Paul L. Caron
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Sunday, June 26, 2022

NY Times Op-Ed: I Prayed And Protested To End Roe. What Comes Next?

Prior Warren French

New York Times Op-Ed:  I Prayed and Protested to End Roe. What Comes Next?, by Karen Swallow Prior (Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary):

Roe v. Wade’s reversal has elicited cries of anger and despair from those who feel a sense of dread for the future of women and the future of America.

I understand that feeling of dread.

As a pro-life advocate, I lament with those who feel they have lost a basic human right, as well as moral agency and hope for the future. But for me it is Roe that brought these losses.

Roe stripped from the prenatal child the right to continue to live and grow, safe and free from intentional harm. If you believe, as I do, that abortion unjustly ends the life of a being that is fully human, a life that exists independently of the will of the mother, is self-organizing and unique, developing yet complete in itself, then you will understand Roe not as a ruling that liberates but as one that dehumanizes, first the fetus, then the rest of us.

Further, Roe elevated radical autonomy over moral agency. Roe struck down the hope that is inherent in every human life, whether new or old, for as long as life remains.

Roe was an unjust ruling. I have always believed it would be overturned, as other unjust decisions by the court were, although I thought it would take longer. I rejoice that it did not. But of course it will take longer for abortion to become unthinkable, which is the real goal of the pro-life movement. ...

[I]n a recent Times Opinion essay, Patrick T. Brown acknowledged the need for “a broader vision of policy than just prohibiting access to abortion.” A post-Roe world, he wrote, “is one that compels a greater claim on public resources to support expectant mothers” and demands that we “take seriously the challenges that women and families experience not only during and immediately after pregnancy but also in the years that follow.”

The conservative think tank where Mr. Brown is a fellow, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has developed a robust, holistic Life and Family Initiative aimed at protecting the lives of prenatal children and offering concrete support to the families in which they will be born. California’s Catholic bishops have also outlined a commitment to support women, children and families. And the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention has included in its 2022 public policy agenda a range of issues beyond its ongoing focus on abortion, including alleviating hunger and strengthening low-income families.

We can do better than asking women (and men) to choose between their children and themselves. I see the overturning of Roe as the first step in getting there. Then, to make abortion unthinkable, we must make it unwanted.

New York Times Op-Ed:  Dobbs, Roe and the Myth of ‘Bodily Autonomy’, by Tish Harrison Warren (Priest, Anglican Church; Author, Prayer in the Night: For Those Who Work or Watch or Weep (2021) (Christianity Today's 2022 Book of the Year)):

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” the Supreme Court declared on Friday in its majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. It boggles the mind, really. The fight over abortion that has raged as long as I can remember has taken a decisive turn. The broad spectrum of emotions in reaction to this decision — from outrage to jubilation and everything in between — will be on full display for weeks and months to come. Our feelings about this decision matter. But it is also critical that we continue to examine and clarify the merits of the arguments about abortion.

“Bodily autonomy” has become a chief argument against abortion restrictions. Referring to abortion restrictions as “forced birth” is common among abortion rights advocates. Julie Rikelman, who argued in favor of abortion rights in the Dobbs oral arguments at the Supreme Court, stated that the right to an abortion is grounded in “liberty,” which includes the right “to physical autonomy, including the right to end a pre-viability pregnancy.” The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs rightly rejects the idea that rights to bodily autonomy are expansive and absolute, and therefore make abortion rights necessary. ...

Here are three ways that I find abortion rights arguments that appeal to bodily autonomy unpersuasive and ultimately harmful to our understanding of freedom and what it means to be human:

  1. Bodily autonomy is limited by our obligation to not harm others. ...
  2. The term “autonomy” denies the deep interdependence and limitations of every human body. ...
  3. The pressing issue when it comes to abortion is whether championing “bodily autonomy” requires us to override or undo biological realities. ... To use language of forced gestation or of a state “controlling” women’s bodies is to portray biology itself as oppressive and halting the natural course of the body as the liberative role of the state.

For both men and women, bodily autonomy can’t mean that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want, with our own bodies without natural consequences or obligations to others. If this is what we mean by “autonomy,” then no one can champion bodily autonomy without ultimately advocating harm.

I recently came across a blog post by the literature scholar Alan Jacobs, describing Simone Weil’s insistence that “if we need a collective declaration of human rights, we also, and perhaps more desperately, need a declaration of human obligations.” I find this beautiful. Speaking as a woman, with a woman’s body, I want safety and freedom for all women. I want women to be full participants and empowered leaders in public life. I believe we, as human beings and image bearers of God, have a right to bodily integrity, protection and liberty.

But these rights also carry obligations to others, perhaps especially to those vulnerable bodies that depend on us. This is the heart of the question about abortion: What are our obligations to one another? We have an obligation to unborn children. We have an obligation to seek women’s safety and flourishing. For too long these obligations have been pitted against each other, but they need not be and, to move forward, we must create a world where they never are.

The Atlantic:  The Pro-Life Movement’s Work Is Just Beginning, by David French:

The entire legal and cultural ethos of the pro-life movement can be summed up in two sentences: A just society protects all life. A moral society values all life.

Justice is thus necessary but not sufficient for a culture of life. The pro-life movement should greet the reversal of Roe v. Wade with a spirit of gratitude. The people of this country have, for the first time in almost 50 years, an opportunity to enact laws that truly protect the lives of unborn children. But the movement should also show a profound humility and absence of malice toward their political opponents.

After all, the simple truth is that if the pro-life movement wants to end abortion, it has to do much more work than merely banning abortion. Indeed, if it reacts with too heavy a hand in the aftermath of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the movement can ultimately defeat its very purpose. ...

No set of policies relieves pro-life Americans of personal responsibilities. That means fostering and adopting children. That means loving mothers in distress. That means sustaining and creating private institutions that provide shelter and assistance to women in need.

And this is where the animosity that dominates American political discourse can be so destructive. The last thing pro-life Americans should want is to create the perception that they do not love pro-choice women and will not seek to help them and their children flourish. No virtue can be had in “owning the libs” when a hostile posture will close hearts and minds.

I’ve been a pro-life attorney and activist for more than 30 years. On this long-awaited day I feel both joy in my heart and disquiet in my spirit. The reason for the joy is obvious. Our nation’s elected representatives now have the ability to enact laws that better protect innocent life.

The disquiet comes from a different source. Earlier this month, we learned that the abortion rate increased during Trump’s presidency. He was the first American president since Jimmy Carter to end his term with a higher abortion rate than when he began.

This suggests that for the first time in three decades, the cultural momentum is not on the pro-life side, that women are facing an increased sense of instability and uncertainty, and that the best way for pro-life Americans to view the reversal of Roe is not as the beginning of the end of abortion in the United States, but rather as the end of the beginning of a long struggle to remake our nation into a culture that is far more hospitable to mother and child.

The Dispatch:  Roe Is Reversed, and the Right Isn’t Ready, by David French:

Two days after Roe has been overturned, I’m far more conflicted than I ever imagined I’d be. Writing in The Atlantic on Friday, I described my attitude as joy in my heart tempered by disquiet in my spirit. Since I wrote that piece, that disquiet has only grown, and I think I know why.

I’ve been a pro-life advocate and activist for more than 30 years. ... Through it all, I was guided by two burning convictions—that Roe represented a grave moral and constitutional wrong and that I belonged to a national Christian community that loved its fellow citizens, believed in a holistic ethic of life, and was ready, willing, and able to rise to the challenge of creating a truly pro-life culture.

I believe only one of those things today.

My feelings about Roe are unchanged. As a constitutional matter, I agree with Justice Alito. Simply put, the Constitution cannot be fairly read to protect a right to abortion. There is quite obviously no enumerated right to abortion, and there is no historic grounds for believing that abortion should be deemed an unenumerated right. As I’ve written before, “The Court’s job is not to determine which rights we should possess but rather which rights we do possess.” ...

[T]here was always something particularly morally noxious about Roe’s reasoning. The Supreme Court removed abortion questions almost entirely from the democratic process, created one of the most extreme abortion rights regimes in the world, and deprived an entire class of people—unborn children—of any meaningful legal status. It did all those things through the 14th Amendment, one of the Civil War amendments. ... For those precious people, the court declared that one of the key Civil War amendments was the instrument of their doom. The ruling wasn’t just constitutionally unsound, it was morally perverse. It utterly contradicted not just the letter of the 14th Amendment, but its animating moral essence as well. 

Now Roe is gone. Good. We should rejoice at its demise.

But that’s not the end of the story. Not by a long shot. The two sides of the great American divide are now staring at each other and asking, “Now what?” The answer from pro-life America should be clear and resounding—the commitment to life carries with it a commitment to love, to care for the most vulnerable members of society, both mother and child.

But life and love are countercultural on too many parts of the right. In a time of hate and death, too many members of pro-life America are contributing to both phenomena. Is that too much to say? Is that too strong? I don’t think so.

In deep-red America, a wave of performative and punitive legislation is sweeping the land. In the abortion context, bounty-hunting laws in TexasIdaho, and Oklahoma turn citizens against each other, incentivizing lawsuits even by people who haven’t been harmed by abortion. The pro-life movement, once solidly against prosecuting women who obtain abortions, is now split by an “abolitionist” wing that would not only impose criminal penalties on mothers, it even calls into questions legal protections for the life of the mother when a pregnancy is physically perilous.

The culture of political engagement centers around animosity. Church and family life is being transformed, congregation by congregation, household by household, by argument and division. The Dobbs ruling has landed in the midst of a sick culture, and the pro-life right is helping make it sick.

Writing in the New York Times, Ross Douthat rightly cautioned that “the vicissitudes of politics and its own compromises have linked the anti-abortion cause to various toxic forces on the right — some libertine and hyperindividualist, others simply hostile to synthesis, conciliation and majoritarian politics.”

That’s true, but it doesn’t go far enough. The vicissitudes of politics haven’t just linked the anti-abortion cause to various toxic forces on the right, they’ve transformed parts of the anti-abortion movement, making many of its members as toxic as their “libertine and hyperindividualist” allies. ...

[T]he Republican branch of the American church is adopting the political culture of the secular right. With a few notable exceptions, it not only didn’t resist the hatred and fury of the MAGA movement, it was the MAGA movement. And this is the culture that’s going to lead the effort to heal our nation, love the marginalized, and ask young women to face an uncertain future and endure a physical ordeal for the sake of sacrificial love? ...

We are slowly but surely emerging from a deadly pandemic. It’s not that the disease has disappeared. Far from it. But the combination of mutations, vaccinations, and prior infections is making it far less deadly. Yet at every point in the pandemic, it was pro-life red America that loudly declared its bodily autonomy, disproportionately shunned even the slight inconvenience of a mask before the vaccine, and then disproportionately rejected the vaccine when it miraculously appeared mere months after the pandemic began.

Parts of pro-life red America moved from skepticism to outright defiance. “How dare you tell me what to do. This is my decision between me and my doctor.” They trafficked in pseudo-science and bizarre conspiracy theories. The cost was staggering. It was horrifying. Look at this chart, from the Brown School of Public Health:

French

... When American culture burned with partisan hatred, all too many institutions of the American church fueled the fire. They fuel the fire to this day. There is a cost to this combat, and that cost is born in our ability to reach out to people outside our tribe and to have people believe us when we say that we care for them, that we want to see them flourish, and that we love their families—both red and blue. 

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