Getting Educated on Roe

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: The timing and content of President Joe Biden’s response to our correspondent’s query about abortion was telling in many ways.

EWTN News Nightly
EWTN News Nightly (photo: EWTN)

On Oct. 20, President Joe Biden engaged in an exceptionally revealing exchange with EWTN News Nightly White House Correspondent Owen Jensen, highlighting where he stands regarding abortion rights.

“Mr. President, should there be any restrictions on abortion at all?” Jensen asked, immediately before the president boarded his helicopter.

“Yes, there should be,” Biden responded. When Jensen pressed further, the president blustered, “It’s Roe v. Wade. Read it, man. You’ll get educated,” before striding away without additional elaboration.

Biden apparently thought he was “schooling” Jensen, with his curt and deliberately misleading response. The question was straightforward and necessary from a Catholic White House correspondent to the Catholic politician who holds the nation’s highest political office to clarify what limits — if any — he is willing to support when it comes to the killing of unborn babies in their mothers’ wombs.

Actually, the president was providing a singular opportunity to educate American voters about where Biden and his party stand on abortion. 

The timing of this lesson couldn’t be more appropriate, coming as it does just ahead of November’s crucial midterm elections. The election will determine who will control both the House and the Senate, which now exercise enhanced power over national abortion policy in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision that overturned its earlier Roe decision that wrongly constitutionalized a national right to abortion for a half-century. 

In proclaiming that he seeks a return to Roe’s abortion-law framework, Biden is echoing the abortion lobby, which has made so-called abortion rights their main concern in the 2022 midterm campaign. Since the release of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, Democratic politicians have tried to represent themselves as abortion “moderates” who, according to their own election sloganeering, wish merely to “Restore Roe.” And they have continually demonized faithful Catholics and other pro-life Americans who differ with their Roe-based stance as being “extremists” who are wildly out of step with the majority sentiments of U.S. voters with respect to legal abortion.

These characterizations are demonstrably false. Consider first what Roe actually mandated, in terms of permanent restrictions on abortion: precisely nothing. After asserting that abortion rights somehow had been hiding for 100 years within the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, Roe held individual states could pass laws restricting access to abortion only if they didn’t interfere unjustifiably with this newly created abortion license. For the first 20 years after Roe took effect in 1973, the Supreme Court instituted a trimester-based standard governing the period later in pregnancy when very limited state-level restraints on abortion could be enacted by pro-life legislatures.

By the early 1990s, it had become apparent that the trimester model was unworkable from a legal and political standpoint. But rather than admit what should have been obvious — that Roe itself was an egregiously wrong legal finding — the Supreme Court of the day instead sought to salvage Roe via its 1992 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision. Upholding Roe’s central premise of a constitutional right to abortion, Casey replaced the trimester framework with “fetal viability” as the standard for when a law restricting abortion became permissible and applied a somewhat less restrictive standard regarding which pro-life laws were acceptable.

As the Supreme Court finally got around to acknowledging this spring with Dobbs, the fetal-viability standard proved to be every bit as arbitrary and unworkable as the trimester one, in terms of providing legal clarity about when state abortion laws conflict with the nebulous constitutional “right” to abortion that Roe conjured out of thin air back in 1973. And while it was true that after Casey pro-life state legislatures were able to pass some additional laws restricting abortion, all these laws remained in jeopardy of being overturned if the Supreme Court were to decide to institute a different arbitrary interpretation of what Roe mandated. Thankfully, Dobbs put an end to this legal quagmire.

President Biden knows all of this perfectly well. He also knows that, over the course of his five-decade-long career in politics that coincides with the life of the Roe decision, he and his party have incrementally morphed into total support for pro-abortion extremism. This is demonstrated, beyond any argument, by the so-called “Women’s Health Protection Act” that is currently stalled in Congress. 

Touted by Biden and other Democrats as the vehicle by which Roe would be reinstated, this extremist legislation actually goes even further. If passed — as Democrats pledge to do as their first item of business should they win complete control of the U.S. House and Senate next month — abortion on demand right up to the time of birth would become the basic legal standard for every state in the nation. The president’s support for this bill categorically contradicts his claims of supporting limits on abortion.

And what of the Democrats’ related claim that they are “moderates” who are in line with the majority beliefs of Americans on abortion? Recent polls categorically refute this, too. 

For example, a Harvard/Harris survey conducted after Roe v. Wade was overturned reported that 72% of all voters — and 60% of Democrats — believed their state should not allow abortion past 15 weeks, far earlier than was permissible prior to Roe’s downfall. A new EWTN News/RealClear Opinion Research poll of Catholic voters in six key battleground states, conducted less than a month before the midterm elections, reported even greater majorities in favor of abortion restrictions.

Joe Biden’s comments to EWTN’s Owen Jensen reflect the fundamental dishonesty of the abortion lobby. Roe allowed for no fixed exceptions to the constitutional right of abortion, and anyone who has supported abortion for so long would know that. To state the obvious, Biden should be the one to reread Roe — and afterward educate other Americans about how it was used for so long to resist sensible limitations and restrictions. 

Biden’s abortion views on the campaign trail have been so extreme that the U.S. bishops publicly rebuked him via a strongly worded Oct. 25 public statement, released only two weeks before the Nov. 8 midterm voting. 

“The president is gravely wrong to continue to seek every possible avenue to facilitate abortion, instead of using his power to increase support and care to mothers in challenging situations,” Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, declared in the statement. “This single-minded extremism must end, and we implore President Biden to recognize the humanity in preborn children and the genuine life-giving care needed by women in this country.” 

As faithful Catholics, we must continue to pray for a change of heart in the Oval Office. If Biden doesn’t abandon his current abortion extremism, the president will be communicating once again that, for him, accommodating the all-powerful abortion lobby for political profit takes precedence over living out his own faith by standing in defense of unborn lives. No sadder legacy than this is conceivable for a Catholic politician. 

God bless you!

Mark Houck surrounded by his children at home.

The Department of Injustice

A NOTE FROM THE PUBLISHER: Recent dramatic arrests of pro-life activists beg scrutiny over the political biases at work as more than a 100 violent acts against churches and pro-life facilities have seemingly escaped federal attention.