Patient, behind the scenes work pays off with historic triumph for unborn babies

By Dave Andrusko

When Allan Smith of NBC News profiled NRLC President Carol Tobias and National Right to Life, he could not have described them more perfectly: 

“Yet Tobias, who has served as NRLC’s president for 11 years and has spent much of the past half-century involved in the organization at both the state and national level, said in an interview after the decision came down that she would rather be playing the piano than talking about the historic moment.”

and

“A lot of NRLC’s work took place behind the scenes, away from public scrutiny.”

Mrs. Tobias fully understands that overturning Roe and Casey were necessary but not sufficient victories.  That is why NRLC and Tobias are working so feverishly for they knew the upcoming elections will be pivotal.

Dobbs, as NRLC Executive Director Dr. David N. O’Steen said at NRLC’s national convention last month, “gave us the freedom to protect unborn children.” But, he cautioned, when cornered “Evil comes back furiously. We have a real struggle before us.” 

In a recent interview with NBC News, Tobias echoes those sentiments. She said, “I’m not concerned that the pro-lifers are going to sit on their hands and let everything slip away.”

Tobias is as unassuming and as far from a publicity hound as you could possibly find. 

“She’s been a steady hand for the pro-life movement,” Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, one of the organization’s chapters, told NBC News. “She doesn’t pound the table, so to speak. She’s not always looking for the spotlight, she does her job and doesn’t care who gets the credit.”

“And in a day and age of flashy social media, that’s not Carol Tobias and I’m complimenting her for that,” he added. “Carol and her team, wisely, just do their jobs and go home.”

As a rule, National Right to Life does not seek out publicity. But, as Rep. Chris Smith, co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, once described NRLC, it is the “hub, the nerve center, of the pro-life movement.” 

And its work is done quietly and without fanfare:

For the most part, people have no clue what happened behind the scenes that got us to that point,” Michael Ciccocioppo, executive director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation, an NRLC state chapter, said in an interview. “But I can tell you in many, many cases, it was National Right to Life and its staff working behind the scenes in Washington and working with its state affiliates that have made a big difference in everything that has happened.”

The group spent decades advancing model legislation to friendly legislators, shaping how the issue is discussed in the U.S. and connecting grassroots anti-abortion rights activists with the larger political movement. 

Many of those laws were passed with the hope that, when challenged in court, they would ultimately cause the Supreme Court to chip away at the abortion rights protections guaranteed under Roe and force the court to reconsider the constitutionality of the decision.

The strategy worked.

“I think that whole laying the groundwork of court cases year after year after year, judges and I’m sure the Supreme Court must have, I assume, started getting tired of all the cases,” she said. “But I think that was a great prelude” to the Dobbs decision.

Allan Smith finished his story with a telling quote from Gonidakis.

“We believe in the incremental approach, one step at a time, and it’s worked so far,” he said. “Right to Life is the tip of the spear in advancing pro-life legislation today and going forward.”