Father Booth’s Weekly Reflection

A Great Victory

In the recent Supreme Court decision, Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health, the court finally admitted what has been known for almost 50 years. The U.S. Constitution does not guarantee abortion as a civil right. In 1973, in an early example of judicial activism, the Supreme Court ruled that all laws prohibiting abortion were unconstitutional, thereby legalizing abortion nationwide. They went so far as to say that abortion was a fundamental right. Abortion is a fundamental right somehow unknown to the founding fathers of this country, a right that would have been utterly repulsive to their sensibilities, so one must wonder how fundamental this supposed right might be. Likewise, finding the right to have an abortion in the Constitution is profoundly tenuous at best. In 1973 the court relied on the language of the 14th Amendment, specifically ‘nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.’ Perversely, the 14th Amendment protected the civil rights of freed slaves but was then used to deprive unborn persons of life, liberty, and property. It is little wonder that even some abortion proponents recognized that Roe v Wade was a poorly reasoned decision.

What the court did in Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health was recognize that the Constitution does not guarantee a right to an abortion or even hint of such a right. In other words, the right to terminate a pregnancy never existed despite Roe v Wade. Much the same can be said of the Dred Scott decision: the Constitution does not deny personhood or civil rights to people of African descent and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments simply recognized that all men are indeed created equal irrespective of their skin color. The overturning of Dred Scott by these three amendments did not suddenly grant personhood to freed slaves but recognized that they had been persons with civil rights all along.

In any case, the Dobbs decision is a great victory for life, but it is not the final or ultimate victory. It is a first step. Despite the highly exaggerated rhetoric of some, the supposed right to an abortion has not been eliminated. The court ruled that the 10th Amendment applies: ‘The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.’ Thus, abortion is now a states’ rights issue, which is what the court should have ruled in 1973. Alabama can restrict abortion according to its own laws as much as California or New York might place few or no restrictions on abortion at all. Since the court has ruled that abortion is a states’ right issue, however, Congress cannot simply pass a nationwide law legalizing abortion in all 50 states. In order to return to the evil allowed by Roe v Wade, a constitutional amendment would have to be passed to enshrine the right to kill babies in the womb. By the same token, to totally undo the scourge of abortion in this country, each state would have to outlaw abortion or a constitutional amendment protecting the life of the unborn would have to be passed, both of which are quite unlikely at this time.

Ultimately, what needs to happen is that hearts need to change. Many hearts have been hardened to the point that persuasive arguments are futile. Sadly, people with hardened hearts care nothing of the sensibilities of the fellow citizens and will likely force their beliefs on others as they are currently doing in other areas, such as gender issues. It will be their way of the highway.

Christ, however, did not operate that way. He proposed the truth – sometimes punctuated by signs and wonders, other times not – but He did not impose His will. Being divine, Jesus could have imposed His will quite easily, but He would rather that people accept the truth of their own volition. Our job is to do the same, presenting the truth, which is what the pro-life movement has been doing and needs to continue doing. The same goes for evangelization in general: hearts need to be changed.

As hardened as hearts are now against the sanctity of human life in the womb, it will likely require divine assistance to achieve progress toward a true pro-life victory. In fact, the Dobbs decision almost certainly resulted from divine assistance. But God did not act alone in this regard. Forty-nine years of witnessing, prayer, and sacrifice on our part were necessary. We must trust that God will do the heavy lifting – the changing of hearts – but we must continue to do our part as well.

—Fr Booth