Pro-Lifers Celebrating Roe’s Demise See Work Ahead: Support Women While Changing Laws and Hearts
A crowd of Minnesotans gathered in downtown St. Paul on Friday evening to express their gratitude for the Dobbs decision, and look forward to the new challenges that lie ahead.
ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Celebration was in the air — even with temperatures in the 90s — as pro-lifers gathered in downtown St. Paul on Friday evening following a Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade and ended nationwide legalized abortion.
Pro-life, Catholic, Christian and other leaders led prayer, talks and songs with an exuberant crowd of 300 that included families, individuals, priests and religious. They recognized pro-lifers’ prayer and commitment to the movement, while reminding them of the work that remains to be done to support women and families, and end abortion across the country. Abortion remains legal in Minnesota which is one of eight states whose constitutions allow it.
The rally at the Warren E. Berger Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse took on added significance because Berger was serving as chief justice of the Supreme Court at the time it released the 1973 Roe decision and was one of its supporters. Also, Associate Justice Harry Blackmun, who wrote the majority opinion in the case, grew up in St. Paul.
The legal victory in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case in which the court by a 6-3 majority overturned the 1973 decision and now returns the issue of the legalization of abortion to the states, belongs to God, said speakers at the rally organized by St. Paul-based Pro-Life Action Ministries (PLAM), which publicly defends the sanctity of human life, and the Minnesota Family Council in Minneapolis.
“God is the one who brought this about,” said PLAM executive director Brian Gibson, who is Catholic. “If we ask God for something, especially something so significant and large as this, do you know what God expects from us? To work our tails off. And it still all belongs to God no matter how hard any of us worked.”
Also recognizing the Lord’s role in the court decision, Archbishop Bernard Hebda of St. Paul-Minneapolis acknowledged all the prayers for the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Affirming the work Catholics are already doing to support women and children, the archbishop mentioned the U.S. bishops’ initiative Walking with Moms in Need that helps parishes, organizations and pregnancy resource centers support women.
“I pledge that our Catholic churches will be a sanctuary with even one small act to build a civilization of love and promote the culture of life in your own communities,” he said. “We vow to come alongside you and work together at this new starting point where we find ourselves today.”
The need to support women will continue, speakers said. Following the court’s decision, laws in the majority of the states surrounding Minnesota have gone into effect that make abortion illegal. Because of this, Minnesota may attract women from the other states seeking abortions.
Addressing those who may need support and fear the outcome of the court’s decision, Renee Carlson said, “For those of you that aren’t with us and don’t understand what we’re celebrating today, we will not leave you on the sidelines.” Carlson is general counsel for True North Legal, a Minneapolis independent public-interest law firm affiliated with Minnesota Family Institute. She co-authored an amicus brief in the Dobbs case.
“Women who are feeling desperate and are feeling afraid because of this decision today … We are here for you. All of us stand with you and we will be with you all the way. Do not be afraid. We are all here today and we stand with everyone because we care about the mothers just as much as we care about their unborn children.”
The Heart of the Matter
The conflict over abortion is a battle for the heart of our nation, which is really defined by the hearts of its women, said Angela Erickson, a mother, pro-life advocate and podcaster who co-hosts a pro-life radio show with Gibson.
“On this feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus we see God’s providence working,” she said. “There are no accidents. His heart will prevail in our state as it has prevailed in the nation. And in this we will see a recognition not only of the image of God being born within every womb, but each beating heart will also be acknowledged and protected.”
The court’s decision is about the right to life for all humans, not just some of them, said Joe Langfeld, executive director of Minneapolis-based Human Life Alliance, which offers education, social and political awareness and life-affirming alternatives to abortion, infanticide, assisted suicide and euthanasia.
“The Supreme Court cannot take away your rights,” he said. “All the Supreme Court did today is restore the rights for all human beings.”
The Roe v. Wade and subsequent Planned Parenthood v. Casey cases upon which the court based its decisions legalizing abortion “inflamed debate and deepened division,” Gibson said. “It’s time to heed the constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives,” he said. “The permissibility of abortion and the limitations upon it are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy, by the citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.”
Pro-abortion protestors attempted to disrupt the rally. When the crowd began singing the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” a man who had been taunting them loudly throughout the rally with a bullhorn exclaimed, “This is not church!” and “Thank God for abortion.”
In a prayer to the crowd, Dave Johnson, lead pastor of River of Life Church in Elk River, Minnesota, said, “It’s time to roll up our sleeves and express the love of God, even to people who don’t like us.” He also pointed out that while the Israelites in slavery in Egypt prayed for 400 years for liberation, pro-lifers prayed only for 49 years.
With the victory, there is still a need to change hearts, said Jacquie Schmitz, 77, who attended the rally with members of her family and parish. “I think we have to focus on changing the hearts because it will never change until we can change hearts.”
Schmitz, who has worked in the pro-life movement almost since the Roe decision in 1973, currently co-chairs with her husband the respect life group at their parish, St. John the Baptist in New Brighton, Minnesota.
“I didn’t think I’d live to see today,” she said.
Glen Benson, 22, said he wasn’t expecting to see Roe overturned, either. "It’s really exciting,” said Benson who does sidewalk counseling each week at a Twin Cities abortion facility.
He believes history is being made. “It’s the first step and saving of lives and babies. We still have a long way to go but this is, it’s pretty unbelievable. I’ve been really excited for this.”
The Challenge Ahead
As far as ending abortion in his home state, where it will remain legal following the Dobbs decision Benson said, “All we can do is pray … Minnesota is going to be the place people come to so there’s a lot of work we’re going to have to do in this state, especially with abortion pill vans being set up around the border.”
Tom and Carrie Dippel of Cottage Grove, Minnesota, brought their six children, ages 4-12, and some of them carried pro-life signs. The family talked about what they might expect at the rally, said Carrie as the family passed a row of protestors. “We believe that life begins at conception.” she said.
“We’re super excited, just praising God for this ruling.”
The Rev. Denise Walker also gave glory to God for the decision but pointed to the work ahead to change laws and hearts. Walker co-founded with her husband Rich in Mercy Abortion & Miscarriage Recovery Program, in Albertville, Minnesota.
“We are going to celebrate. We are going to dance and we’re going to sing,” Walker said.
“Take the weekend because guess what? On Monday morning we’ve got work to do. He wants to use every last one of us to be part of the healing of America on this issue. There’s so much healing that has to happen in all of the sectors and the quarters of our society.”