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Op-Ed: This Abortion Case ‘Feels Different’

This article originally appeared on Wall Street Journal on November 29, 2021

A prominent pro-choice attorney and I appeared together on a Sunday news show. It was 1989 and the Supreme Court was about to hear oral arguments in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, in which Missouri was asking the justices to reconsider Roe v. Wade. As a pro-life Missouri lawyer, I had drafted portions of the law at issue. My fellow guest represented its challengers. He had a couple of Supreme Court victories under his belt on the abortion issue. After the interview, he confided: “This time feels different.”

He was right. Webster ended up being a rare win for the pro-life movement. It upheld a Missouri law acknowledging that life begins at conception and granting unborn children rights in contexts other than abortion (such as criminal, tort and inheritance laws). The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and that comment from 32 years ago resonates. This time feels different—and not only because there are new justices.

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