In a Post-Dobbs Nation, ‘What to Say When’ About Abortion

On the matter of life, no compromise exists. We either choose life or we rationalize death.

Book cover of ‘What to Say When’
Book cover of ‘What to Say When’ (photo: Kolbe & Anthony)

During the 1972 oral argument in Roe v. Wade, the justices wondered whether abortion involves weighing one life against another — an egregiously wrong and arbitrary thing to do. Tragically, this is precisely what seven of the nine justices ultimately did — even “legislating” a trimester system to carry out the weighing.

And by doing so, they abandoned the preborn child. Abortion ends the life of an innocent human being. There are no words that can change this result. For the past five decades, people have rightly struggled to discuss this horrific reality. 

Abortion advocates carefully avoid mentioning the child who is dependent on, but wholly distinct from, the mother. “My body, my choice” disregards settled science. As described in the September 1970 issue of California Medicine, everyone knows life begins at conception and that to deny this reality requires “semantic gymnastics.” Society has been tongue-tied ever since.


Let’s Talk

A recently published book points to healing and reconciliation.

What to Say When: The Complete New Guide to Discussing Abortion, released this past year and co-authored by 40 Days for Life colleagues Shawn Carney and Steve Karlen, engagingly and sensitively addresses abortion from multiple directions. The well-organized, adroitly written, and cogently presented book consists of an introduction, 13 chapters and a conclusion.

The introduction sets the stage with an opening quote anchored in the wisdom of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI): “Love without truth is blind; truth without love is empty.”

Each of the 13 chapters thoughtfully addresses a core question, concept or argument. Equipped with this book, pro-life proponents can confidently offer hope and healing. What to Say When provides a roadmap for principled dialogue.

Ultimately, abortion is a spiritual battle calling for prayer, virtue and respect for the dignity of the human person at every stage. What to Say When helps all sides understand, listen, present the truth in love and abide by ordered liberty.


Soon the Supreme Court will issue a final ruling in a case that considers the central holding in Roe for the first time in 30 years and for only the second time in nearly 50 years. Dobbs provides a breakthrough opportunity — time for reflection and renewal.

Could this have been the motivation behind the unprecedented release of the draft opinion?

Of the 98 pages and 118 footnotes in the draft document, no statement is more important than this: “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.” This is the first half of the equation.

The second half involves what Lincoln alluded to in his longest speech — the speech where he addressed slavery in light of our nation’s charter (the Declaration of Independence) and our nation’s bylaws (the Constitution). The bylaws can never contradict the charter. Lincoln concluded the Cooper Union speech with these words:

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.

The 14th Amendment became part of the Constitution in 1868, three years after the Civil War. The equal protection clause corrects another Supreme Court decision that was, like Roe, “egregiously wrong from the start.” The matter is now once again before the Court.

Let’s fervently pray that the Supreme Court dares to do its duty by honoring the 14th Amendment and affirming equal protection for the littlest among us.


A New Beginning

The way one thinks about life determines the way one sees the world.

On the matter of life, no compromise exists. We either choose life or we rationalize death. Even in the most difficult of circumstances, choosing life leads to life. Since 1973, witnesses to life conceived from a crime are now adult testimonies to this truth.

The answer to violence is not more violence. The foundational duty is to protect the innocent. Proceeding with truth in love, may healing result from knowing what to say when.

Michael O. Kenney is the president of the Pro-Life Partners Foundation and a Senior Fellow of the The Cardinal Newman Society.