Rejoice and Work in the Post-Roe Present
Praise God! What else can I say – can any of us say – in response to this incredible moment in U.S. history? And indeed, as I wrote this on Friday afternoon, I saw that the phrase “praise God” was trending on Twitter, right below the headline “U.S. Supreme Court strikes down landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade.”
As you have no doubt heard by now, on Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court has resoundingly overturned Roe, the 1973 decision that invented a “Constitutional right” to abortion. The Supreme Court decided by a 6-3 majority to uphold Mississippi’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. In doing so, the majority overturned two key decisions protecting access to abortion: 1973’s Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, decided in 1992.
The justices who voted to overturn Roe and Casey were Justices Alito, Barrett, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Thomas. Justice Roberts issued a concurring opinion, in which he supported the majority in their decision to uphold the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban that was the subject of the decision; however, he disagreed with the majority’s decision to completely toss out Roe, instead of taking a more incremental approach. Dissenting were Justices Kagan, Sotomayor, and Breyer.
In the no-holds-barred majority decision, Justice Samuel Alito argued that Roe was “egregiously wrong” from the start. By wielding “raw judicial power” the justices who first handed down the “exceptionally weak” Roe put the decision “on a collision course with the Constitution.” In Roe, argued Alito, “the Court usurped the power to address a question of profound moral and social importance that the Constitution unequivocally leaves for the people.”
Furthermore, instead of settling the abortion issue, as the justices who originally voted for Roe had hoped, Roe and Casey (the companion case handed down the same day as Roe) have “enflamed debate and deepened division.” Alito concluded, “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
Decades of Sacrifice
It is difficult for me to believe that I am reading those words.
For nearly 50 years, countless pro-life activists have shed blood, sweat, and tears to see this day. From the day that Roe was first handed down in 1973, there have been many individuals who felt the injustice of legal abortion so deeply that they were compelled to drop everything, and to commit themselves to working full time to save the lives of unborn children.
Some of them spent untold thousands of hours standing in front of abortion facilities, in rain or shine, reaching out to women in crisis, offering them hope and love in their moment of doubt and fear. Others opened pregnancy care centers or even whole networks of such centers. Others with a gift for politics drafted legislation or lobbied legislators to chip away at legal abortion, gradually shifting the legal consensus in the direction of life.
Countless others, unable to devote themselves full-time to the task, nevertheless committed huge amounts of their spare time and resources to the fight. For nearly 50 years, hundreds of thousands of people have gathered every year at the National March for Life in D.C. on January 22, mourning the anniversary of Roe, that day of infamy. Many others have volunteered in their local schools, legislatures, pregnancy centers, or have ensured that they raised children who embraced the gift of life.
Many of these pro-life warriors did not live to see this day. Nearly five decades have passed since Roe, during which untold millions of unborn children have died at the hands of abortionists. At one time or another in varying degrees, we were tempted to lose hope, fearing that the pro-aborts were correct when they said that the “tide of history” was on the side of abortion, not life.
Today, we know, as we always knew in our hearts, that this was not true. The tide has changed. Evil never has the final word. Though the black clouds of injustice and murder cover the land, we know that behind those clouds shines the bright sun of truth and justice.
On Friday, which was fittingly the great Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as well as the Nativity of John the Baptist, whom the Scriptures recount “leapt” in his mother’s womb, those clouds were rent asunder, and rays of light shone through. No doubt the many deceased pro-life greats such as Father Paul Marx, O.S.B., Joe Scheidler, and March for Life founder Nellie Grey (whose birthday, in another miraculous confluence of events, was on Friday!) are having a giant celebration in heaven right now, knowing that their work was not in vain.
Babies Already Being Saved
The effect of Friday’s decision was immediate.
As many pro-life leaders have noted in recent weeks and months, overturning Roe does not mean that abortion automatically becomes illegal nationwide. Instead, it means that the issue goes back to the states, whose citizens and elected representatives must decide abortion law on a state-by-state basis.
However, many pro-life states have long been preparing for this day, passing various “trigger” laws that immediately go into effect with Roe gone. Other states have pre-Roe bans still on the books, which means that with Roe out of the picture, abortion immediately becomes illegal in those states as well.
As an astonishing testament to the fact that America has long been trending pro-life, as many as twenty-six states already have banned, or are expected to largely or completely ban. abortion. In the case of the thirteen states with “trigger” laws, most of those bans have already gone into effect.
And already, we are seeing the life-giving consequences. Within hours of the decision, reports began to emerge of abortion facilities closing their doors, and sending staff home. One estimate suggested that a quarter of the abortion facilities in the U.S. would immediately close with Roe gone.
In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton struck the right note when he declared June 24 an annual holiday and shut his office down for the day. “[F]or half a century, Americans have had to live under these illegitimate, illegal, and unconstitutional dictates of a partisan, willful Supreme Court,” said Paxton in a statement. “No more. Today, the question of abortion returns to the states. And in Texas, that question has already been answered: abortion is illegal here. I look forward to defending the pro-life laws of Texas and the lives of all unborn children moving forward.”
Meanwhile, in South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem made it clear that that state’s trigger law had gone into effect, and that abortionists would be subject to prosecution if they violated that law.
In other words, children are already being saved today from abortion. Every day that Dobbs, rather than Roe, is the law of the land, is a day that hundreds, and maybe even thousands, of unborn children are saved from a premature death.
Pro-Aborts Respond with Violence, Rage
In the leadup to Friday’s decision, pro-abortion extremists had threatened – and perpetrated – violence, in response to the possibility of losing the “right” to kill unborn children. The most egregious instance was the attempted murder of Justice Kavanaugh, which was foiled only when the would-be assassin had a run-in with U.S. Marshalls outside Kavanaugh’s house.
In the weeks before the decision, numerous pro-life pregnancy centers and churches were vandalized. Several pro-life centers were firebombed, causing extensive damage. Others were subject to obscene, pro-abortion graffiti, or had windows that were smashed, or staff that received threats.
A group called “Jane’s Revenge” has claimed responsibility for many of these attacks. The group, which can only rightly be called a domestic terror organization, presents itself as a decentralized network of numerous activists and groups.
“We have demonstrated in the past month how easy and fun it is to attack,” they wrote in a statement posted to their website on June 15. “We are versatile, we are mercurial, and we answer to no one but ourselves. We promised to take increasingly drastic measures against oppressive infrastructures.” They added, ominously, “Rest assured that we will, and those measures may not come in the form of something so easily cleaned up as fire and graffiti.”
In the days leading up to the decision, they began blanketing D.C. with pamphlets calling for a “night of rage” in response to the decision. “THE NIGHT SCOTUS OVERTURNS ROE V. WADE HIT THE STREETS YOU SAID YOU’D RIOT,” read the flyers. “TO OUR OPPRESSORS: IF ABORTIONS AREN’T SAFE, YOU’RE NOT EITHER. JANE’S REVENGE.”
As of this writing, this “night of rage” has largely failed to manifest. However, there have been additional acts of vandalism targeted at pro-life centers, and some pro-abortion protests have become unruly, leading to arrests. One pro-life pregnancy center in Colorado was set on fire Saturday morning, the day after the decision. Meanwhile, churches and pregnancy centers across the country have increased security in response to the threats.
It is indeed egregious and scandalous that the Biden administration remains relatively silent over the attacks on churches, pregnancy care centers, and pro-life organizations. This is domestic terrorism, and it must be denounced.
Pray, Support Mothers in Crisis, Get Involved
As I mentioned several weeks ago, now is the time when all pro-lifers must go above and beyond in finding ways to support women in crisis pregnancies.
For decades, the pro-life movement has distinguished itself by its generosity, with pro-life individuals giving huge amounts of their time, talent, and treasure to walk alongside women and the fathers of their children, helping them to face a time of uncertainty and fear with courage and hope.
Even as government has showered billions of dollars in public largesse on places like Planned Parenthood, we have responded by instituting vast support networks of pregnancy care centers, often entirely with private funds and donated time.
And yet, somehow, we must find a way to do even more.
One way of showing gratitude for the courage of our pro-life leaders, especially those serving in state and federal government, would be to seek out your local pregnancy care center(s) and pro-life organizations(s) and to find ways of supporting them. That can involve a generous donation, or the decision to begin volunteering time. Our task now is to ensure that every woman facing a crisis pregnancy who goes seeking help, finds it.
Texas is one state that is leading the way, diverting funds that were once used to support pro-abortion organizations towards life-saving alternatives. The state has set up a $100 million Alternatives to Abortion program, with the money going to support such things as providing mothers and fathers with classes on pregnancy and parenting, urgent material goods such as car seats, diapers, and formula, and support for housing.
Hopefully, other states will follow suit, recognizing that as a society there is nothing more important than investing in the lives of the next generation. Life and family are the foundations of a healthy society. With Roe gone, we are now in a position to rebuild on the rubble that Roe left behind, creating institutions and structures that support rather than harm the sanctity of life and the family.
And, of course, everyone reading this must do whatever they can to get involved in the battle for life in their own state. With Roe gone, the battle shifts definitely to the individual states (and we must not forget that the issue of contraception and abortion continue to affect U.S. international state policies). Many states, such as New York and California, will continue to be as pro-abortion as ever, and will present themselves as “abortion havens,” to which women seeking abortions can travel in order to have their unborn children killed. For pro-lifers in those states, there is a long battle ahead to translate Dobbs into a pro-life reality. Meanwhile, in pro-life states, pro-life activists must create an overwhelming political consensus on the issue, so that no unborn child in their state need ever again fear for his or her life.
And yet, as we gird ourselves for the fight ahead, let us take this opportunity to celebrate.
As R.J. Snell writes at The Public Discourse, “June 24, 2022 is a day to mark, to etch into memory, a day to cry out in joy and celebration. A great injustice has been righted. Gather with your children, your grandchildren, with all those who with the Psalmist sing, ‘exsultate Deo, adjutori nostro, jubilate Deo Jacob . . . insigni die solemnitatis vestrae.’ Rejoice in God our helper, sing aloud to the God of Jacob…”
We mourn the millions of lives lost, due to the hubris of seven unelected judges, who took it upon themselves in 1973 to unconstitutionally steal authority from the American people, and to impose their nihilistic, radically individualistic, anti-life worldview on the whole nation. And yet, we face the future with renewed hope and gratitude.
Many, including Snell, are recalling the words of Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, as pointing a path forward for the pro-life movement. And indeed, the words are a fitting conclusion to this column:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves…
As president of Human Life International, Fr. Boquet is a leading expert on the international pro-life and family movement, having journeyed to nearly 90 countries on pro-life missions over the last decade. Father Boquet works with pro-life and family leaders in 116 counties that partner with HLI to proclaim and advance the Gospel of Life. Read his full bio here.