.
Heritage’s new Innovation Prize project will award more than $1 million this year to new research, litigation, and organizations that can help build the policy agenda and civil society Americans need to thrive. ACI’s Little Patriots project will help parents counterprogram their kids’ anti-American schools—helping the next generation of citizens learn about their history and founding principles, starting with the inalienable right to life.
These are just two examples of gaps pro-life conservatives need to fill in post-Roe America. Overturning Roe is conservatives’ greatest victory since the end of the Cold War. With it will come a new era of work, responsibility, and opportunity, for which we must be ready.
In the fight for life, that’s what winning looks like.
This piece originally appeared in Fox News