One Year Post-Dobbs: How Far Have We Come?
“This situation, with its lights and shadows, ought to make us all fully aware that we are facing an enormous and dramatic clash between good and evil, death and life, the ‘culture of death’ and the ‘culture of life’. We find ourselves not only ‘faced with’ but necessarily ‘in the midst of’ this conflict: we are all involved and we all share in it, with the inescapable responsibility of choosing to be unconditionally pro-life.”
― Pope St. John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, 28.
One year ago, on June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
This decision, which overturned the Court’s previous ruling legalizing abortion in Roe v. Wade, will go down in history as perhaps the most important decision in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court.
For those of us who had worked and prayed for this—in some cases for nearly fifty years—the Dobbs decision was almost surreal.
For nearly fifty years, we had gathered annually on the National Mall in Washington D.C. in frigid January weather to demand the end of the regime of violence unleashed by Roe. For fifty years, we had chanted, “hey hey, ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!”
For fifty years, we had done everything in our power to mitigate the evil of that horrific 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, which ushered in one of the most permissive abortion regimes in the world, at a cost of human life that is so vast that it is almost impossible to grasp – the death of over 63 million innocent preborn children.
We founded thousands of crisis pregnancy centers, and funded them with our own money, without any assistance from the government. We stood outside abortion facilities in rain, sleet, hail, and snow and did our best to offer abortion-minded women life-saving alternatives. And we created and lobbied for pro-life legislation that gradually moved the needle back towards sanity.
As I have so often emphasized, there is still an enormous amount of work to do to rid our country of the scourge of abortion entirely and usher in an authentic Culture of Life. And yet, as we approach the one-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision, let us take a moment to appreciate just how far we have come.
Dozens of States Protect Life
Under Roe’s iron fist, it was illegal for states to ban or restrict abortion prior to viability—about 24 weeks gestation. One need only spend a few minutes learning about fetal development to see how utterly barbaric this was: fully formed babies capable of sucking their thumbs and responding to their mother’s voice in the womb could legally be torn limb from limb by a willing abortionist for absolutely any reason, and no number of pro-life state legislators or voters could do anything to change that situation in their state.
With Roe gone, however, states now have the freedom to put in place practically any abortion restrictions that they like. And many states have quickly seized on this newfound freedom to do exactly that. As the Daily Caller reports, within less than 12 months of Dobbs, half of all U.S. states have put in place legislation that bans abortion after 12 weeks, or sooner.
Every abortion is a moral travesty—the taking of an innocent human life. And thus, 12-week bans or even heartbeat bans are woefully insufficient since they permit a grave injustice to continue. However, the data clearly shows that as states have plucked up the courage to move towards protecting more and more preborn human beings, more and more preborn children are being saved from abortion.
This is concrete progress, with practical consequences that are truly wonderful to consider. According to Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, approximately 60,000 abortions have been prevented since Dobbs was overturned, due to the increase in pro-life laws across the nation.
It is worth keeping in mind, however, that in many states that have put in place pro-life legislation since Dobbs, those laws have not yet gone into effect due to legal challenges making their ways through the courts. According to Stephen Billy, the Vice President of State of Affairs at SBA Pro-life America, if all of those laws go into effect, then we can expect as many as 200,000 preborn children to be saved from abortion every year. There is good reason to hope that many of these laws will survive legal challenge, thanks to the courage of the pro-life U.S. Supreme Court Justices who risked the rage and even violence of the abortion lobby to do the right thing.
Already, this new reality is affecting the bottom line of abortion-committing organizations like Planned Parenthood. A few weeks ago, Planned Parenthood announced that they would be laying off between 10-20% of their staff. Meanwhile, dozens of abortion facilities have either ceased performing abortions, or simply shut their doors altogether. The latest data I can find is from last fall, when the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute reported that 66 abortion facilities across the United States had completely ceased committing abortions. No doubt more have closed their doors since then.
Pro-abortion Groups Pivot
Of course, even with Roe gone, we should not expect pro-abortion groups and the abortion industry to simply throw up their hands and give up. Unfortunately, many people have bought into the lie that access to abortion is somehow an “essential” service, even a fundamental “human right.” Driven by this woefully mistaken belief, many pro-abortion activists are as tenacious as the pro-life heroes whose work and sacrifice led to the overturning of Roe.
Stymied by new pro-life laws, and a newfound freedom in pro-life states to protect preborn children, pro-abortion groups are enacting strategies that they began to formulate years before Roe was overturned, just in case Roe ever did go.
Foremost among those strategies are increasing so-called “telehealth” abortions, in which abortionists prescribe abortion drugs after simply meeting a pregnant woman in a live chat online. As CNN reports, telehealth abortions “surged” in the wake of Dobbs. In December of 2022, for instance, there were an estimated 8,540 telehealth abortions, a significant increase from just 3,590 in April of the same year.
Meanwhile, stridently pro-abortion states like New York and California are seeing increases in their abortion numbers, likely from women travelling to those highly permissive states from nearby states. Unfortunately, pro-abortion organizations are so committed to abortion that they are raising money to help women with travel expenses to have their children killed. Even the U.S. government, under the direct guidance of our so-called “Catholic” President Joe Biden, is exploring ways to fund travel expenses for abortion-seeking women.
Fortunately, the Hyde Amendment is still in place, which prohibits taxpayer dollars from being used to pay for abortions. However, if Biden and the Democrats have their way, the Hyde Amendment would be scrapped, allowing the government to use our hard-earned dollars to help pay for abortionists to kill women’s children—a grotesque injustice.
In other words, abortion supporters are still very much in the fight, and still very much active: finding every loophole, exploiting every possibility, to ensure that women have the option to have their innocent preborn children killed.
In one of his letters, St. Peter writes, “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
This advice applies to the pro-life movement. Although with the overturning of Roe we have won a significant battle in the war to create a Culture of Life, the devil is prowling about seeing whom he may devour.
There are many pro-abortion politicians who will seize upon the first opportunity that presents itself to pass federal legislation codifying Roe in law. And if they cannot advance the culture of death in this way, they will look for other ways: whether that be by legalizing assisted suicide (which I believe already to be the next major front in the battle between the “culture of life and the culture of death”), or by inculcating in our children perverse ideas about sexuality and human nature that will ensure that future generations are more open to making abortion much more available.
There is only one solution: with God’s help, and in union with His Blessed Mother, we must be even more tenacious and quick-witted than our adversaries. In a difficult passage, Our Lord warned His followers that “the children of this world are more prudent in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light” (Luke 16:8).
We need not look much further than the news, entertainment, and education industries to see what Our Lord was getting at. The pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, pro-transgender extremists have often far outwitted the children of light in seizing the most potent instruments of power. They are masters at using and shaping story and language to desensitize people to great evil, even to make the most destructive messages appear thoroughly non-threatening, even delightful, and to get those messages in front of entire generations of children—the children who will shape the future. How else are we to explain the sudden surge in Hollywood films and TV shows, including TV shows, featuring transgender characters, or the ubiquity (as I wrote two weeks ago) of explicit “comprehensive” sex-ed?
We must be even more shrewd than these, in keeping our eyes on the prize and playing the long game. Our enemies know that if they capture the minds of our children, undermining their capacity to discern right from wrong, that they will eventually triumph. It is up to us to find new and more creative ways to teach our children about the great truth of the Church’s teaching on life and family.
We must find new ways to convey the truth that life triumphs over death, that love conquers lust, that self-control is more powerful than hedonism, that truth is always to be preferred to lies. We must tell stories that convey the enormous beauty of family life, of the praiseworthiness of the courageous acceptance of new life, of the immeasurable dignity of every human being. We must not get comfortable or give up. We must not rest on our laurels.
As Pope St. John Paul II wrote in Evangelium vitae, we are “in the midst of” a great conflict between the “culture of life and the culture of death.” Whether we want it or not, we are “all involved and we all share in it” such that there is an “inescapable responsibility” of choosing life. Not to choose is to choose.
However, as Pope St. John Paul II noted, this responsibility need not feel like a burden if it is approached with the eyes of faith. “The unconditional choice for life reaches its full religious and moral meaning when it flows from, is formed by and nourished by faith in Christ,” wrote the Pope of Life in Evangelium vitae, no. 28. “Nothing helps us so much to face positively the conflict between death and life in which we are engaged as faith in the Son of God who became man and dwelt among men so ‘that they may have life, and have it abundantly’ (Jn 10:10). It is a matter of faith in the Risen Lord, who has conquered death; faith in the blood of Christ ‘that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel’ (Heb 12:24).”
Uniting ourselves to the Resurrection of our Lord, let us find the strength and the courage to continue to move this great nation of ours towards life, building on the great success of those whose work reversed Roe, and whose work is, right now, resulting in tens of thousands of lives saved from an early destruction. What a glorious legacy!
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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.