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Roe vs Wade overturned: mixed feelings Login/Join 
Picture of Phil
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) overturned Roe vs Wade, a landmark decision (1973) that allowed abortions to be legally procured in the U.S. Ever since then, abortion has been available in all 50 states, with varying degrees of restrictions. Now, states can set their own regulations. Some will outlaw all abortions, others will be very permissive, still others will allow it in narrow, specified circumstances.

During the last 49 years, the Roman Catholic Church to which I belong has made abortion its number one moral priority, the reason being that life in the womb is taught to be be human, a person, deserving of protection during pregnancy, valued and cherished until death. Overturning Roe vs Wade has been a priority for the Church since 1973, as any Catholic knows. We have heard about it and heard about it and heard about it -- from the pulpit, workshops, in our parish bulletins and diocesan newspapers, etc. Not an election at any level goes by that candidates aren't graded in terms of their pro-life commitments. While the Church has a wealth of moral teaching on a wide range of topics, these are all, collectively, minimized by the emphasis given to abortion.

Catholics don't just simply oppose abortion, however, we also try to provide alternatives. There are counseling and adoptions services, support for women who want to carry their pregnancy to term, and many other options available. Those who say the Church is merely "pro-birth" want to hear about other social justice (life!) issues as well.

I support Catholic teaching on abortion and have debated the topic online and before packed houses. I believe the new life in the womb is innocent of any circumstances that brought about its existence, and has an absolute right to realize the destiny given him or her by God alone. That is my starting point in the discussion. A woman also has a right to her own life, of course, and if the choice is between her life and the fetus, she has a right to choose her own survival. This principle -- known as double-affect -- is affirmed in Catholic teaching and applied, primarily, to physical issues.

But there can be no ignoring the desperation of women who seek abortions. It's not as simple as bad women murder their babies, as some of my right-to-life colleagues put the matter. For one thing, she didn't get pregnant by herself, and the man seldom pays the consequences she does. Abortion is not simply a women's issue, as some like to put it; it's an unwanted pregnancy issue, and that's not going away because Roe vs Wade has been overturned.

Abortion, now, will be mostly illegal only in so-called Red States, whose legislatures are heavily populated by male conservative Christians. There can be little doubt that many women in those states will just travel to more liberal states for abortions, or else they'll find ways to obtain abortificent drugs, or even resort to dangerous procedures. It's likely that, on the whole, abortions are likely to be reduced in number, and that's a good thing. But how would we ever know for sure when clandestine, illegal abortions are sure to be on the increase? No one will report those, nor will we hear much about women harmed by such procedures.

I am bothered by the route taken in the last four years to overturn abortion, as the Republican Senate used two dirty political tricks to install Judges Neil Gorsuch and Amy Barrett. Back in early 2016, Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell refused to deliberate the appointment of President Obama's pick, Merrick Garland, to replace the recently-deceased SCOTUS judge, Antonin Scalia, claiming it was an election year and it would be better to wait until after the election. That was bull! Then, with McConnell still leading the Senate in 2020, SCOTUS judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a so-called liberal, died in September with less than two months to go before the election. McConnell promptly developed amnesia with regard to his earlier principle of not appointing a judge in an election year, accepting President Trump's nomination of Amy Barrett for deliberation and, with his Republican friends in the Senate, approving her before the election. That stinks! Judges Gorsuch and Barrett were two of the six votes that overturned Roe vs Wade.

I am also bothered by the unholy alliance between religion and politics that has developed to overturn Roe vs Wade. Many Catholics and other Christians have been basically one-issue voters, and their religious leaders have pretty much told them it's their civic duty to vote against abortion. I've spoken to Catholics who don't think they even have a right to consider voting for a Democrat, or pro-choice candidate. I wrote an essay on the fallacy of this position sometime back.
- see https://philstromain.com/files...rtion-pro-choice.pdf
The stronger the tie between church leaders and conservative politicians -- mostly Republicans -- the more these ministers became "kept" and unlikely to criticize politicians' actions. Hence, President Trump's coup attempt following the 2020 election has received little comment from church leaders, and the divisions this has brought about in the country (including churches) are basically gaslighted. Trump is forgiven everything because he appointed judges who overturned Roe vs Wade.

Finally, the reasoning used by Judge Alito to justify overturning Roe vs Wade should concern us all. Among other justifications, Alito noted:
In interpreting what is meant by the Fourteenth Amendment’s reference to ‘liberty,’ we must guard against the natural human tendency to confuse what that Amendment protects with our own ardent views about the liberty that Americans should enjoy. That is why the Court has long been 'reluctant' to recognize rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution.
The judicial philosophy of Alito and some of the other judges who voted with him to overturn Roe is that if a right isn't explicitly mentioned in the Constitution/Bill of Rights, it has only a weak basis, in law, at best. Even though he tried to qualify abortion as a special case of such application, SCOTUS Justice Thomas quickly noted that other issues could be visited soon: notably contraception and gay marriage. Slippery slope? We shall see. But in the meantime, the principle used by Alito makes me nervous. So many rights we take for granted aren't explicitly stated in the Constitution.

So we are back to early 1973 -- states rights. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Many have argued that it was wrong of the Court in the first place to set what was, essentially, policy for all the states. Policies, the argument goes, should be set by the legislative branch, and that's where we are. So we all have a voice now in what comes next, and we need to let our legislators know what we think. Most likely, this will be a messy transition time, which means that Church leaders will continue to talk up abortion into the future, perhaps more than ever before. We need to tell them to remember that we have other important moral teachings deserving of prophetic expression.

How would you like to see things go from here onward? Give a good amount of prayer and reflection in response to this question, for we are in a new place where our thoughts and votes can actually make a difference.
Posts: 3862 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Phil
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Here's a statement from the Dominican Sisters of Peace, the religious community who sponsor Heartland Center for Spirituality, where I work.

Posts: 3862 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
Picture of Phil
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In my opening post, I noted the double-effect principle, which allows a woman to procure a medical procedure to save her own life even if it a possible/likely consequence is the loss of her fetus.
See https://catholic-link.org/cath...le-of-double-effect/ for elaboration on this principle.
The understanding is that the issue in question pertains to her physical survival.

What about a pregnancy threatening her psycho-social (including economic) survival? Are there ever circumstance when a pregnancy presents such a dilemma that a physically healthy woman perceives her pregnancy as a threat to her overall survival?

We know that this is the case with many women who seek abortions. The Catholic Church grants no double-effect option in such cases, however, unless her physical survival is also in medical jeopardy.

I deeply empathize with women caught in such a conundrum! The general "spirit" of double-effect is seemingly in play, even if technically disqualified. If we are to now pass laws that deprive many women of what they perceive to be a life-saving procedure, we have a moral duty to also provide them with compelling and viable alternatives. Even then, however, the choice to bear a pregnancy to term might still be too threatening for many. We cannot and ought not judge them for making decisions they believe to be in the best interest of resolving their desperate situation. We can say we believe the action is wrong, but we cannot know their hearts; only God can judge the heart.
Posts: 3862 | Location: Wichita, KS | Registered: 27 December 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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