Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health
Today, in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women's Health, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down its 1973 decision, Roe vs. Wade. The court ultimately decided that the “Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
Roe being overturned is something I’ve looked forward to for years. That ruling undermined the basic rights of an entire class of people based on their level of development and functioning. It masqueraded grotesque ableism as a fundamental right. It was gross injustice enshrined into law.
Yet, after hearing the news and reading the court’s opinion, I don’t feel happy.
If this had happened ten years ago while I was a pro-life activist in college, I would have been overjoyed and shouting celebrations from the rooftops. What’s different now?
One difference is that I used to be consumed by a culture war mentality. I could not fathom that there were pro-choice people of good will and sound mind. I believed that legalized abortion was equivalent to slavery or the holocaust. What I failed to see was that abortion wasn’t those with power abusing someone who is vulnerable or disadvantaged, rather, it’s often those who already feel powerless and vulnerable acting out of desperation, that there’s rarely heroes and villains. There’s often just tragedy, abuse, injustice, and fear.
People who are pro-choice truly believe that vulnerable women will be harmed by today’s ruling. They truly believe that access to abortion is necessary for women to be equal members of society and the economy. Tragically, their beliefs aren’t without some merit.
As I’ve written before, children impose themselves on people’s lives in life-altering ways. Having children can derail career plans, force parents to stay in terrible jobs, or prevent a parent from going to work at all. Children from unexpected pregnancies can disrupt high school, delay college, or cause their parents to quit school altogether. Having children can make leaving abusive relationships more difficult. Children can rack up obscene medical bills. And they often do all this even before they are born.
These burdens have disproportionately been put on women. Our capitalistic society does not value anyone that does not have labor that can be bought and sold. We value profit over the flourishing of children and families.
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church teaches that families are owed a “family wage.” That is, “a wage sufficient to maintain a family and allow it to live decently. Such a wage must also allow for savings that will permit the acquisition of property as a guarantee of freedom” (CSDC 250).
Unfortunately, in the US, we do not value paying laborers a just wage so they can provide for their families. Instead, it seems that we value the wealth of billionaires over food, housing, healthcare, and education. It seems we value profit over women and children.
And personal charity is not sufficient! If we truly value mothers and children we need to change policies, we need to build structures of justice that not only uphold the dignity of unborn children on paper, but uphold their dignity by providing universal healthcare, maternity and paternity leave, and a permanent extended child tax credit.
Legalized abortion, however, is not a solution to this capitalistic and misogynistic mess. It upholds these systems of injustice. It does not provide women with the social and economic support she needs to make truly free choices. Instead, legalized abortion provides an excuse for those in power to continue their oppression.
However, by itself, the Supreme Court decision today would simply place the very real costs that accompany children onto their mothers—women who are often already in vulnerable positions due to poverty, lack of medical or psychological support, or abusive situations. By itself, this is something that is difficult for me to be happy about.
Additionally, I cannot overlook the politics that surround today’s decision. The president who appointed three of the six justices in today’s majority ruling, among other things, also tried to undermine the democratic process, steal an election, and caused a violent attempted insurrection. And the party who appointed all six justices in today’s majority ruling can’t even muster up the willpower to denounce the former president or the insurrection. It is this party that the pro-life movement has almost entirely aligned itself with, the party that is also opposed to universal healthcare, maternal leave, and expanded child tax credits.
Especially since 2016, the movement that was supposed to be defending the dignity of women and children, a movement that is predominantly Christian, has sacrificed its values at every turn in order to get to today’s decision. And that won’t be without future consequences.
It is good, profoundly good, that Roe vs. Wade was overturned. But by itself, in the economic and political context of 2022, it doesn’t really feel like something to celebrate.
After the draft of today’s ruling was leaked back in May, New Wave Feminists, a pro-life group led by Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa, released a statement. My feelings right now echo theirs. It said in part:
“Now is not the time to brag, or gloat, or celebrate. Now is the time to get to work and create a world that supports and protects not just the unborn person in the womb, but the equally as human and valuable people carrying them.
“If we do not do this, this moment will not last. More deaths will follow than any of us can even fathom, and there is nothing pro-LIFE about that.
“I don’t want my daughters or my daughter’s daughters dying from dangerous back alley abortions that they felt they had to seek out of fear. I don’t want my sisters hemorrhaging from mail order pills taken incorrectly. I don’t want my best friends living in poverty or abusive relationships unable to care for themselves or their children on their own. But they all will if we refuse to get to the REAL root of abortion - the absolute desperation and horror you feel when facing an unintended pregnancy.
“I don’t want the overturning of Roe to take anything away from women. I want this point in time to be the defining moment when we all, as a nation, realize we never actually needed abortion because we loved one another so well it became unthinkable and unnecessary.
“We’ve had 49 years to create that type of world… and yet, we haven’t. So, I get why people are scared tonight and it breaks my heart. I hope with everything in my being we’re able to prove to them that their fears were unfounded by actually creating the support system they and their children will need. Have needed. And can finally have.
“…Because if we don’t, mark my word, abortion on demand will be our future, and this small “victory” prolifers are celebrating tonight will be incredibly short-lived… simply a footnote on the pages of history.”