FRIDAY FOCUS: Top Anti-Abortion Advocate on What’s Next for the ‘Pro-Life’ Movement

SBA Pro-Life America’s Adam Schwend reflects on the abortion debate in Wyoming and the nation

Adam Schwend is the western regional director for Susan B. Anthony (SBA) Pro-Life America, one of the largest anti-abortion political groups in the nation. (Courtesy photo from Adam Schwend)

By Jacob Gardenswartz

Special to the Wyoming Truth

After the U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs decision allowed individual states to ban pregnancy terminations, self-described pro-life activists had hoped to expand abortion bans to more states throughout the country in 2023.

Instead, abortion rights activism surged. Since Roe was overturned, abortion restrictions were voted down or rejected by voters in over half a dozen states, and Democrats have seen wide-ranging political victories spotlighting the issue. In Wyoming, attempts to ban abortion procedures have been rejected three times in court; a judge is expected to issue a major decision on the matter imminently.

In mid-December, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony (SBA) Pro-Life America, made her first-ever trip to Wyoming for a meeting with pro-life advocates. Amid this backdrop, the Wyoming Truth spoke with Adam Schwend, western regional director for the group, about where the anti-abortion movement goes from here. Excerpts of the conversation are below.

How do you see the legal landscape for abortion bans within Wyoming, given such laws have faced multiple defeats in the courts?

Schwend: I don’t think it’s a surprise the abortion industry always runs to the same judge. That’s been kind of a feature of the abortion industry, when they find a judge that is supportive of their personal cause, that’s who they go to. The abortion industry has centered their entire argument on the idea that abortion is health care. Abortion isn’t health care because pregnancy isn’t a disease. And I think that’s going to be made very clear, as these legal proceedings go on.

What we need to be focusing on is all of the wonderful work in health care and material support that is given to women and given to families, whether through faith-based organizations or pregnancy-help organizations. That’s the focus. That’s true health care, that’s true support for women.

Most doctors and medical groups like the American Medical Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists view abortion as health care.

Schwend: For every doctor who says abortion is health care, I can put up a doctor who says abortion isn’t health care. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all of the sudden has gone from a neutral organization to a flat out pro-abortion organization. I can put up the American Association of Pro-Life OB/GYNs who will 100% say abortion is not health care… To say this is somehow settled science or because certain doctors say it just simply isn’t true. Because I can, we can put forward Wyoming doctors who say the complete opposite.

If the judge rules in favor of the plaintiffs and strikes down the bans, are you confident the Wyoming Supreme Court would reverse that decision on appeal?

Schwend: We can’t be sure of anything. But I can tell you, based on my conversations with attorneys we work with regularly who are very well respected, they most certainly should. They should at 100% uphold the law that has been passed numerous times by the legislators, signed numerous times by the governor.

What’s your perception of the current state of the anti-abortion movement nationally?  

Schwend: I think the movement is strong but looking for its next step… [Dobbs] was the first step in the new age of the pro-life movement. We have fought so long and hard to make it so that we can get these laws in effect. There were numerous pro-life laws that had been passed, and they just couldn’t take effect because of this one case…

Well, now we’re actually able to have these conversations. And it’s not surprising the American people, [having] been told for 50 years, ‘You can’t talk about this because Roe,’ are now talking about it. And they are in some ways uncomfortable, because it’s an uncomfortable concept. Dealing with the death of children should be an uncomfortable concept. But they have to have this conversation, we have to have this conversation because we need to educate the people — not only the elected representatives, the voters who don’t understand, sometimes, the difference between when a heartbeat is, is hurt when a baby can feel pain.

We now as a movement have to educate: number one, the truth about human embryology, the truth about what abortion is. And we also have to educate about the incredible things the pro-life movement is doing outside of just abortion and trying to protect lives. The incredible things pregnancy-help organizations are doing. The Charlotte Lozier Institute just released a report that shows in 2022, pregnancy-help organizations provided over $350 million of free services to women and families. That’s incredible. But I don’t think most people know that.

Are you surprised by the surge of abortion rights activism, even in states like Kansas, Ohio, Kentucky and Montana, places you might not expect referendums expanding or codifying abortion rights to have passed?

Schwend: I certainly am not surprised. So much of the money and so many of these messages aren’t from Kansas or Ohio. The vast majority of the money and the activism have come from outside of the states, from New York and from Washington D.C.

There’s always been pro-abortion activists out there, but I’m certainly not surprised at all that their big money supporters from D.C. and New York saw an opportunity to cash in politically on a message, to be able to sow confusion and chaos… We will continue to educate Americans about abortion and what it is and what it does, and continue to educate them about all of the incredible things pro-life organizations do to support moms, babies and families. As long as we keep doing that, we’re gonna see a shift.

Many anti-abortion groups believe states should be the ones enacting bans. But SBA supports a 15-week abortion ban at the federal level. Why?

Schwend: We support a minimum federal standard. We don’t believe Gavin Newsom should be setting abortion policy for the entire country. The babies in California deserve protections, too. The babies in New York and Chicago deserve protections, too… We can’t let them put up billboards in states like Wyoming and South Dakota saying, ‘Hey, come have your abortion over here.’ We’re really a both / and organization. I am proud of the work we’ve done in the states. But the reality is, two thirds of the abortions are happening in these pro-abortion states. We need to be able to have a voice for those babies too. 

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