INDIANAPOLIS – The Dec. 1 arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in a Mississippi abortion case, coupled with a ruling in a different abortion case from Texas, have seasoned court observers predicting that major changes in abortion policy are coming.

While the particulars of each case matter, two overarching observations suggest states will be able to substantially regulate – if not ban – abortions as early as next summer for the first time since 1973.

The first observation is that a majority of the same court that decreed abortion is a constitutional right back in 1973 is comfortable with a Texas law that bans abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. This new Sept. 1 law more than halved abortions in Texas, our nation’s second most populous state. A court committed to continuing its 1973 standard would not allow such a significant variance.

The second observation is that the Dec. 1 arguments made clear that a majority of the court is uncomfortable with current vague standards (phrases like viability and undue burden are the core of current edicts), suggesting the whole issue may be upended and sent to the states for unique policy prescriptions reflecting the will of the people in those 50 separate jurisdictions.

While we may not know the specifics of the decision until summer, it is not too early to begin to consider what might be different in Indiana and beyond when this potentially landmark ruling is handed down.

First, if Roe v. Wade and its subsequent cases are struck down, abortion policy will drastically change. Fifty state legislatures will set abortion laws and limits, not nine Supreme Court justices in Washington, D.C. As a pro-life state (one advocacy group rates Indiana the fifth most pro-life state in America), Indiana will certainly immediately move to change abortion laws.

Assuming the ruling comes down in late June of 2022, a likely timeframe, there will be immediate calls for a special session of the Indiana General Assembly to restrict abortion. Those calls should be heeded.

My belief is Indiana would ban all abortions except when the life of the mother is at risk. This preserves the core principle that pro-life advocates and legislators espouse, namely that the unborn child’s life is of equal worth and dignity with the mother. It is possible Indiana would allow greater exceptions (rape and incest) than the life of the mother. Legislators would think longer and harder about abortion policy, knowing that their collective actions will actually become law. This might reveal some surprises in a solid pro-life majority in both chambers, but only at the margins.

The politics of abortion would change immediately as well, and for the better, although it will be harder for the GOP to maintain its coalition without opposition to abortion as its central organizing principle. The focus of abortion lawmaking would then be in the states, with California and New York certain to maintain pro-choice laws while Indiana and Texas legislate pro-life practices. No longer would U.S. Supreme Court nominees come under such intense scrutiny and slander. No longer would judicial appointments be such a strong issue in presidential politics. The energy for or against abortion would be diffused across 50 states and the nearly 7,400 state legislative races that fill those legislative seats.

This, too, would be a healthy development for national politics. As noted above, the GOP has relied on pro-life positions to maintain its wide vote margin with faith-based voters, who make up perhaps 28% of the population and more than half of the GOP base vote. With abortion no longer a national issue, the party will need to sharpen its policy focus to retain those voters. Look to leaders like Hoosier U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, for early signs of success in maintaining this coalition.

If the court only modifies abortion, say by affirming the Texas six-week standard or the Mississippi 15-week standard, rather than an outright overturning of Roe, the issue will retain a national focus, but of lesser intensity. Indiana and maybe 20 to 25 other states will adopt whatever new standard is allowed that lessens abortion. And then the next day, we pro-lifers will go back to work to eliminate all abortions.

Beyond the obvious policy and political changes as abortion is restricted, two other good things happen.

Most significantly, we end up with more children, which is a very good thing. If the Texas standard applies, perhaps 4,000 more Hoosier souls are born each year. If the abhorrent practice is ended outright, nearly 8,000 more children will take their first breath of Indiana air each year. Multiply those figures by 50 to get a sense of the national numbers, although not all states will immediately limit abortion. Our population pyramid is tragically altered due to the 63 million abortions since 1973, making the Social Security system insolvent, our labor markets unnaturally tight, and our culture coarse.

And that brings us to the final benefit of lessening or eliminating abortion. This barbaric practice has coarsened our culture in scores of ways. From minimizing the value of children and family, to giving men and women a pass on parenting children they conceive (just get an abortion!), to showing a callous disregard for life, abortion makes us a more selfish, me-centered society.

Should the court end abortion as a national decree, as I pray it does, time will tell if my observations of the coarsening effect of abortion are true. I believe we will see tangible, measurable changes in Hoosier public. 

Smith is the former chairman of the Indiana Family Institute.