I’ve wanted Roe v. Wade overturned my whole life. So why do I feel so bad?

All my life, I’ve been waiting for Roe v Wade to be overturned. Now it looks like it’s going to happen, and it does not feel great.

It does not feel great to be a pro-lifer in general. That, at least, is nothing new. I remember an evening many years ago when the phone on the kitchen wall rang during dinner. My mother answered, and a girl’s voice said, loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear, “Is this the abortion clinic?” Then there was an explosion of giggles on the other end and the phone slammed down. It was almost 40 years ago, but I can still feel the crawlingly painful sensations of receiving that stupid prank call, which some teenager made to our house because we were known as those fanatics, those weird pro-lifers. I was angry and disgusted and most of all embarrassed. Because we were weird.

My parents, as enthusiastic converts, took us kids to a lot of pro-life rallies and prayer vigils. I remember one in particular, led by a group of evangelical prayer warriors who, after an emotional ad-libbed imprecation outside an abortion facility, unexpectedly brought out a large clay pot, held it dramatically overhead and then smashed it on the sidewalk. I am sure they explained what this was supposed to signify—something about Israel and broken covenants, I would guess. But I was in middle school, and all I knew was that, to my sorrow, the ground was not going to swallow me up. All my friends spent their weekends skiing and going to Bath & Body Works at the mall, and I was standing out on a sidewalk watching some weirdo sweep up pieces of a terra cotta flower pot because of dead babies.

Fortunately, my parents also gave me plenty of examples of what it means to actually live in a pro-life way. My mother was a magnet for vulnerable people, and she always cared for them and fought for their dignity, no matter who threatened it. My family cared not only for babies and their moms but for homeless people, the disabled and yes, the weirdos. When I sheepishly turned up pregnant myself, there was no question of being turned out of the house. My parents took care of me and my baby until I could more or less take care of myself. They were straight up pro-life for every life, no questions asked.

So I was well aware that the pro-life movement had its share of oddballs, but it always felt like something for me to get over. It was always very clear that the core principles were sound, and some people simply executed them in a cringey way. I remember thinking that I wasn’t likely to get tossed into an arena with a lion like one of the early Christian martyrs I adored, so instead I would prod myself to be more brave about being made fun of by my classmates.

And I wasn’t wrong. Sometimes that is what is called for, and embarrassment is a worthy suffering to offer up to the Lord, if that is what you have to give.

But the cause of my embarrassment has changed. You know what I mean. It is one thing to know that people think pro-lifers are dorky and uncool and to decide that you can live with that. It is quite another to know that people think pro-lifers are anti-woman and anti-immigrant and anti-poor people—and the reason they think so is because the most public faces of the pro-life party cannot seem to stop saying so.

Like many of my friends, I have backed away from identifying myself as pro-life in the last few years. I just don’t want to be associated with any of that. I stopped writing about it, stopped talking about it.

But the recent leak of the Supreme Court draft has made certain conversations unavoidable….Read the rest of my latest for America Magazine.


Image: March for Life, 2016, Aleteia, via Flickr (Creative Commons)

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39 thoughts on “I’ve wanted Roe v. Wade overturned my whole life. So why do I feel so bad?”

  1. I wrote out my rambling thoughts because I’m conflicted and in turmoil right now, and i want others to know. But I appreciate the article. It helped.

    I have seen Catholics stand up and claim that trans people are not human because they reject their own bodies and what God has given them, therefore they are no longer human and an embodiment of Sin; They are demonic and talk to them is a mortal sin. I have heard Catholics say Innocent people that have been killed by the state in false convictions are not a problem because they committed other sins and are not “innocent”. I have heard Catholics tying themselves into knots about not helping those less fortunate is sinful because 2 Thessalonians 3.

    Propaganda is a HUGE part of winning any fight, and Catholics have failed. They failed to make it about life and not about a war on women. They failed to convert the hearts of those around them. They failed to separate themselves from the ‘A baby is a punishment for premarital sex’ crowd. They failed to support life changing help for those who need it. They have failed to put LIFE as the point of being pro-life.It’s a sad complicated issue and I have seen so little of the support for human life that i have always been taught. The reason I am still pro-life is because this is such a core belief. Diapers and formula are necessary, but fall way short of total respect for life that being pro-life is about.

    I feel so conflicted about being a pro-life Catholic because it IS a complicated issue. Murder is a huge problem, bodily autonomy is a huge problem, downtrodding the poor is a huge problem, healthcare is a huge problem, and misogyny is a huge problem. All societal problems as pro-life Catholics we have the responsibility to fix.

    Simcha, your article shows that the ones doing the work are still here, they are keeping their heads down. They are doing the necessary work. Exactly like the self-sacrificing life of Christ they are living the embodiment of what being a follower of Christ entails. I will not celebrate this decision until that propaganda war is won. It will make the overall conversion of the heart MUCH harder.

    Thank you for reminding us that it’s not over, there is no victory that stops the work of Christ. We are fallen and must actively reach out and love each other without celebrating their pain. Thank you reminding us that the true pro-life people are out there. The ones living with self-sacrificing love as Christ did.

  2. I’m a Catholic and try to be a faithful one. I had a medically necessary safe and legal abortion (cervical ectopic – very rare) that saved my life and allowed me, after many years of infertility, at the age of 39, to have my first and only child. I took methotrexate, which is frowned upon by many in the Church as an “ethical” treatment for fallopian ectopics, instead preferring Catholic women to undergo the “ethical” treatment of having their Fallopian tube removed. Getting my cervix removed wasn’t an option. I don’t know where this is going other than to say I appreciate your article. I’m definitely in the group of feeling awful, conflicted, and unsettled about the future. Especially because some states have proposed outlawing procedures like the one I had. I sought two opinions from Catholic OBGYNs on my situation and still had Catholic women tell me I shouldn’t have used methotrexate and to seek confession. It feels raw all over again with the SCOTUS leak. I know many women are hurting not just me. Holding them in prayer.

  3. https://religiondispatches.org/the-end-of-roe-comes-courtesy-of-the-catholic-church-but-heres-what-catholics-can-do/

    “Why Do I Feel So Bad?”

    It’s a great question!

    Here is another exploration of that same question, also written by a Catholic, but one who could not say that she ALWAYS wished that Roe would be overturned.

    Simcha’s question is similar to Mary Hunts questions which are, arguably, “What can Catholics now do?” and “What SHOULD Catholics do?” Neither the questions nor any possible “answer” are bound to make us feel “good”.

    Flawed and as “unsatisfactory” as it is, Roe v Wade should also be remembered as a noble (in the Quixotic sense) attempt to settle something that’s upset-ably unsettle-able. Some might say the same about Dobbs, but it, also, will settle very little. Nor can it.

    Mary Hunt is a founder and director of the “Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual.” She is trying to look ahead. And I admire her creative imagination.

    A “Dorothy Day Abortion Fund”?

    A “Saint Vincent De Paul Vasectomy Clinic”?

    Are such things possible, desirable, or morally inescapable? Mary Hunt argues that they are all three.

    Consider The “Sister Donna Quinn Clinic Escort Service”? https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2009-nov-15-adna-prochoice-nun15-story.html

    Unsettling (like the firehose of news it takes so much effort to contend with)
    Unsettable (like the onward rush of creation. “We ARE the Big Bang.”)


  4. Laws don’t drive demand, but laws also convey what we value in a society. It’s so sad that as a society we think so highly of some children to the point of IVF and surrogacy and so little of lives born into hard circumstances, that we think that abortion is the alternative.

    The dominant culture has little truck with modest approaches and legal support of children, finding that those children are less worthy than others. That’s the mountain a pro life philosophy is up against. We’re fine with treating humans like objects.

  5. The embarrassing part is that Trump and only Trump is responsible for the over-turning of Roe v Wade assuming it happens, which everybody and their dog predicted he would never do.

  6. Thank you Simcha. I just can’t get away from the feeling that abortion is wrong and the taking of an innocent life, especially past about 10 weeks when the fetus is a fully formed human being and just has to grow to be like you, me, other people (as far as I understand it). I’m really glad the Church speaks up for the humanity of the unborn, and the principle that every human life is valuable, no matter the dependency/strength/other qualities of that life. I feel like this was very helpful to me at a point in my life where I was having a lot of suicidal thoughts after a period of harassment and assault. I credit my Catholic education to getting me through that period. I didn’t think I was a valuable person but I remembered we don’t take another person’s life just because they’re not obviously valuable (I’m not saying pro-life teachings would work this way for everyone but they did for me). At the same time, I kind of feel like I must be missing something when so many people are in favour of abortion. As you say there are so many difficult situations where it’s obvious women have been set up to fail and suffer and our society is truly terrible at caring for suffering women. I think the Church actually has a really liberating message for women when she says that if a man wants to have sex with a woman, he needs to accept her in her wholeness including her fertility, and that a woman shouldn’t have to medicate her healthy body for a man’s sexual convenience and so on. I feel like when I learned about the Church’s teaching against contraception (which was from you and Jen Fulwiler and not from the Catholic schools I attended aged 4-18 or ever in Mass), it led to a hugely positive transformation in my relationship to my own body and so to myself. I started to see my body as having its own language that was worthy of my respectful attention and understanding. I stopped seeing my body as an object to shape for the eyes of men who saw me as a thing to be used and abused. I think this acceptance of the inherent goodness of women’s healthy bodies is key to a truly pro-life culture. If we set out to build our societies around acceptance of women’s bodies and health so many things would get better. But this message is so counter-cultural and of course requires sacrifices from women as well as men, and the Church is in such a terrible position to teach this having treated women and children so badly in eg. mother and baby homes in Ireland where I’m from. Weirdly the Church also seems to lack faith in its own message against contraception and be embarrassed to teach it. But we know that contraception fails and if most couples are relying on it not to fail, that’s a lot of people who are going to want abortions, especially with our unjust economic and social structures and so on. Anyway those are just some rambling thoughts to say I share your discomfort with the current debate and to thank you for your pro-life work which has had a hugely positive effect on my own life and marriage. You have never disappointed me! <3

    1. Clearly, the sentiments of the “pro life” movement are sincere and valid on the level of personal morality. I also agree that what is created at conception is a human life that merits protection and even (yikes!) veneration.

      But from a legal and therefore practical (and historic) point of view, the Dobbs decision is tragic and destructive with dreadful consequences for democracy, for the rule of law, families, for human agency, for the rights of workers, consumers, and the environment. And, while I agree with what Alito expressed so blithely and callously about the ramifications of this decision being “unforeseable”, the worst banes of this legal and moral outrage may well fall upon women.

      Most pro-life foot soldiers are understandably relieved that the rights of the unborn are finally being protected the way they have long desired. But the “rationale” (the word conveys WAY too much dignity) used to explain the “legal” reasoning should give everyone pause. No, it should make every serious person sick at heat, sick at soul and sick to their queasy stomach.

      Considering the history of the symbiotic (actually parasitic) relationship of the Pro-Life movement to the GOP should be enough. Remember that Roe and Casey were largely constructs of Republican justices. The main thrust of the GOP since the end of the Civil War has always been about protecting the rights of concentrated wealth against the claims of democracy and decency. That has not changed even after the all the efforts to transform the GOP to make this decision possible has so disfigured the party of Lincoln, Rockefeller, Javitz and even Goldwater (and Reagan).

      Also put this Dobbs decision in the context of how voting rights are being gutted by other recent “landmark” decision of the “Robert’s Court.” And then consider Alito’s “rationale” which if anybody seriously DID, it would make him a laughing stock if not impeachable, but…

      So, by Alito’s rationale a WOMAN’s right to vote would be protected because it was explicitly enumerated in the Constitution. But voting rights are not the same as equality or other “rights”. If we go back to before a woman’s right to vote was enshrined, we can look at the strongest argument against it. And that was how UNFAIR it was to give husbands and fathers extra votes. THAT is a powerful part of our cultural and historical heritage and tradition.

      But… But… But… you may protest. Women will use their vote to protect and advance their rights as well as the rights of their sons and daughters…. (That was the original impetus for fighting FOR woman’s suffrage…) Well… maybe.

      Again, Alito (like a broken clock) is right to say the consequences of denying the validity of substantive rights are unforeseeable, but for those who take glee in setting democracy against itself, the one consequences that is both foreseeable and inescapable is that so many rights and practices are now dangling in the air (like a target skeet) and as the rule of law has been undermined, there will be all types of fraught conflicts with plenty of proto-fascist opportunists (more clever than trimp) ready to exploit them.

      To vaguely misquote Bobby D. Zimmerman, “Ever Boddy MUST get Played”

  7. This. It has to be whole life.

    I think there’s a time and place to stand outside abortion clinics. I still support 40 Days for Life, because I think the action of standing outside and trying one last time to offer help and change minds is important (and that particular organization actually trains people to not be hyper aggressive weirdos on the sidewalk, but actually have some idea of what they’re doing). It is a life, after all.

    The thing is, it does need to be the LAST time, not the first. Way too often, it’s the first. There’s a whole lot of help that needs to be offered before that point, and there’s still a lot of work to be done in that arena.

  8. I am an adult convert– I grew up very liberal and pro-choice, marching for Planned Parenthood and holding some of its most extreme, truly pro-abortion views. I am now an orthodox Catholic, a more conservative one than many. This piece has really captured how I’m feeling at the moment. In addition to a fatigued embarrassment and reluctance to really talk about it, I’m angry at the loud voices from both sides for utterly missing the point and missing the compassion. I need to focus more on all the good people quietly doing the important work in the pro-life movement. Thanks for the reminder.

  9. Re: flower pot smashing. Wasn’t it Ezekiel or some other prophet who was always doing performance art to illustrate the unfaithfulness of the people? Breaking things and digging holes through walls and whatnot? Maybe those people were doing something along those lines.

  10. It’s just so sad that there are not more voices like this.

    So sad.

    I just hope people who read this (and think about it) are inspired with a little bit of hope for humanity and also for themselves as individuals capable of building and spreading (grounded) hope.

    We should all be able to understand the legitimacy of recognizing the personhood of the unborn. Just as we should confront the fact that the personhood (as recognized by temporal law) of so many others has always been either precarious or aspirational. (The full personhood of women is a relatively recent and even “radical” idea that is still, unfortunately, an insecure and contentious precept.)

    If I believed that striking down Roe would lead people of different ideologies and religions to work together to support full personhood rights for all humans, it would be easier to feel hope for us all. But Simcha’s writing reminds us that hope is never an easy gift. Still, thinking and communication of this quality is part of what we need to build the hope so lacking here on earth. Of course, too many (mis) interpret Christianity to say that there is no hope in this life.

  11. Am I the only one who thinks this leak was put out there as a shiny object to take our attention away crippling inflation numbers? And away from elites bent on getting us mired into an undeclared WW3? For years, the Republican Party strung along pro-lifers and then under George Bush, they held the presidency and both houses of Congress and they couldn’t even get a parental *notification* bill passed. Screw them. And now, because the Dems are bleeding support in the Black community due to inflation, they need to rile up their moneyed (mostly white) base with images of back alley coat hanger abortions and claims of how “this supreme court decision will be devastating to the Black and Hispanic communities.” Screw the Dems (and their barely disguised racism) too.

    This leak is being presented as a big deal, but in the parts of the country where the most abortions are committed, nothing will change. For instance, my own urbanized tristate area including Philadelphia and south Jersey and northern Delaware will not be outlawing abortion anytime soon. That means we all still need to do our part of course. Donate food and diapers and wipes to pantries when you can and check out what your local crisis pregnancy centers need (probably cash as struggling families need rent money now more than ever). Stop looking to the government to fix our problems. The people in charge are not there to help us.
    /rant off


      1. The thing is both sides suck. The Republicans never wanted abortion to end. Unlike the Dems, they just lied about it. I really think the best thing we as Christians can do is live by the Golden Rule and forget about politics. Politicians are great at injecting hopium into our veins, and the side effects are discord and high blood pressure. Screw ’em all and stop participating in their trained seal acts.

        1. I totally agree. I’m disgusted with both sides. I always end up voting for the lesser of two evil. It would be nice to be able to vote for a candidate I believe in.

          1. Remember when Rick Santorum sat on a stage and endorsed Arlen Specter? The issue that I believed was so near and dear to his heart apparently wasn’t. When it comes to our politicians, I am no longer certain there is a lesser evil. And the media is so far slanted in favor of big government solutions (e.g. the Orwellian “Disinformation Governance Board”) that we no longer hear the full truth about anything. Meanwhile, the country is on the brink of civil war.

            Right now, I think any politician who would actually do something about out of control food and gasoline prices would do more to reduce abortions than any other guy in the room. Instead they’re all screaming about Putin and abortion and insurrections hoping we don’t notice that our world and way of life is going to hell in a handbasket. Remember when instead of talking about the badly broken supply chain, they pretended the conversation was about paternity leave? And everyone obliged them by switching to the conversation on their terms, which was no conversation at all as dads have been taking paternity leaves for more than a decade.

            It’s infuriating to me. And I can see I’m ranting again, so now, I will step away from the keyboard for awhile, take some deep breaths and get my head right. Maybe some of these politicians will do the same (Elizabeth Warren – I’m looking to you, sister).

    1. No kidding.

      They’re hemorrhaging Hispanic support too. There are areas in my neck of the woods, communities on the border who are entirely Latino (who have traditionally voted blue for generations) that are flipping red. The situation at the border is being handled HORRIBLY inhumanely still (even under this new administration…if anything, it’s worse) and the aggressive progressive social policies are really offensive to them (They tend to be socially conservative, fiscally liberal).

  12. Thank you for this Simcha. It really makes a difference with how much courage I have in facing the coming days.

    I’d like to suggest another feeling along with embarrassment that we could all be collectively feeling, one that I’m certainly feeling: unsafe. I’m not talking about being harassed or slandered by pro-choicers. I’m talking about knowing the leadership that this change is coming under. The same people advocating for these increased protections for unborn children are often found thwarting and intimidating the people and committees trying to investigate and gain justice from last year’s Insurrection. It of course isn’t an excuse to support abortion—there is no such good reason—but to ignore the very concerning and dangerous behaviors and words behind so many of our leaders does us no favors in building a culture of life.

    I follow Sheila Gregoire’s To Love Honor and Vacuum Blog, and shortly after Josh Duggar was sentenced for downloading and viewing CSM, a commenter on Sheila’s response post reminded everybody that Josh’s father Jim Bob—who along with the rest of Josh’s family spent the procedures pampering and putting him first over the safety of his wife and children and the family (with children) he was arranged to stay with—was running for Senate. She called for every Christian and pro-lifer to stop voting for men like this, no matter what their stance on abortion is: “You can’t make the world safer for babies by making it more unsafe for women.”

    You can’t make the world more safe for unborn babies, let alone pro-life Christians, by making it less safe for everybody else. I hope we learn this lesson sooner than I expect we will. Either way, I’m not looking forward to this incoming horrible storm and I’d encourage serious self-reflection to the people who do.

    1. I totally agree GCB. The examples you offer illustrate hypocrisy that is damaging the movement.

  13. I’m glad for this potential ruling. I agree that legal avenues aren’t the only way to reduce abortions. But there is something to be said for the state holding sanctions against them, just as I would want the state to have sanctions against any gravely immoral act (murder, rape, etc) even if there were other ways of reducing the frequency of these actions.

    I am not embarrassed to be pro-life. I am certainly embarrassed by the hypocrisy that is present among some pro-lifers, which gives the overall movement a bad name. During the pandemic, I’ve been dismayed at pro-lifers who mock people who wear masks and take other precautions, accusing them of living in fear, when they’re actually taking precautions to protect others (you know, “love they neighbor”?). It disgusts me that a prominent pro-life leader takes every chance she gets to attack masks and vaccines and to stir the pot about these topics, but then remains silent when someone in her state, who is most likely innocent, is about to receive the death penalty. A lot of people in my life are pro-“choice”, and this type of hypocrisy gives them ample ammunition. And ruins all chances of their conversion.

    That being said, pro-lifers who oppose government-funded charity programs shouldn’t automatically be dismissed as hypocritical. Many of these same people donate their time and money to pregnancy support centers, food pantries, etc. They just believe that the private sector should meet these needs rather than the government. This does not make them hypocrites.

    I’m sorry that you have backed away from identifying as pro-life and discussing these issues. The pro-life movement needs people like you who are consistently pro-life without the hypocrisy. You’ve been a great witness regarding pandemic controversies, and I know you would be on this issue as well.

    1. Ugh. Now that same pro-life leader is saying that women who have abortions should be criminalized. Her rationale being that women who murder children post-birth are criminalized, so if pre-born children are just as human, then the standard should be the same for killing a pre-born child. She is playing into the hands of the other side, who have predicted that illegalizing abortion will result in witch hunts where women who have miscarriages are investigated and jailed. I’m glad Roe is being overturned, and I want abortion to be illegal, but without criminalizing the women who are often secondary victims of abortion. Women who feel desperate enough to consider aborting their own children need empathy, compassion and options. Women who miscarry should not have to fear being investigated. This mentality will not build bridges between the two sides and will not convert hearts.

  14. Yes. I want people not to want or think they need an abortion. I want people to choose not to have one, to choose life. Forcing them feels different.

    1. Thank you. I have always been pro-choice, because I learned early on that banning something never actually stops people from doing it; the ban gives the states the power to imprison or fine people who continue doing that thing. With abortion, that means putting teenagers in prison, because there’s no way to just punish the providers.

      I understand and appreciate yours and Simcha’s positions, in that you all are actually interested in making it easier to be a parent. Sadly the political part of your movement has zero interest in any policies other than punishing people for having sex. I hope that you all will come to understand that you’ve been duped by people who wanted your votes for terrible policies based in misogyny and help us make it a better world for all parents and kids.

      1. Anti-abortion laws should not result in the imprisonment of teenagers. Women (and girls) are additional victims of abortion, and are not the ones who should be criminalized. I totally agree that many lawmakers who call themselves pro-live actually have nefarious motives. Part of pro-life activism should be to promote political leaders who are genuinely pro-life, who aren’t seeking to criminalize victims of abortion.

        1. I believe you when you say that the policies you support won’t involve punishing the customers, but I’m a lawyer, and it’s a violation of the principle of equal protection of the laws to make selling something illegal but not buying the thing. Further, if the statutes don’t impose penalties on abortion-seekers, then self-administered pharmaceutical abortions would be legal.

          I really do think that like drugs, most porn*, and, sadly, lots of family violence**, abortion is something that can’t be addressed through the criminal law system. There’s just no way to write a statute that only punishes the providers, and no good way to ban the procedure that doesn’t make miscarriages subject to criminal investigations if a local sheriff or DA wants to make a name for himself. As I noted, I am pro-choice, but in the same way I’m pro-chemotherapy. Cancer is horrible, but it’s chemo exists and I want it made better. Crisis pregnancies happen, and making them subject to criminal prosecution is only going to make bad things much, much worse.

          *If the participants don’t have capacity to consent or were coerced into it, then throw the book at the producers and consumers. I think porn is damaging and dangerous, but the actions necessary to gather evidence for a case against producers who use consenting adults are worse for the country than allowing the smut to continue. I think there should be a much more vigorous discussion of the harm even the consensual stuff causes and social stigma for buying it.

          **My emotional reaction is that anyone who beats their children or spouse should be beaten and then shot someplace not immediately lethal. I also recognize that the goal is to stop it, and that criminal punishment tends to puddle around the poor and marginalized while running off the rich and connected. Therefore, some kind of diversion process like some places use for drug offenses is best; letting social workers and therapists do most of the work here.

          1. You make good points Karen. I still can’t get behind the law sanctioning an act such as abortion, but I certainly don’t have the answers on how to reconcile the dilemmas you have raised.

          2. @Karen said, “I’m a lawyer, and it’s a violation of the principle of equal protection of the laws to make selling something illegal but not buying the thing.”
            Unless you’re a really rich man buying a child from Jeffrey Epstein.

            Can’t some things be felonies for the seller and misdemeanors for the buyer? Don’t drugs sometimes work that way? I wouldn’t support any criminal charges against a mother, but if she essentially got a traffic ticket, I would bet most judges would forgive it anyway.

            1. I just today, months later, saw your question so I hope you get notice that I’m trying to answer.

              It’s possible to make laws that punish parts of a transaction more harshly than others. (Drug possession is much less serious than selling, and selling small amounts less serious that industrial-level production.) It’s not easy to do, and even laws written to do that allow for a lot of variation in enforcement.

              With abortion, even the harshest laws allow for some limited kinds of emergency medical treatment, so small changes in facts make the difference between a 1st degree felony and no violation at all, which gives FAR too much power to, shall we say, MOTIVATED DA’s.

            2. “ I would bet most judges would forgive it anyway.”

              “Most” judges?

              Who knows. I wouldn’t bet money or reputation on that. But I do see it as a plaintive call for reason and temperance when such are undergoing a powerful ebb right now.

              What seems fairly clear is that this court has launched us on a course of legal, social, and political chaos. And this includes moral chaos.

              I honor the church’s moral position on abortion, but not efforts to adjudicate them. I never thought I would go to a “pro abortion” protest, but I did find myself at one in New Hampshire soon after the decision came down with a sign scrawled, “What rights are next?”

              We need to brace ourselves for all kinds of consequent rulings from this court that will mainly serve the interest of those who wish to divide the electorate and the culture on desperate and uncompromising lines. An optimist might imagine that after a long and hurtful period of chaos, democracy and rule of law may emerge stronger. I find it hard to imagine that many principled opponents of abortion have any reasonable basis for optimism right now.

              1. As a principled abortion opponent, I feel optimistic that there is no longer a Constitutional right to end the lives of unborn children. I certainly don’t want abortive mothers to face legal penalties, but the law should take a stand against murder. The unborn have rights too (or they should).

                1. “Right to abortion”

                  I hate that phrase because *I* have no argument against the idea that a human life begins at conception. But for a wide range of reasons I was never too troubled by the original “compromises” built into the original Roe v. Wade decision that tried to leave the issue to women and physicians while also trying to make a vague distinction about human life before and after around three months or “viability.”

                  In the end though, I am forced to accept that women do have certain rights that will allow them to terminate a pregnancy under certain conditions. This is for moral as well as compelling legalistic considerations. Some people are so extremely “principled” (using the term in a sense that I hope is different from how you used it) that they will brook no compromise and will support (or accept) criminal penalties for women who undergo the procedure. That is happening now but women are also being penalized already in many states where their access to healthcare is being “compromised” in the most atrocious sense of that word.

                  Terminating a pregnancy may not always be primarily a medical question, but there are so many medical and health related issues involved so that the law is best used when it gives wide latitude to the medical professions in their dealings with patients.

                  As for those (legal) conditions under which a woman has a right to abort a fetus…? I know that I am not qualified to thread the many needles and multiple overlapping gray areas involved in TWO lives in the context of rape, poverty, incest, childhood pregnancies, mental illness, miscarriage and a wide range of other medical conditions relating to the fetus or the mother.

                  Of course Roe never settled the matter in the way the deciding justices had hoped, but I think it and Casey (by carving out a right that they could never clearly define) allowed a more workable framework for the democratic processes in various states to work with. I hope I am wrong, but it seems clear to me that revoking this “right” will engender a chaos that will have few salutary effects for society, for democracy, for women, or for children (including the unborn.)

                  Imagine the GOP getting slim majorities in the House and Senate. Then they could end the filibuster and pass a national ban. How long would that stand, and what would be the concomitant results in law, politics, and society?

                  But some think revoking this right might SOMEHOW inculcate more reverence for human life????

                2. I’m sorry that you object to the way I used the term “principled”, and I’m not really sure why you object, since I was echoing back the rhetorical question you asked about how principled abortion opponents could feel optimism after the recent Supreme Court decision regarding abortion. I stand by my optimism. I have huge issues with many people in the pro-life movement, many of whom seem to be just playing politics (such as one leader who just today, supposedly in the name of “vulnerability”, took an anti-vaccine stand, not just Covid vaccines, but all vaccines), and I don’t like many of their tactics. But the slaughter of the unborn has gone way too far, and removing it as a Constitutionally guaranteed “right” is a step in the right direction.

                3. Hmmm.

                  Words are so tricky.

                  If was troubled by any words you used, they’d probably be “murder” or “slaughter.” (I know others are very trouble by my use of the word “Mother” in the case of a woman who considers or chooses abortion.)

                  I always objected when pro abortion people seemed to claim that the unborn “thing” was not a human life. But, of course for them, if they admitted such, they’d open themselves to being accused of being in favor of murder or slaughter.

                  My unhelpful response was that they should not flinch from such accusations, however grotesque or unfair. Of course, I was younger then. And I was partly making that claim in the context of Roe which offered them a certain significant legal protections.

                  I hope your optimism is warranted, but there are few signs that our society is moving toward one where women will be protected and supported either before, during, or after a pregnancy. Certainly no sighs that Dobbs is to have that effect. There are many signs that all kinds of medical conditions associated with pregnancies will be investigated and potentially criminalized. It’s already happening, I think.

                  Different attitudes toward the start of life, pregnancies, abortions etc cannot be reconciled through words or logic. Both words and logic are just as likely (more, in my opinion) to lead to extremes, polarization, and conflict. I don’t know what is really the best approach (in our “fallen” world) but maybe it has to do with a somewhat “fuzzy” understanding tempered by compassion and humility.

                  I still think that pro abortion people should admit they are advocating ending a human life. (Not all homiacides are murder.) I also believe the vast majority of woman who choose abortions know in a deep way that they are ending a human life. Few of us have the words or the logic (or the “grace”) to deal with such situations with confidence, never mind equanimity. Also too few of us have have the relationships and support that help us be sure that we have made (or will make) the “right” decision under such circumstances. That kind of support, so needed in so many cases, can not be imposed. It can only be offered by those who have that rare combination of compassion and humility.

                  I am often dismayed by the rhetoric of abortion advocates, but I know there are valid reasons for their passion. But I’m also far from reassured, never mind inspired, by those who style themselves “pro life.” For me, the best possible outcome will be a “Cold War standoff” (kind of like what they have on the Korean Peninsula) where the 38th parallel is vaguely like the antebellum border, meaning something like the Roe/Casey “compromise.” And if we are really touched by grace, there will be a lot more support for women before and during their pregnancies with even more support for children who are born into this troubled world. For that to happen, I think we need more than optimism.

                4. Again, I didn’t mean for my terminology to be offensive. The magnitude of lives that have been lost to abortion seems to warrant the terms I used, but I will try to avoid them out of respect for your preferences. As far as optimism, I didn’t say I had a huge amount of it, but I do think removing the Constitutional “right” to kill an innocent unborn child is a step in the right direction. Yes, women with unwanted pregnancies need more support. There are many pro-life organizations that do a lot to help them (despite issues I have with some pro-life leaders and their links to far alt-right political issues other than abortion). But more needs to be done. Regarding the anecdotes in the media about women who have not been able to receive healthcare due to anti-abortion laws: there is something wrong with this picture. The woman in Texas had miscarried; her baby had no heartbeat. Having a D&C for a miscarriage of a baby who has already died is not prohibited under anti-abortion legislation. Catholic hospitals, who don’t administer contraceptives or contraceptive procedures or any kind of abortion, have provided this type of miscarriage care for decades. Treatment for ectopic pregnancies also are not prohibited under anti-abortion laws. A salpingectomy or salipingostomy (the latter which would not be performed at a Catholic hospital) are not abortion procedures. Yes, Methotrexate is a drug that can be used to induce an abortion, and is also used for other medical purposes such as an ectopic pregnancy, cancer, etc. Since abortion is not the only purpose of this drug, a pharmacist should be able to freely fill the prescription. It is not his responsibility to speculate as to the purpose of the medication. (It would be different if abortion was the sole purpose, but it’s not.) There is some type of disconnect between medicine and legalities here, or doctors are trying to make a political point.

                5. Ouch.

                  You certainly never offended me, and I’m sorry if I gave you the impression that you might have. It just shows to go that my writing skills are at least as bad as my social skills.

                  Or maybe it’s just another example of the trickiness of words.

                  Even though many others, including orthodox people of very respectable faiths, disagree, we both agree that a human life begins at conception. To be clear, I’m not sure I “believe” that, but I “accept” it while also having something closer to a strong “belief” that very few others under very limited circumstances should have much of a say when a woman wants to terminate pregnancy. When someone gets pregnant, a woman ideally has a few intimate supporters who might usefully help her make a good decision, though I believe that decision is ultimately hers despite conceding that even an embryo is still a human. I might strongly believe that some choices to abort a pregnancy are tragically wrong, but I’ll bet that in every such case there are quite a few dimensions where many other conditions are also tragically wrong.

                  You might be more willing to call some(?) abortions murder or even slaughter than I would. It comes down to words, maybe. Maybe you would only consider an abortion as an elective termination of a pregnancy with no relation to the physical health of the mother? There might be other situations where a viable pregnancy (not to be confused with a viable fetus) could be terminated, and you wouldn’t consider that an abortion, and therefore a “murder”?

                  I’ll bet we would both tend to feel better if the number of abortions (however defined) were to decrease drastically. I suppose in some states that might be the result of overturning Roe, but we’ll never know that for sure unless the amount of decreased abortions were to be roughly equal to the number of children abandoned or put up for adoption. I suppose the remainder will be illegal abortions (unreported) and a number of births into situations far from ideal. Then again, few of us were really conceived under of born into ideal situations (however we define “ideal”).

                  It’s a terrible thing to consider that an increase in births as the result of Dobbs might actually represent an increase in human misery, but I think that idea is built into the pro-abortion argument. I don’t know what to think about that or the consequent question as to whether such misery might ultimately be “worth it”(?) or “redemptive”(?) etc.

                  When I was much younger, I did feel that a compassionate faith based anti-abortion faction might (in my lifetime) hold the key to reducing abortions in a non coercive way. I’d like to believe that now (on a longer timeframe), but that requires a special mode of “practical spirituality.” While such may not be uncommon in close knit intimate situations, I doubt it has ever translated directly into good legislation (or a decent institution lasting much more than a generation) even though worthy avatars of faith have often had a positive influence on laws and culture. But the influence of saints and heroes, though lasting, seems to have very uneven effects even when that influence has not been intentionally perverted out of viciousness or merely corrupted by indolence, superficiality, and stupid.

                  In politics both sides tend to massage the facts, the actual medical consequences of Dobbs are something we will just have to watch – and maybe even influence in a positive way…?

                  (I hope nothing I’ve written has offended you.)

                6. Joseph, no you have not said anything offensive. I don’t agree with everything you’ve said (although I do agree with a fair amount of it), but you have voiced your views in a respectful way and it’s obvious that you have compassion for all involved. One thing I do believe, which I think you were getting at too, is that if there was less hypocrisy in the pro-life movement, there would be more conversion of hearts and therefore less abortions.

                7. There’s crazy on both sides.

                  Some of it’s hypocrisy. Some of it is mischief and shit stirring. A lot of it is just one-up-man-ship: trying to score “debating points” or dominance/superiority. Most of it is just passion with some of that misplaced on both sides.

                  Abortion, partly because I have such mixed feelings, and partly because it has never been an immediate issue for me, is not something I’m likely to go overboard about in terms of passion. What surprised me is how sad I felt, first when the draft decision was leaked – and then when it finally came down.

                  The original Roe decision, in my opinion might have been flawed. But if it was, it was not so much because of the legal reasoning but because it was attempt to impose a compromise from on high and a small, but highly motivated segment of the population were galvanized to undermine it. Yes, a large majority came to support it, but not with much passion. That and a lot of chance occurrences, some real hypocritical manipulation from Mitch McConnell, and the need for the GOP to use abortion as one of its cultural wedge issues led to the current shambles.

                  I see the anti-abortion folks trying to tamp down passion. That’s smart because it will be the wishy washy middle who will eventually decide the outcome. The pro abortion people might have a harder time tamping down the passions of their hotspurs, but if they can play it right, they will probably force another compromise (probably much along the lines of Roe/Casey) in. the long haul. Unfortunately, the long haul is probably at least a generational quarter century. But that’s not taking into account the affects of climate change which will probably have cultural, economic, demographic, and political effects that will dwarf abortion as an issue. And the effects of climate change will put much more pressure on democracy and the rule of law than Dobbs has and will.

                  The forces that helped stack the Supreme Court so that it could do this mischief to itself and to democracy and rule of law care about abortion and the rights of the unborn the way a good chess player cares about a center pawn early in a match.

  15. I think you nailed it with this piece. I’ve felt so many emotions since the news broke and I used to be the one standing outside the Planned Parenthood building. You’ve articulated my thoughts perfectly.

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