For roughly 25 years, the movement against abortion has been predominantly incrementalist. Its focus has been on restricting abortion in relatively modest ways rather than on amending the Constitution to prohibit it altogether.
In the 1990s, pro-lifers began to campaign to ban a method of abortion they called “partial-birth abortion.” More recently they have sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks of gestation.
The theory behind this strategy is that changes to the law would reduce abortion rates, and debate over these changes would turn public opinion against abortion. Small victories today would enable bigger ones tomorrow.
That day has come, in the eyes of some pro-lifers. Writing for National Review Online, for example, David French argues that incrementalism undermines both the political and the legal goals of the movement: “It cultivates a degree of comfort with the persistence of abortion in American culture, and it sends a clear message to the judiciary that there is no true public outcry against the fundamental right to kill a child.”
French wants more states to pass “heartbeat bills” that prohibit almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected and fight for those bills all the way to the Supreme Court. “It’s time to throw down the gauntlet, declare to the world (and to the Court) that the era of incrementalism is over, and show that the people are ready to embrace life,” he writes.