ATLANTA — Perhaps more than any other woman, Marjorie Dannenfelser is responsible for the fall of Roe v. Wade.
The president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, a nonprofit group that works to end abortion in the United States by electing antiabortion politicians, Dannenfelser has dedicated her adult life to outlawing abortion. In 2016, she played a key role in getting former President Donald Trump to commit to appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices who oppose abortion.
The Los Angeles Times asked Dannenfelser, 56, about the fall of Roe, her antiabortion journey and her strategy for outlawing abortion nationwide. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
After decades working in antiabortion politics, you are watching Roe v. Wade fall. In what sense is this a historic moment?
It’s the culmination of almost 50 years of work. There was no certainty that this moment would come at all. But every single time there’s a failure or a setback, this movement has grown. And that is a marker of an authentic human rights movement: It draws more in difficulty than it does in success sometimes.
You’ve written: “No other issue, however worthy, carries a moral weight equal to that of the unborn child in the womb.” How did you get from being a pro-choice Republican to believing that abortion is about human rights, not women’s rights?
I grew up in fairly polite society. You just didn’t think or talk about this issue. I think that polite society has kept the harsh reality of that human rights violation away from the public eye and from one individually. So I never thought about it. I knew that I would have (an abortion) if I needed one. I just considered it part of living.
But that ability to keep what an abortion is out of your thoughts, out of your mind … when I approach the reality of what the object of the abortion is, and then what happens in an abortion, I mean, it is really hard to ignore the reality of a procedure that tears a small human apart limb from limb. It’s that — imagining the too horrible to imagine — that finally set my thoughts in process.
In college at Duke, I started pre-med and ended up in philosophy. I had a lot of friends who were very pro-life. They showed a movie on campus, “The Silent Scream” narrated by Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a prolific abortionist who changed his mind to being pro-life.
He showed an abortion through a sonogram, and you could see what was happening. I remember I was like, “That is just insulting. I am not going to watch that.” But I had these conversations with people peppering me with difficult questions: “What happens in an abortion?” “What is the object?”