Cover Story

40 years and millions of lives

Roe v. Wade | Roe v. Wade continues its grim business, but pro-life activity is saving lives, too

Issue: "Roe v. Wade turns 40," Jan. 26, 2013

Here we go again with our 17th annual Roe v. Wade special issue. Four decades since the Supreme Court’s infamous ruling, and again we ask, how long, Lord, how long? How many more millions of lives? But our cover photos and those on this page show a few of the millions saved through God’s grace and the work of pregnancy resource centers, and every year that number also increases.

This issue includes summaries of the 10 top abortion-related issues of 2012, and then longer stories about some of the year’s battles: abortion and rape, late-term abortion, telemed abortion. We also look at abortion in South Korea and, knowing that pregnancies don’t always turn out happily, conclude with two stories of faith amid sadness.

Our baby photos are new this year and we hope to make this a tradition: If you’re a pregnancy center director, volunteer, or mother, go to for instructions on submitting photos for next year’s issue. But I have a story about one of the photos, and it starts in 1974, a year after Roe v. Wade tossed on the scrap heap every state abortion law. It starts with Elise Smith, then a 19-year-old student at the University of Houston. A fellow psychology student made a class presentation about abortion, which she said was killing a baby—and soon after, Smith learned she was pregnant.  

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Unmarried and without insurance, she didn’t know what to do. She had paid no attention to the national news or what Roe v. Wade meant theologically or politically, but she remembered what that student had said. Friends encouraged her to save time, money, and trouble by having an abortion—but the photos the student had shown haunted her dreams. She chose to carry to birth the baby inside her. smiths_1.png

The baby was a boy. Elise Smith and the baby’s dad married over the protests of friends and family who said the marriage would never last. They are still married. Elise Smith says, “When you honor God, He will give you abundant grace and love. It wasn’t easy and isn’t easy. Some women will not be able to marry their babies’ fathers. They may have other paths to take, but I do know that God has a plan—and it isn’t death in the womb.”

Smith says she never got to thank the fellow student because she dropped out of school to work full time—“but I have thanked God for her. Thousands of times I’ve asked Him to bless her.” And now the rest of the story: That baby she carried to term is now 37, with a wife and child of his own. For 17 years he’s served in the Army and is currently in Afghanistan. The photo to the right shows Elise Smith's baby and her daughter-in-law.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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