Updated. — Seven Myths About Overturning Roe v. Wade
NCRegister: The Supreme Court’s June 24 decision strikes the necessary first blow on the march to equal justice for every human being.
Dobbs Decision: A Monumental Moment in the March for Equal Rights for Every Human Life
The nightmare is over. In his masterful opinion for the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Justice Samuel Alito consigned the constitutional right of abortion to the ash heap of history. Alito’s criticisms of Justice Harry Blackmun’s opinion in Roe v. Wade are deep and cutting — and entirely justified. Roe was, Alito wrote, “egregiously wrong from the start.” It was “on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided.” Just so.
Dobbs is a monumental accomplishment, but not only by lawyers and judges. Far from it. At any moment since Roe was decided, five able lawyers willing to overturn it could easily have been assembled. The hard part was getting them onto the Supreme Court. Dobbs is the culmination of a half-century of dedicated work by countless Americans committed to doing just that.
The court’s decision is a testament to all those who shaped our culture and thus our politics, to everyone who in season and out of season labored to keep the flame of life burning bright. This day is justly celebrated for the courage and legal acumen of our justices. It is even more a day to be thankful for the millions who made what the court did today possible.
That includes Catholics above all others, for they have always been in the forefront of America’s pro-life movement. If so many Catholics had not put aside their qualms about his character and temperament, and voted for Donald Trump because of who he promised to appoint to the high court, Hillary Clinton would have become president in 2017 and might still be. In that case, Roe v. Wade would be the law of the land tomorrow, next week and next year.
Three-fifths of the Dobbs majority — Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — would now instead be serving on lower courts.
Defending unborn lives has long been a specifically Catholic cause in the United States. Catholic opposition before Roe slowed the then-stirring political movement to liberalize state abortion laws. Richard Land was from 1988 until 2013 president of the Southern Baptists’ Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. His church is now a stalwart of the pro-life movement. It was not always so. Land recently said that “abortion wasn’t much of an issue for Baptists until Roe.” Baptists thought of it as a “Catholic issue.” And that made it harder, Land confessed, for Baptists to get involved
This prejudice infected the Supreme Court when it decided Roe. University of Virginia Law professor John Jeffries served as a clerk to Justice Lewis Powell starting in 1973. In his authorized biography of Powell, Jeffries wrote that the “idea that a fertilized embryo was a fully recognized human life would always seem to [Powell] unacceptably remote from ordinary experience. That this belief was closely associated with the Catholic Church only made it easier for him to dismiss.” That the court’s only Catholic — William Brennan — was arguing along these lines within the court made it even easier for Powell, and perhaps for other justices, to dismiss the pro-life case.
The New York Times’ front-page report of Roe was flanked by another about “reaction” to it. The title of that story was “Cardinals Shocked.” That story was not a fugitive from the sports pages. The politically savvy opinion in 1973 was that, for a little while after Roe, the Catholic bishops would make a ruckus about it. Good: That would confirm (for Southern Baptists, among others) that opposition to abortion was mostly what the Roe Court said it was: sectarian, theological, Catholic. Few non-Catholics would follow the bishops’ lead. (This was before Catholics stopped following the bishops’ lead.) Then, soon, opposition to Roe and to abortion would wither away, until it resided on the fringes of the religious right.
It did not turn out as the savants predicted. With pro-abortion Catholic politicians grabbing the headlines today, Catholics might forget to take the full measure of satisfaction with Dobbs that they have earned.
Dobbs makes clear that a majority of the justices will uphold any restriction on abortion access. (That calculation will be unaffected by Ketanji Jackson’s elevation to the high court later this summer, for she could not be more pro-choice than the man she succeeds, Stephen Breyer.) Even a state criminal prohibition on abortion, so long as there is an exception to save the mother’s life and, maybe, to prevent serious bodily injury to her, is now constitutionally safe. Estimates vary. A safe guess would be that approximately twenty states will enact such laws.
Dobbs is an essential step towards the pro-life movement’s animating goal: every child welcome in life and protected by law from the moment of fertilization onward. It is however only the penultimate step. Dobbs did not go as far in protecting life as it could have and, in my judgment, should have. This next step would have been to say that unborn babies are “persons” who enjoy a constitutional right to life under the Equal Protection Clause, just the same as you and I enjoy. Then every state would be constitutionally required to enact laws that all but ban abortion. Without this constitutional guarantee of life, the unborn would be safe from destruction in, say, Mississippi, if pro-lifers there follow up on Dobbs by passing a near total ban on abortions. But the unborn remain in mortal peril in, for example, California, because the Dobbs Court signaled that it would uphold permissive laws, just as it would restrictive ones.
A careful look at the entire Dobbs opinion, however, suggests that this signal is misleading. Although Dobbs effectively denies an equal right to life to the unborn through the front door (if you will) of the Equal Protection Clause, it puts the building blocks in place for future litigation which could deliver to unborn human beings through the back door all, or almost all, of the protection that they justly deserve. The Equal Protection route would have delivered all that the Constitution itself could promise to the unborn: equality among all human persons, from the moment of fertilization until natural death. The rest of the work would then be to enforce the Constitution against rogue abortion states such as California, which would exploit any possible way to resist such a clear mandate for life. Instead, the Dobbs Court mapped out a longer, more labor-intensive path to that just equality, much of it to be done in the courts.
Here is that pathway.
LifeNews. The Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, with a 6-3 majority ruling in the Dobbs case that “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion.”
“The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority.
Justices ruled to uphold Dobbs, which limits abortion to 15-weeks in Mississippi, effectively overturning Roe v. Wade and returning abortion law to the states.
“Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives,” Alito wrote.
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This is a landmark day for the Pro-Life movement and our entire nation. After staining the moral fabric of our country for nearly 50 years, Roe v. Wade is no more.
Leading pro-life groups hailed the decision, including Kim Schwartz of Texas Right to Life.
“After nearly 50 years, Roe has been responsible for the deaths of over 60 million preborn American children. Today, the Supreme Court has finally overturned the grievous error of Roe v. Wade that has cost so many precious lives,” she told LifeNews. “Now, the abortion question will return to the states, authorizing state governments to set their own laws without being suffocated by federal courts.”
July 4, 2022: Pope Francis condemns abortion in new comments about Roe v. Wade decision, responds to question on Communion
“I had an abortion when I was a single mother and my daughter was 2 years old. I would do it again. But you know the Greek myths when you kill a relative you are pursued by furies? For months, it was as if baby furies were pursuing me.
“These are not the words of a benighted, superstition-ridden teenager lost in America’s cultural backwaters. They are the words of a Cornell-educated, urban-dwelling Democratic-voting 40-year-old cardiologist. I’ll call her Clare. Clare is exactly the kind of person for whom being pro-choice is an unshakeable conviction. If there were a core constituent of the movement to secure abortion rights, Clare would be it. And yet: her words are exactly the words to which the pro-choice movement is not listening”.— Our Bodies, Our Souls: Naomi Wolf evaluates “Pro-Choice” strategy, Naomi Wolf, The New Republic, 1995