“Abortion-Rights Measures Prevail, Indicating a Post-Roe Backlash”
—The Wall Street Journal, November 10, 2022
Well, yes. That would be about the size of it, as I reckon up events.
The Dobbs decision, whereby the U.S. Supreme Court overthrew the tyranny and moral sterility of Roe v. Wade, has been seen in many quarters as paving the way to the creation of a culture of life: large and loving. Dobbs pried open the door. That was as far as things may rightly be understood as going. The road beyond the door stretches ahead, no end easily to be glimpsed.
We need to talk about conversions, those rare events in the lives of nations and their people.
Dobbs, on abortion, was a judicial conversion. Good. But we need a moral conversion if ever the ethos of protection for the unborn is to return to our midst, in whatever form, and guide our deliberations on abortion.
We need the culture, not the politicians, saying, with some resemblance to general conviction: The born and the unborn—we’re all a package; a human package; a—shhhh, I’m not sure when we’ll be ready for this left-field declaration—a package planned and brought together by the majesty and love of God.
We should do the best we can until that day dawns. Meanwhile it’s essential that pro-life folk, after so much earnest effort over so many years, keep themselves from despondency, just because on Election Day 2022 a variety of shall we say pro-choice measures succeeded with the voters. As in Michigan, where voters signified their wish to protect the “fundamental right to reproductive freedom.” So also in California and Vermont. A late count of Vermonters showed 77 percent signifying their accession to the proposition—broadly speaking that if you don’t want to have a baby, “you don’t hafta, got that?”
Such is the moral level on which millions still operate half a century after Roe. Choice, choice, choice—we’re for it; your choice, my choice. Laissez faire, laissez passer, as economists used to say.
Dobbs removed the federal guarantee of a right to this species of choice, but that only moved the ball to the political playing field. That moral education might proceed from the political class, wedded to the idea of giving the people what they want—now there’s an odd notion. Think Chuck Schumer. Think Nancy Pelosi. Politics doesn’t form moral convictions; politics advances moral convictions. Right now, the regnant moral conviction, on abortion, is that a woman’s asserted right to make all decisions regarding her body trumps concern for “the products of conception.”
Change that conviction; modify it—that wouldn’t be bad—and the way opens for political affirmation of the right of the unborn to society’s protection.
Easier said than done; yes. Far easier it would be absent the ascendancy of women’s rights in our social and moral calculations: dating from just before Roe. But there, and only there, lies the way ahead, unless I miss my guess.
This abortion thing—it ain’t over ’til it’s over, because—to switch rhetorical tropes, from Yogi Berra to James Russell Lowell a century earlier: “And the choice goes by forever ’twixt that darkness and that light.”