The leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court indicates that Roe will be overturned. While this is good news, there are things to consider.
The opinion, should it prove the opinion, only overturns the precedence of Roe, which is only right. Roe was a bad decision—yes, it was morally bad, but it was also poorly written, logically inconsistent, and legally problematic. It was so full of holes it made a colander look like a ziplock bag. It sought a result and then made up the means. It has infected our legal culture and view of the Constitution, and it is an open question as to whether we can recover. Alito’s opinion is ironic, in a way, because, despite all those decrying it as the end of choice, the Court is in effect saying, “On the contrary, we are now returning the choice to you.”
However, by merely overturning Roe, I believe the opinion unjust. It leaves the broader—and ultimate—question unanswered. Is that child in the womb a person or not? Is that boy or girl protected by our Constitution or not? I would have preferred that the Court “follow the science” and go further, recognizing the right of the unborn child. It would have been the legally and biologically right thing to do. As hysterical as the Left is about the opinion, the majority probably went as far as they could and showed restraint. I wish they hadn’t.
Yes, liberals are hysterical with cries that we are returning to the “Middle Ages.” They howl that interracial marriages will be outlawed. Fat chance; for the simple reason that no politician would be stupid enough to propose such a thing. Liberals fear that because Roe relied on Griswold vs. Connecticut (the 1965 case overturning laws against the sale of contraceptives, and which first found the “right of privacy”) contraceptives will be outlawed. I doubt it (though I wish it). We are too far down that road for any court to touch the issue.
A greater fear—or greater hope—is that the “right” of “gay marriage” is now in question. Good. That “right” had its origins in Roe and was strengthened by Justice Kennedy’s mind-bending musings in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (confirming Roe) that “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Allowing states to decide about marriage would only put us back to where we were seven years ago; hardly the Middle Ages. Then the Court will be faced with the question of a “marriage” recognized in one state but not in another. I have no idea how it would decide that, but that is what happens when stupid ideas are taken seriously.
Overturning Roe will, to put it mildly, make things difficult for the Catholic Church in America. Frankly, many Catholics, especially those in public office, were grateful for Roe. It allowed them to be bankrolled by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the abortion industry while claiming to “uphold the Constitution.” No more. It is no longer a question of Constitutional right but of simple right. If a Catholic has any doubt about the rightness of abortion, it is the duty of the bishop to set him or her straight and then act accordingly.
And this will make it very uncomfortable for the bishops. Again, it is no longer a question of “the Constitution and the Faith” but of abortion or the Faith. The bishop cannot shake his head and say we live in a pluralistic society and must abide by its decisions. We can now make the decisions. When a pro-abortion representative or senator—or president—comes up the communion aisle, it won’t be as someone “protecting the Constitution” but as someone who supports, by his or her own choice, the slaughter of innocents. We must pray for our bishops.
And it will be very, very uncomfortable for you and me, the ordinary Catholic. We can’t slough this off as something beyond our control. We have seen that it is not. Some have likened this decision—should it go through—as akin to civil rights decisions in the ’50s and ’60s, and there is some truth to that.
But those decisions had the support of the power brokers in our society—the federal government, academia, corporations, the arts, and entertainment. With the courts, and perhaps more so, they shifted public opinion. With abortion, the power and money are all on the other side. If you thought Big Tech was hard on you before for your tweets and likes, wait until you see what’s coming. It also doesn’t take much to imagine what President Biden’s “Disinformation Governance Board” will allow—or not allow—regarding abortion.
Netflix will have movies and television shows of women dying from “back-alley abortions.” Students in colleges and high schools (and probably grade schools) will have another chapter added to their “suppression of women” courses. Insurance rates will rise as you and I will have to pay travel expenses for those seeking abortions. We, too, must make moral choices with our pocket books. As a small example, Amazon has already announced it will pay up to $4,000 for employees travelling to get abortions; are we willing to boycott Amazon and pay the extra $6.50 in shipping and handling to order a book from the publisher?
Finally, there is a more pressing issue for the average Catholic if the Court has, in fact, decided to overturn Roe. It is safe to say that Justices Thomas and Coney-Barrett voted with Justice Alito; so at least two other justices had to go along, probably from the three more conservative justices, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, and Roberts. That would mean that at least four of the five votes came from Catholics. Why this may be so is a topic for another time, but that fact will not go unnoticed.
The not-so-subtle “Know Nothing” spirit in America will be less subtle; indeed, it may become barefaced very soon. This decision will affect our parishes, our jobs, our schools, and our communities in ways we can’t imagine. You will hear, sotto voce at cocktail parties, said out loud at the Oscars, how “those Catholics did this.” Already, a group called Ruth Sent Us (named after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg) has called for disruption and violence in Catholic churches. They have even published the home addresses of the justices. Do not wait for the Biden administration to label these people domestic terrorists.
As Eric Sammons pointed out in The End of the Road for Roe?, this may signal something of the end of the American experiment, at least on the scale we have had it for so long. Roe was the Pandora’s Box of wokeness in the legal system. It put into our cultural DNA the notion that the founding document of our nation protected the murder of children. It has (wrongly, but understandably given the barrage) put into the subconscious of many women, for almost two generations, the idea that their very identity of being a woman lay not in their gift to bring forth life but in their “right” to end it. If this opinion does stand, it will make us face something we don’t want to face. It will be Project Rachel on a national scale.
Can a nation quilted with some states that say “this is a person” and others that say “it is not” survive? I don’t know the answer to that. But now it begins.
[Photo Credit: Archdiocese of Denver]