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Exclusive: Tom Shakely, Americans United for Life: “All Human Persons From Conception To Death Are Protected Before The Law”

What does abortion policy look like post-Dobbs? What role does Federal policy play? These are important questions, and the answers are up in the air right now. To know more, we spoke to Tom Shakely, Chief Engagement Officer at Americans United for Life. The interview was conducted over email.

Here are some interviews we did previously: Senator Marco Rubio on the policy landscape in D.C.; Matt Stoller on how conservatives can and should fight monopolies.

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PolicySphere: Tell us more about AUL

Tom Shakely: Americans United for Life is America’s oldest national pro-life organization. Founded in Washington, D.C., AUL strives for the day when all are welcomed throughout life and protected in law. We work toward that vision in many ways, but mostly through model bills at the federal and state levels, lobbying in legislatures, filing amicus briefs with the Supreme Court and other judicial bodies, courtroom litigation, and frequently updated reports on the state of life-related laws around the country.

Dobbs has completely changed the language of life policy; what is most important now? 

You’re right: Dobbs removed the U.S. Supreme Court’s stranglehold on abortion law in America and made abortion an issue for state legislatures, governors, Congress, and the president. We often hear that Dobbs returned the issue to the states, which is only true in a limited sense. Someone could hear that abortion is now in the hands of the people and conclude that the ballot referenda we’re seeing all over the country are legitimate. But these ballot measures, these experiments in direct democracy funded by Democrat-aligned political action committees, is not what the Founders envisioned when they crafted a system of representational government. We don’t believe that majorities can ever legitimacy deny a disfavored minority of human rights. For now, the issue of abortion is in the hands of elected officials from town council all the way up to the nation’s chief executive. And that’s what our work looks like now: working across that scale.

People think Dobbs has shifted all life-issues policy to the state level, but that’s not true, or at least not completely true. What are the most important federal-level levers? 

Yes. First, what any reasonable person would presume the Founders implicitly accepted when they drafted the Constitution: that a person’s equality before the law does not change based on his status of development, that all human persons from conception to death are protected before the law. We have to acknowledge that at the outset. On the level of positive law, though, our country has the Comstock Act, a long-established law that was affirmed and modernized by President Bill Clinton. Comstock prohibits the mailing of abortion pills. If we accept the most recent data, then over 60 percent of abortions are committed through abortion pills, and many of those pills are delivered through our postal system. A plain reading of Comstock prohibits that, no question. Insofar as each branch of government has the authority to interpret the Constitution and to act in accordance with that interpretation, now we’re looking for a Congress and president that will craft and enforce legislation that will protect human life from conception.

What’s the most important issue no one is talking about right now? 

The situation changes by the day, but my country is following Canada and rapidly descending to euthanasia politics. It’s no longer an issue that only the solid leftwing states are imposing on their people. Human life, American life, is being attacked from every position, so we certainly have our work cut out for us.

Who is the smartest person we should interview next? 

Hadley Arkes

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