- About this issue . . .. . . The journal you hold is particularly forward-looking: The news broke in May that the Supreme Court would hear arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, regarding Mississippi’s proposed 15-week abortion ban, with a decision expected in June 2022. News outlets and social media exploded, predicting—with either panic or joy—the demise of Roe. But hyped-up messaging from both sides of the abortion divide obscures the more complex, incremental nature of the case. And so, we bring you indispensable analyses from pro-life leaders in our symposium “Perspectives on the Impending Fate of Roe” (p. 34).We lead with the eminent Roe scholar Clarke Forsythe (who gave us permission to reprint his Wall Street Journal column). He writes that, despite the media message that “Americans are too polarized” to decide the abortion issue, consistent polling results show that “a large majority of Americans would likely support a decision upholding” Mississippi’s law. Kristan Hawkins agrees, reminding us that “Many more Americans support the vague concept of Roe (the right to choose) than they do the actual tenets of Roe (abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason and often funded by taxpayers).” Teresa Stanton Collett warns that “prolifers should guard against a pyrrhic victory” by focusing not just on Roe but also its companion case Doe v. Bolton—which provided the broad health exception necessary for abortion-on-demand. Next, George McKenna hopes that, as the case focuses on the “morally crazy” standard of viability, perhaps the “old slippery slope, this time working in our favor,” will increase earlier protections for the unborn. Kristen Day sees an opportunity in Dobbs for Americans to conquer their fear of talking about abortion: “What better time to dispel the myths about abortion and the pro-life movement?” Helen Alvaré points out that empirical data since Roe strongly contradict the notion that abortion leads to accomplishment in “feminist-materialist-equality terms” for women—in fact, legal abortion “has likely held women back.” Finally, Kelsey Hazzard—see our back-cover quote—compares abortion advocates to flat-earthers in their rejection of the clear science about life’s beginnings.As editor Anne Conlon writes in her engaging introduction, we also asked the great pro-life legal scholar Hadley Arkes to join the symposium, and “to our delight he gave us an article instead,” one of three in this issue on Dobbs and the future of Roe.We thank First Things for permission to reprint Samuel D. James’ take-down of porn “literacy.” And thanks, as always, to cartoonist Nick Downes for providing the joy of a great guffaw.
Maria McFadden Maffucci
- Before the Supreme Court announced it would take up Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in its fall session, prolifers were debating—and pro-abortionists blasting—“Abortion Is Unconstitutional,” an argument advanced by Notre Dame’s John Finnis in the April issue of First Things. It’s actually an old argument—that fetal personhood is embedded in the 14th Amendment—but obscured in recent decades by sustained efforts to pass incremental legislation (such as the 15-week abortion ban at issue in Dobbs). “There is impressive thinking in this elegant essay,” writes senior editor William Murchison in our lead article, “Trust Not in Judicial Princes,” which “every pro-life advocate ought to read.” Murchison, however, is skeptical that any solution to the nation’s abortion logjam can come out of today’s Court. “The hopes of the parties at law” in the Dobbs case, he writes, “are rooted in questions beyond the competency of judicial minds.” Americans, he says, “want it kind of both ways: respect in some measure for the unborn, freedom for claimants to personal liberty to get rid of ‘accidental’ obstacles to the enjoyment of that liberty.” It wasn’t always so, as Marvin Olasky, editor of World magazine (and the Human Life Foundation’s 2021 Great Defender of Life), makes clear in “Abortion and Law before Roe v. Wade,” adapted from the first chapter of his latest book Abortion at the Crossroads. In early America, Olasky writes, “humans outside the womb viewed humans in the womb as human life, so general laws against murder applied.” Abortion “was so atypical that specific legislation rarely seemed necessary.” Its incidence increased, however, “as cities . . . attracted young people moving away from family protection and restrictions.”
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