A Post-Roe America: What’s Next?
The news regarding the fate of Roe v. Wade is getting more and more promising.
Last week in Spirit and Life, I wrote about the leaked U.S. Supreme Court majority draft opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, that appears set to completely reject Roe, the 1973 Supreme Court case that legalized abortion on demand in the United States. I cautioned, however, that the leaked opinion was only a draft, and that it was possible that the situation in the Court could change or had changed since that draft was first circulated in February.
It seems, however, that the situation has not changed. Politico (the same news outlet that originally reported on the leaked decision) reported a few days ago that Justice Alito’s draft majority opinion is the only draft that has circulated in the Court. Furthermore, it appears that none of the conservative justices that voted in favor of repealing Roe have changed their vote. In other words, the Court’s intent to overturn Roe seems – at the moment – to be rock solid.
For now, Chief Justice John Roberts is the only wild card. Some Court insiders have suggested that Justice Roberts wanted a more “moderate” decision, that would modify Roe, allowing states to ban abortion much earlier in pregnancy, but without tossing Roe as precedent altogether. However, should Justice Roberts join the majority, then Roe would be rejected in a 6-3 vote.
There are reasons to hope that Justice Roberts will indeed join the majority. It is well known that Justice Roberts is at least somewhat personally pro-life. Certainly, his wife is known for her forthright, uncompromising pro-life work. As pro-life writer Jonathon van Maren put it, how could Justice Roberts “live with putting his signature on the death warrants of millions unborn” by dissenting from the pro-life majority?
Another reason for hope is that not only is Roe morally repugnant, but it is also widely acknowledged that its legal reasoning is extremely weak – so much so that even stridently pro-abortion Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg publicly expressed misgivings about the 1973 case.
There is no question that Justice Roberts is a brilliant legal scholar. Why, given that Roe already seems set to topple, would he not stand on the right side of history, and go down as being among those who righted a terrible historical wrong? Certainly, we must pray for him – for courage and conviction.
That is not the only reason that we must pray for Justice Roberts, and the five Supreme Court justices who aim to right a great wrong. Last week I warned that the whole fury of hell was about to descend on them. And indeed, in the days since the leak of the draft majority opinion pro-abortion protesters have targeted the justices, protesting outside the homes of Justices Roberts, Kavanaugh, Alito, and Barrett. So far, those protests have remained peaceful. However, I can’t imagine how disconcerting it must be for these justices to have crowds of angry people gathering in front of their homes.
Justice Amy Coney Barrett is a mother to seven young children. It must be particularly difficult for her, as she balances the need to protect her family with the duties of her job. That said, there was something truly amusing about the sight of pro-abortion protesters wearing costumes from the TV show The Handmaid’s Tale outside her house.
The Handmaid’s Tale is based upon a dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood, in which women are systematically and brutally subjugated, stripped of all rights, and forced to work as slaves. The irony, of course, is that Justice Barrett was appointed, based upon her exceptional legal career and qualifications, to one of the most powerful positions in the world. As a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, she plays a key role in judicial decisions that will affect the world’s leading superpower for decades. Not exactly the picture of a subjugated woman.
Indeed, Justice Barrett is living proof that abortion and women’s rights are antithetical to one another. A woman can enjoy all the opportunities and rights available to others, while embracing her unique nature and genius as a woman, defining herself not primarily by her worldly accomplishments, but by the love that only she can bring into the world as a mother.
In addition to the protests outside the justices’ homes, there have been several attacks directed at Catholic churches. In one instance, vandals stole a tabernacle from a Catholic church in Texas. Other churches were defaced with graffiti, and in some cases Sunday Masses and services were disrupted. As disturbing as these attacks are, however, we should view them as a badge of honor. Abortion supporters rightly recognize that the Catholic Church has been the foremost institution speaking up in defense of the right to life of the unborn child, and are singling out the Catholic Church for protests.
And speaking of people to pray for, we must also pray for President Joe Biden. Although it may be difficult to remember, President Biden was not always the extreme pro-abort that he is now. Among Democrats, he long had a reputation as a “moderate.” When Roe was first decided in 1973, he expressed his opposition to the decision. “I don’t like the decision. I think it went too far,” he said at the time, adding that a woman doesn’t have “the sole right to say what should happen to her body.” Thereafter, he long opposed government funding for abortion.
But that was then, and this is now. Just days ago, he put out a statement declaring, “I believe that a woman’s right to choose is fundamental,” and pledging to do everything in his power to protect legal abortion in the face of Roe’s reversal. This a man who has claimed for years that he is a “devout Catholic,” and who is advanced in years. There is little time left for him to acknowledge the errors of his ways, and to repent. I pray that he will be given the clarity of insight to repent before his earthly pilgrimage ends and he faces, as each one will face upon their death, the Particular Judgement (Ref., Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 1021-22).
Roe’s Reversal: The Beginning
A new poll conducted by the Republican National Committee confirms what I mentioned last week: most Americans oppose the regime that Roe imposed upon the country. Roe decriminalized abortion up to birth – something that, as the poll reveals, a full 85% of Americans oppose. In fact, only 30% of Americans support legal abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation. And yet, Roe prevents states from banning abortion after that point!
Nevertheless, the polls still seriously concern me: not only that so many Americans still support abortion in the first trimester, but also that many Americans (including Catholics) who say they are “pro-life” fail to see the root cause of abortion – contraception and its toxic anti-life mentality. For decades, especially since the inauguration of the Pill, many have touted that by increasing the use of contraception there will be a reduction in the number of abortions; however, now that contraceptive use has been widespread in the U.S. for more than fifty-seven years (remember birth control was legalized for married women by the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark case in 1965, Griswold v. Connecticut and later for unmarried people in Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972), the facts clearly contradict the claim – that is, statistically contraception use actually increases, rather than decreases, the abortion rate.
The Catholic Church teaches that sexual love between a man and woman is both sacred and good, and is reserved to marriage. This teaching is made “in the light of an integral vision of man and of his vocation, not only his natural and earthly, but also his supernatural and eternal vocation” (Humanae vitae, no. 7). Conjugal love is “a fully human love…, a total love…, a faithful and exclusive love…, and a fruitful love” (Humanae vitae, no. 9) in which each spouse always sees their beloved as a gift from God, as an end in himself or herself, as a person, and not as an object for selfish pleasure.
Contraception falsifies conjugal love by an intentional act, preventing by mechanical or chemical means the possible natural and procreative consequence of sexual intercourse – the conception of another human being. Its single purpose is to separate intercourse from procreation so that contracepting couples can enjoy the pleasures of sex without the fear that their sexual activity could lead to pregnancy, thus disrespecting the inseparable connection between the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning of the conjugal act (Humanae vitae, no. 12).
The “contraceptive mentality” exists when: sexual intercourse is separated from procreation, the rationale is assumed to be normative, and in employing contraception, the couple severs themselves from all responsibility for a conception that might take place because of contraceptive failure. The “contraceptive mentality” implies that a couple has not only the means to separate intercourse from procreation, but also the right or responsibility to do so. It is also important to remember that at the very core of the “contraceptive mentality” is a fear or rejection of something perfectly natural as a result of sexual intercourse – a child.
Here, I am reminded of the insights of HLI’s founder, Father Paul Marx, OSB, who said:
While we need a variety of pro-life groups hacking away at the anti-life monster, it is enormously futile and indeed grossly short-sighted to overlook the chief source of baby-killing, which is contraception.
The fact is abortion remains a symptom of a far deeper issue: the outward rejection of the Christian view of the human person and human sexuality. Christians ought to understand that when they are doing something wrong, they are violating God’s law, failing to live morally and live as God made us to be, loving and responsible persons. Tragically, far too many Catholics (Christians) are confused and have lost their moral mooring, settling instead for a falsification of the goods God has given, especially about marriage and conjugal love. The consequences of this moral collapse have been disastrous – i.e., normalization of fornication, divorce, and pornography and the murder of over 63 million unborn children in the U.S. Therefore, Christians need to strengthen an understanding of their own faith and moral tradition and reject what is false and contrary to God’s commands and design.
Although the polls show that many Americans are deeply ambivalent about abortion, and view it at least as distasteful, if not immoral, the question remains: what are they willing to sacrifice in order to remove the scourge of abortion from our country? Are they willing to give up their attachment to the sexual revolution and all its false promises? Are they willing to recognize that the culture of casual sex and ubiquitous cheap porn is the foundation on which the massacre of innocents was built? Are they willing to personally embrace the responsible sexual behavior – abstinence outside marriage, and openness to life within – that will ensure that every child that is conceived is loved and wanted?
I am also concerned that a large percentage see themselves as pro-life but support exceptions for abortion (in early trimester, for rape, incest, genetic abnormalities, etc.). This mentality must be challenged and rejected.
Many lives will be saved by this decision of the Supreme Court, but it does not mean a new, more sinister bill (like the one voted on last week – the so-called “Women’s Health Protection Act” – in the U.S. Senate) could not be ushered forward by Congress and signed into law.
If our society is to find its way back to God, to establish the true moral compass, hearts and minds must be fully converted to truth. Each of us holds responsibility to adhere to the commands of God, to modify our conduct in order to be instruments of change in our society – to be light and salt. We must stand against all that is false. Weakness in preaching the truth and weakness in denouncing those who publicly reject Church teaching on revealed truths has brought us to this point. We are at a crossroad; the time is ripe for making the most persuasive argument we can offer in support of a true Christian morality within our society, one that respects and defends the dignity of human persons.
If we are given this chance to rewrite the wrong that has brought about the death of over 63 million unborn children (not to mention the untold damage to women, men, families, and society), then we must take this moment by the horns and settle for nothing less than a complete rejection of the culture of death that spawned ubiquitous and legal abortion (as well as contraception, euthanasia, same-sex unions, transgender ideology, etc.). With Roe gone, the battle is just beginning. Prepare yourselves and resolve to get involved in any way that you can. Our unborn brothers and sisters are depending on it.
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.