Reviews | The end of Roe, from a pro-life perspective


The Overthrow of Roe c. Wade has drawn cries of anger and despair from those who feel a sense of dread for the future of women and the future of America.

I understand this feeling of dread.

As a defender of life, I mourn with those who feel they have lost a basic human right, along with moral agency and hope for the future. But for me, it was Roe who caused those losses.

Roe took away from the prenatal child the right to continue to live and grow, safe and free from intentional harm. If you believe, as I do, that abortion unjustly ends the life of a fully human being, a life that exists independently of the mother’s will, that is self-organizing and that is unique, that develops but which completes itself, then you understand Roe not as a rule that liberates but as a rule that dehumanizes, first the fetus, then the rest of us.

Moreover, Roe elevated radical autonomy above moral agency. Roe destroyed the hope inherent in all human life, whether new or old, as long as there was life left.

Roe was an unfair decision. I always thought it would be overturned, as have other unfair court decisions, although I thought it would take longer. I’m glad that’s not the case. But of course, it will take longer for abortion to become unthinkable, which is the real goal of the pro-life movement.

I joined the movement decades ago. My friends and colleagues in the movement across the political spectrum have over the years created and worked in pregnancy support centers. We opened our rooms and our houses to women who needed it. We made them aware of prevention, alternatives, resources, employment, schooling and empowerment. We offered help in doctor’s offices and abortion clinics. We’ve held baby showers, attended weddings, kindergarten graduations and legislative sessions. We cried with those who regretted their choices, and we cried with those who didn’t (but cried anyway). We marched and protested.

And we have taken our cases to court, including the Supreme Court. Some of these cases, including one in which I was involved, were not centered on abortion itself, but on our right to protest it. A federal district court tried to limit pro-life protests by establishing buffer zones outside abortion clinics. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ultimately struck down one type of restriction and upheld another.

Yet I was, like my fellow evangelicals, a Johnny-come of late in a long line of people who opposed abortion and infanticide and tried to defend the vulnerable life.

Members of the early Christian church in the ancient Roman world saved abandoned infants (often those who were female or otherwise considered inferior) from certain death. In the 19th century, a newspaper created by prominent suffragettes, The Revolution, published articles that called abortion “infanticide” and “child murder”. The pro-life movement in America before Roe was dominated by Catholics who then generally skewed the Democrats and who fought for legal protections for unborn children. and extensions of the social safety net.

Roe and his legacy have radicalized those of us in the current movement. Legalized elective abortion was the consolation prize given to women in 1973 for the centuries of inequality and oppression that stemmed from their sin of not being men. While every mother and father should want their children, our status as human beings at any stage of life should not depend on who wants us or if we are wanted at all.

It is only when we inject into the problem questions of subjectivity (like desire) or religions (like the soul), existential (like sensibility), theological (like human dignity) or sociological (like the quality of life), that we find great room for uncertainty and disagreement. These are important and persistent questions. But these are not questions on which the fundamental and inalienable right of individual life should depend.

The court decision in Roe v. Wade sparked the culture wars that have poisoned our political process and brought us to a place of polarization and unbridgeable division. Indeed, this divide has been capitalized on by far too many pundits and politicians, for whom a position on abortion does not seem like a sincere belief, but simply an issue they can (and do) leverage votes for. or monetize for financial gain. . Such betrayal casts a shadow over the overthrow of Roe, which for me and many others was a long-awaited event.

Even so, making abortion unthinkable could start with the law, but it won’t stop there. Because it is not only the supply of abortion that counts, but also the demand. I deplore the impoverishment of a social imagination that cannot conceive of a world in which women can flourish without abortion.

I think we will imagine it one day. Of course, abortion, like all violence, abuse and injustice, will always be with us. But laws don’t just prevent – ​​laws teach and shape the ways we view our world and the ways we can and should live with each other.

Since Roe, our culture has increasingly understood that it’s not just about “our bodies, ourselves”, but also “our communities, ourselves”. Our bodies live and move among other bodies, whether for better or for worse. We are our brother’s and sister’s keepers, and it takes a village to become what we are. Fortunately, America’s romance with radical self-reliance and rugged individualism is cooling. Roe has given our nation some of the most liberal abortion laws in the industrialized world and a high abortion rate compared to many other industrialized nations, largely because of our individualistic cultural and economic ethos.

Accordingly, in a recent Times Opinion essay, Patrick T. Brown acknowledged the need for “a broader view of politics than simply banning access to abortion.” A post-Roe world, he wrote, “is one that compels a call for more public resources to support pregnant women” and demands that we “take seriously the challenges women and families face no only during and immediately after pregnancy, but also in the years that follow.”

The conservative think tank of which Mr. Brown is a member, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has developed a holistic and robust Life and Family Initiative aimed at protecting the lives of prenatal children and offering practical support to families in which they will be born. . California’s Catholic bishops also underscored their commitment to supporting women, children and families. And the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission has included in its 2022 public policy agenda a range of issues beyond its continued focus on abortion, including addressing hunger and poverty. strengthening low-income families.

We can do better than asking women (and men) to choose between themselves and their children. I see Roe’s knockdown as the first step to getting there. Then, to make abortion unthinkable, you have to make it unwanted.

Karen Swallow Prior is a research professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, a columnist for the Religion News Service, and the author of “On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books.”

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