We’re in the post-Roe era

Today, the sun is setting on the era of Roe.

For those of you in a hurry: the U.S. Supreme Court has issued its Dobbs opinion, and Roe v. Wade is overturned along with its successor Casey decision. Abortion regulation is to be left to the states. Peruse the giant-sized decision at your leisure.

For those who want a deeper dive, I have some thoughts for your consideration.

The leaker and the bullies lost

Whoever leaked the draft opinion – and I’ll maintain all my days that it was an abortion-friendly Court clerk – lost a huge gamble. It backfired, even if the initial reaction was all the leaker could have hoped for. The leak sparked outrage among abortion advocates. Justices were doxxed and home addresses were made public. There was an assassination plan against Justice Kavanaugh. Bullies felt emboldened.

Five Justices stood up to all that. The vote was 5 to overturn Roe, 3 opposed, and a vote by the Chief Justice to uphold Mississippi’s law while still upholding Roe. (So that’s what a cut-rate Solomon sounds like.) Here’s to Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett.

The bullying might not be over, and we might see it close to home. Time will tell. The Court has just given a powerful example of how to face it.

The Court did not recognize the fundamental right to life

Absolutely nothing in Dobbs‘ majority opinion recognized the fundamental right to life of each human being from the moment of conception.

I have worked my entire adult life for our laws to recognize human dignity, to support mothers as well as children, to reject eugenics, to defend conscience rights for health care workers who want nothing to do with abortion.

And here I am, cheering a decision that does none of that. We have been conditioned to set the bar low and then cheer when we clear it.

Thanks be to God that Roe was not affirmed. We move on from there.

New Hampshire remains abortion-friendly, for now

All that State House action I’ve been writing about since 2012 will keep right on going. The Dobbs decision returns abortion regulation to the states, meaning the people we elect to be our state representatives and senators and executive councilors and (God help us) governors will still be the ones to call the shots on our behalf.

New Hampshire law still permits eugenic abortion after 24 weeks of pregnancy. That won’t change. In fact, the Mississippi law upheld by the Court today had a 15-week abortion limit, with a eugenic exception. Preborn children with life-limiting diagnoses are not protected.

The New Hampshire constitution could still be amended to protect abortion – or the constitution’s “privacy” amendment could be construed by our state Supreme Court to accomplish the same thing.

New Hampshire legislators have repeatedly rejected conscience protections for health care workers who choose not to be involved in abortion. That’s okay under Dobbs.

Our parental notification statutes and ban on partial-birth abortion could be repealed by our legislature. That’s okay under Dobbs, too.

Buffer zone laws consistent with past Court decisions will remain on the books. So will unenforced buffer zone laws like New Hampshire’s.

Also fine and dandy under Dobbs: refusal to collect abortion statistics – refusal to require making sonogram images available (not mandated, but available) to abortion-minded women – giving state dollars to abortion providers.

In other words, citizen activists will still need to beat a path to hearings in Concord every single session. If they don’t, abortion advocates will prevail. Simple as that.

Pregnancy care centers will become more crucial than ever

The growth and strengthening of the network of pregnancy care centers in New Hampshire has been a bright spot in Granite State culture. These abortion-free agencies go far beyond crisis pregnancy management. They support pregnant and parenting women and their partners as far as resources allow, with most of those resources coming from private donors.

Ironically, in the days following the leak of the draft Dobbs opinion, some of those pregnancy care centers in other states were subject to attacks.

In the face of opposition, it’s time to redouble the efforts that have brought pregnancy care networks this far.

At least one party will handle Dobbs to its advantage

Indie voter speaking here: please, GOP, don’t screw this up by dodging Dobbs.

The Democrat party, from its national leadership down to its New Hampshire town committees, has been consistent in its abortion-friendly messaging. As an activist, I recognize political savvy when I see it, even if it’s in the service of something dreadful. Look for apocalyptic pronouncements from candidates about how Dobbs undermines women and threatens the Republic. Look for tightly-focused attacks on any Republican who’s squishy on the right to life.

As for those squishy Republicans, if their response to Dobbs is to try to shift focus to inflation and the economy, they’ll get what they deserve. Unfortunately, so will their constituents. Then the Dobbs-dodging candidates will wonder why 40% of New Hampshire voters refuse formal affiliation with either party.

Nonviolence: walk the talk

Public pro-life witness is likely to become riskier. Our response to provocation has to be more than “be nice.” It’s time to move past talking about nonviolence as a mere theoretical tactic.

Are you ready to surrender your natural right to self-defense if you’re physically attacked for defending life? Are you ready to practice nonviolence in speech as well as action? Are you ready to be arrested for nonviolent public witness, or are you worried about how that would affect your job or your reputation? Are you prepared to document events when you’re on the scene of a challenge to peaceful witness? Are you prepared to help protect vulnerable facilities whose workers and volunteers are providing life-affirming care? Are you prepared to organize carpools and vanpools and busloads of pro-life allies to public hearings? Are you prepared to “speak life” in season and out of season, in a manner worthy of the goal? Are you ready to financially and spiritually support allies whose nonviolent defense of life leads to job loss or worse?

These are personal decisions, but they’re best made with a supportive well-grounded group. I think churches are uniquely positioned to teach and support nonviolent public action. If they won’t do the job, let our secular pro-life neighbors lead.

A culture of death won’t be overturned by people being nice. It won’t even be overturned by a Court, although a Court can make helpful decisions. Only love can prevail – love that’s sometimes disruptive, always sacrificial to some degree, always risky, often shown in little day-to-day things, courageous even when my knees are shaking.

Nonviolence is the fruit of love like that. First things first.

I’m grateful for the Dobbs decision, even with its limitations. Now let’s get moving. See you at the State House.

Fetal Life Protection Act now has an exception

In the Governor’s Friday afternoon news dump just before Memorial Day weekend, we learned that he has quietly signed HB 1609, which adds an exception for “fetal anomalies incompatible with life” – i.e. a eugenic exception – to New Hampshire’s 24-week abortion limitation, the Fetal Life Protection Act (FLPA).

The bill also includes clarification of FLPA’s ultrasound language. That particular provision was already passed via Governor Sununu’s recent signing of HB 1673, however, making that part of HB 1609 superfluous.

Take a moment to revisit this blog’s post “A door that shouldn’t be opened” in which I quoted the public policy director for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester: “This would be the first time New Hampshire would designate a particular category of children to be liable for abortion, and that’s a door we don’t think the state should open.”

He was right, even if his words fell on deaf ears.

No to jailing the moms

I’ll oppose prosecution of a woman for having an abortion. I’ll work to prevent the election of policymakers who think such prosecutions are a good idea. And I can’t believe the topic has even come up. Thanks to Abby Johnson, it has.

In a series of posts a few years back, I cited Abby as one of several “voices to trust” – “women who came through a variety of experiences to find themselves – sometimes to their own astonishment – opposing abortion and Roe v. Wade.” Abby’s personal journey took her from being a Planned Parenthood manager to being a pro-life leader and founder of a nonprofit organization that has assisted hundreds of former abortion workers seeking to leave the abortion industry. Amazing conversion, powerful ministry. That much hasn’t changed.

Then a few days ago, on May 7, she used a long Facebook post to advocate the criminal prosecution of women who have had abortions. The key lines: “Are preborn human beings full of infinite dignity and worth or are they not? Do we believe abortion is murder or is it not. Is the preborn child worth the same protection as my 2 year old or are the preborn somehow less valuable? If we do not have the same due process in the law for those who pay to take the life of their children, then we as a movement are liars. We are saying that those in the womb do NOT have the same value as those outside of the womb.”

No. Just no. And no again. Recognizing the dignity and humanity of pregnant woman and preborn child is one thing. Pitting pregnant women against their preborn children is something else, and the abortion industry relies on maintaining that adversarial position. It’s inhumane. I refuse to buy into it. And that’s without even addressing the position’s base political stupidity.

I wonder how Abby’s position will strike the people who prayed outside her Planned Parenthood facility for months, slowly building a relationship of trust with her and then welcoming her when she walked away from PP.

I wonder how a prosecute-the-mom policy sounds to someone involved in Rachel’s Vineyard or another post-abortion healing ministry.

Fortunately, people with more fame and clout than I are speaking up. Five days after Abby’s post, numerous groups and individuals released “An Open Letter to State Lawmakers from America’s Leading Pro-Life Organizations.” Here’s their conclusion:

Women are victims of abortion and require our compassion and support as well as ready access to counseling and social services in the days, weeks, months, and years following an abortion.

As national and state pro-life organizations, representing tens of millions of pro-life men, women, and children across the country, let us be clear: We state unequivocally that any measure seeking to criminalize or punish women is not pro-life and we stand firmly opposed to such efforts.

…We call upon all pro-life legislators to stand with us. We ask you to continue to act with love and compassion toward abortion-vulnerable women. We urge you to reject any measure that seeks to criminalize women who have abortions.

An Open Letter to State Lawmakers from America’s Leading Pro-Life Organizations, released 5/12/22

Among the signatories are representatives of Americans United for Life, March for Life, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Secular Pro-Life, New Wave Feminists, and the National Right to Life Committee. There are many more, but that short list gives you an idea of the breadth of support for the letter.

Pro-life writer and podcaster Gloria Purvis put it pithily on her Twitter feed: an abortion-minded woman “needs help, not handcuffs.”

I agree.

Ironically, it’s through the Pro-Life Women’s Conference – founded by Abby Johnson – that I’ve met people from Secular Pro-Life and New Wave Feminists, pro-lifers whose experiences and backgrounds are very different from my own. I’ve learned from them. I wasn’t at all surprised to see some of their names on the letter pushing back on the jail-the-moms idea.

Abby Johnson’s departure from Planned Parenthood was astounding, and her willingness to support former abortion workers has been inspirational. She played a huge role in promoting 40 Days for Life in its early years. She established an annual conference that in past years has brought together widely (and wildly) differing parts of the pro-life movement.

She got those things right. With her Facebook post this week, I fear she’s undermined all of them.

I won’t look an abortion-minded woman in the eye and assure her that I’ll have her jailed if she doesn’t listen to me. If that makes me one of the “liars” of the pro-life movement, to use Abby’s word, all I can say is that I’ve been called worse.

I wrote eight years ago about Abby’s visit to Dartmouth College. I quoted what she said then about how her heart was gradually softened by the people who prayed outside her Planned Parenthood facility: “She says the pro-life witnesses outside her clinic never called her names, but worked on forming a ‘genuine relationship’ with her, ‘without persecution and without condemnation. That’s what heals hearts.'”

Indeed.


Images above: screenshots of Abby Johnson’s 5/7/22 Facebook post, captured by Ellen Kolb

Post header stock photo: Pixels.com

SCOTUS and the leaked draft: a 28-3 moment for the pro-life movement

Someone associated with the Supreme Court of the United States – a clerk, I’d wager – has slipped a reporter a copy of a draft opinion by Justice Alito in the Dobbs case, in which Alito bids Roe v. Wade goodbye. Activists who should know better are jumping for virtual joy.

Let’s get a grip. The draft is just that: a draft, not a final opinion. Nothing has been overturned.

Why leak the draft? Because for anyone who supports Roe v. Wade, this might seem like a time for desperate measures. Leaking the draft will put enormous pressure on the Justices who have reportedly indicated support for the draft. There is still time to flip a vote or two.

Why do I call this a 28-3 moment? A few years back, the score in the third quarter of the Super Bowl was 28-3. The Falcons were spanking the Patriots. The fourth quarter was going to be a mere formality. Except…the Pats clawed back, and won the game 34-28. (My husband gets the credit for reminding me of this.)

With the release of the leaked SCOTUS draft opinion, the pro-life movement looks like that team with the 25-point lead. Premature celebration is not a good idea.

Until at least five Justices formally sign on to something together, Dobbs is up in the air. The Court could go either way, meaning it might or might not overturn Roe. I suspect the three Justices who will feel the most heat are Barrett, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. The public uproar over the leaked draft hints at the private pressures they must be feeling today.

And if somehow Dobbs overturns Roe, the figurative 25-point lead could be temporary.

Even if it does overturn Roe by returning abortion policy to state legislatures, there is no sign that the Court will use the Dobbs case to assert and defend the fundamental right to life of each human being. Instead, at best, the Court seems poised to tell us that we are free to argue for that right one state at a time.

That’s a far cry from the truth once held to be self-evident. Created equal…endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…among these are life….

If you think the battles in Concord over life-issue legislation will come to an end post-Dobbs, think again. The state constitution will be up for grabs.

The medical professionals involved in abortion will work harder than ever to persuade women and policymakers that they, the abortion providers, are the compassionate ones.

The political battles, grim as they’ll continue to be, will be child’s play compared to the overwhelming need to expand the network of personal and social supports that a woman or girl needs when her pregnancy is a challenge.

This is a moment for rededication to relentless, peaceful action in defense of life. Our service to each other, in words and actions and prayers, public and private, must lead us where the Court still seems unwilling to go.

If Justice Alito’s draft eventually becomes the Court’s decision, I’ll take time to cheer. Then I’ll get back to work alongside people with hearts wiser and more courageous than mine, knowing that the Court has left us with a lot of brokenness to mend.

Post header photo by Ellen Kolb.

Pro-life physicians on mail-order chemical abortion: “reckless”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has okayed the mail-order dispensation of an abortion-inducing drug. The American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) sees no reason to celebrate. The following statement, including the heading, was published in the AAPLOG email newsletter.

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