Nobody likes abortion, and nobody would be upset if it were never necessary. The best way to prevent abortion, therefore, is to make abortion unnecessary. The pro-life focus on making abortion illegal is profoundly misplaced.
Pro-life advocates have a primary goal of reversing Roe v. Wade. Except such a reversal wouldn't make abortion illegal. It just sends the issue back to the states.
And yes, some states will make abortion illegal. But more states won't. 12 states and the District of Columbia already have protections for abortion rights that exceed those outlined by Supreme Court decisions. That means that abortion will still be available to anyone willing to cross state lines.
But, still, won't there be fewer abortions if they're illegal in some states?
Probably not, no. Consider the "Mexico City policy," which is a rule first implemented by Reagan in '84, reversed by Clinton in '93, re-reversed by W. in 2001, re-re-reversed by Obama in 2009, and finally put back into place by Trump at the beginning of his term.
The Mexico City policy blocks all federal funding for foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that "perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning." Except the funding these NGOs receive isn't just used for abortion; it's used for contraception, too. So when they lose funding, they provide less contraception, and the result is a documented increase in unwanted pregnancies, which results in a staggering 40% increase in abortion.
From this study:
"We found that when the Mexico City Policy was in effect (2001–08), abortion rates rose among women in countries highly exposed to the policy by 4·8 abortions per 10 000 woman-years (95% CI 1·5 to 8·1, p=0·0041) relative to women in low-exposure countries and relative to periods when the policy was rescinded in 1995–2000 and 2009–14, a rise of approximately 40%."
Pro-lifers need to be wary of similar unintended consequences if they get what they wish for in the form of a Roe v. Wade repeal. You wouldn't know it from listening to the alarmists, but abortion rates have been plummeting in the United States for years and have gone down by almost 20% in the last decade alone.
The research makes clear that this has little or nothing to do with making abortion illegal. In fact, the study linked above says that "57% of the 2011–2017 decline in the number of abortions nationwide happened in the 18 states and the District Columbia that did not adopt any new abortion restrictions. Some of these states, such as California, even took steps to increase access."
So imagine an America where abortion is now totally illegal in a handful of states, and abortion rights advocates are galvanized into action, leading massive economic boycotts. In the short-term, abortion numbers are likely to spike, and in the long-term, all states will end up giving in to economic and political pressure and make abortion legal to some degree. There will be a great deal of sound and fury for a few years, but after the smoke has cleared, nothing will have changed.
Making abortion illegal isn't the answer. Making abortion unnecessary is.
The good news is that efforts to make abortion unnecessary have been spectacularly successful, and the best part is that those efforts don't depend on who is in the White House or who sits on the Supreme Court. The emphasis should be on education and contraception, not on legal challenges to abortion rights.