Dobbs Is Just the Beginning — Now We Must Seize the Narrative

The right to life movement has been, and remains, the civil rights issue of our day.

Pro-abortion activists and their young children carry anti-Dobbs signs at a demonstration Friday in Atlanta, Georgia.
Pro-abortion activists and their young children carry anti-Dobbs signs at a demonstration Friday in Atlanta, Georgia. (photo: Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images)

All real Catholics today sing Te Deum Laudamus! that the regime of Roe v. Wade, in place for nearly half a century and responsible for more than 63 million human deaths, has been sent to the trash bin of constitutional miscarriages of justice. Catholics can rejoice that, after (in many cases) a lifetime of hard work, we see the beginning of the end. 

As we enter a new post-Roe, post-Dobbs era, it is essential that we seize and keep the narrative. We cannot let the abortionists pretend that this decision has anything to do with “rights,” “women’s rights,” “choice,” “reproductive freedom” or “health care.” It does not.

First, the claim that Dobbs “takes away a right.” 

Roe v. Wade was one of three Supreme Court decisions that did take away rights. In 1857, Dred Scott v. Sandford said that Black people are not human beings but property. Dred Scott compelled all Americans across the country to pretend African Americans were not human. It took eight years and a Civil War to overturn it. Plessy v. Ferguson, in 1896, decided that Black people might be human, but they could legally be consigned to second-class status by imposing segregation. It took 58 years to overturn it. Roe v. Wade in 1973 said unborn children were not human but, at best, “potential life.” It took 49 years to overturn it.

Don’t have the illusion that the opposition will give up. Even after the 14th Amendment protected Black people, the Ku Klux Klan sprang up. Even when segregation was struck down, Southern racists followed up with “massive resistance” for years. And the abortionists will not give up.

So, first, let’s make clear a point we have not sufficiently emphasized. The right to life movement has been the civil rights issue of our day. Nobody has been more “unprivileged,” more defenseless, more unprotected, than the unborn. They were denied their very basic right to live. Dobbs does not “take away rights.” Dobbs restored the most basic civil right anybody has: to live.

Second, Dobbs does not “ban” abortions. It simply restores the pre-1973 status quo. States will address this issue in many different ways.

When Roe swept away all 50 states’ abortion laws in 1973, it created a legal vacuum. States were not ready to create an absolute, laissez-faire abortion regime. Fifty years of Roe has also, in some ways, left legal vacuums. So, let’s talk about these legal gaps:

  • How do we protect the rights of fathers who, after Planned Parenthood v. Danforth, were denied any say in abortion decisions? Danforth said fathers had no rights.
  • How do we protect the rights of parents, who have been denied not just the right to consent but even the right to know whether their child is referred for abortions? A long range of lower court rulings mostly nullified parental consent and severely crimped parental notification.
  • How do we protect the rights of women to know the medical facts about fetal development (ultrasounds, embryological development)? Abortionists parody these standards — ordinary principles of informed consent in normal bioethics — as unnecessary “TRAP” (targeted regulation of abortion providers) laws.
  • Is the life of an unborn child any less valuable because the child is handicapped? Is the way to deal with handicaps getting rid of the handicapped? Lower courts have refused to uphold bans on eugenic abortions.
  • Should abortion be legal because your unborn child is the “wrong” sex, i.e., not the sex you wanted him (or — more realistically — her) to be? Ditto — “feminists” insist your “right to choose” trumps the majority of female fetuses victimized by it — even though these same people usually otherwise work themselves into a lather over “equity.”
  • What treatment should be given to fetal remains? Are they just “medical trash” to be discarded as other biological materials? Lower courts have insisted state requirements to provide burial or cremation of unborn children were unconstitutional.

Third, let’s challenge the claim that pharmaceutical abortions are “safe.” Abortionists claim that they will circumvent pro-life state laws by sending mifepristone by mail. They assert that such abortionists can be done “at home” without needing a physician. 

But let’s consider what pharmaceutical abortions entail. Mifepristone induces a miscarriage. Pregnancy is normal; miscarriage is not. Mifepristone launches a multi-hour if not multi-day process that causes a woman to abort. She will deliver the remains of her unborn child. She could fail to deliver those remains fully, in which case sepsis can set in. She could so thoroughly miscarriage as to hemorrhage. That’s “safe?” You want to experience that without medical care?

Almost 50 years of abortion under Roe, coupled with the fanaticism of abortionists ready to defend late term abortions through nine months of pregnancy has blurred the line between abortion and infanticide. One example of this blur has been the failure of Congress to enact a “Born-Alive Protection Act,” which would have required a separate doctor to be available to attend to any child who survived an abortion. Abortionists opposed that requirement, overlooking the conflict-of-interest between having the physician who five minutes and two inches ago was trying to kill that child now supposedly working to save him. While unlikely in a period of divided government, Born Alive Protection should be enacted into law as part of Congress’ basic responsibility to enforce the 14th Amendment, which at a minimum guarantees those “born in the United States” of citizenship and rights.

Finally and most importantly, let’s restore the reality of abortion. Though many people might blanch, we need to show the pictures of what abortion entails. For 50 years, Americans have been lied to about the “safety” of abortion. Most Americans do not know how abortions are performed. They do not know that small babies are broken up and vacuumed out in pieces. They do not know that older fetuses are either made to die in amniotic fluid contaminated with salt to turn it into brine. They do not know that the oldest fetuses are either given a lethal needle in the fetal heart to stop it or simply delivered and abandoned. We cannot hide these truths because they are uncomfortable or “disturbing.”

If you haven’t read them, get some pro-life books. Pro-Life Arguments to Pro-Choice Arguments (Alcorn), Pro-Life 101 (Klusendorf), and Speaking for the Unborn (Christie) and Help Her to Be Brave (Ford).

Dobbs is just the beginning. Expect efforts to federalize abortion by “codifying” Roe. (Do you really believe federal lawmakers want to campaign on abortion every two years?) Expect efforts to go to state courts to invent in state constitutions what has been fixed in the federal constitution. Expect this to be a debate in every state legislature. 

So let’s make sure this discussion hears and faces the truth and avoids the overheated rhetoric that does not follow the science.

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