How Dobbs Might Shape the Future of Conservatism in Unexpected Ways

In overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court delivered the right’s biggest single victory ever, and it may spell the end of the conservative movement as we’ve known it.

It was Ronald Reagan who popularized the notion that the conservative movement rested on a fusionist “three-legged stool.” In theory, the three legs were free market economics, national defense, and social conservatism. In practice, free market economics meant low taxes and pro-business policies. National defense meant anti-communism and, briefly, the war on terror. Social conservatism covered a lot of territory but the enduring core was opposition to Roe and abortion.

Like anti-communism, “pro-life” was a big tent all its own, including constitutionalists, religious activists, advocates of states’ rights, et al. While nearly everyone invoked the “sanctity of life,” as a policy matter, many argued merely for overturning Roe either to fix a jurisprudential error or to send the issue back to the states, to let the democratic process find a social compromise on abortion.

For other abortion opponents, however, overturning Roe was a first step on the road to enshrining a “culture of life” that protected the unborn from conception onward.

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