10:15, July 24, 2022
While it was expected, I never thought that I would see the overturning of Roe v. Wade, in spite of how often I have argued for that often during my pro-life life. There will be ludicrous arguments that suggest the Court is telling women that they are not really citizens, that a woman’s body is clearly her own domain, and that there is a nearly fifty-year precedent which should not be overthrown. Few would suggest that the eight-year precedent of considering people of color less than human, the Dred Scott v. Sanford decision (1857), was not rightly turned around when it was superseded by the passage of the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments in 1865. What a proud moment that was for the United States when it recognized the rights of all people to everything the Constitution promises. The Dred Scott decision is noted by legal scholars as the worst Supreme Court decision, and it helped to precipitate the dreadful carnage of the Civil War. Dred Scott inflamed national debate, just as Roe did in 1973, and for the last fifty years.
Many legal scholars suggest that the worst Supreme Court decision was Roe v. Wade, and its companion piece, Doe v. Bolton, for they stripped the rights of an entire class of people, the unborn. The Constitution promises a right to life, a promise that trumps privacy rights and the rights of a woman to her own body. It would be hard to simply say that it is a pro-life Supreme Court, since only yesterday the Court decreed the unilateral right to bear arms in every place, something truly remarkable given the mass killings the country experiences every single week. Nevertheless, the appointing of conservative judges by the country’s former president, has done what should have been done years ago – get the government out of the abortion business and remove the once unfettered right to an abortion on demand from the U.S. Constitution. In that sense, this is truly a proud moment for the country for it shores up the fundamental right to life, the place where a nation like the United States should want to be standing. Sadly, it will be filled with rancor, false information, and hyperbolic extensions into all facets of American life, but there is joy that I lived to see this day.
Without having read the ruling, my understanding is that it places abortion within the oversight of individual states, and that is where it belongs, and not in the Constitution. This ruling regrettably happens at a time when the country is already seriously divided and extraordinarily partisan. Because of that, today’s ruling will not eradicate abortion (something “chicken littles” will be happy to tell you). Indeed, the next few years will be filled with states fumbling around for ways in which to deal with Dobbs, and ordinary people will speak their minds and vote for those who best represent what they think.
Women, sadly, will always feel the need for abortion, and it is unclear whether criminalizing it will help the sad reality go away. States will continue to go too far in taking this moment and punishing women who continue to seek abortions. To the extent that States truly do intrude into what should be a private decision, to that extent do they endanger the accomplishment of today’s ruling. The “bounties” soon to be in place in the State of Texas are abhorrent. Jails should be filled with real criminals, and not desperate women who don’t know how to handle the challenge of an unwanted pregnancy, and who don’t know where to turn.
The Catholic Church needs to spend the same energy they are using being gleeful over today’s decision, on highlighting what it does to help women bear their children to term, and beyond that they need to support women who find themselves disadvantaged and needy. Today’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson gives voice to the silent children in their mother’s womb, and, while it has taken much longer than Dred Scott v. Sanford to be overturned, it now restores the right of the unborn which were taken away in 1973.