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.

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.

Dueling rallies in Washington over Dobbs case

While the Dobbs case was being argued at the U.S. Supreme Court on December 1, two rallies were taking place outside. I went to Washington for the day in order to stand with the people calling on the Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and its cousin Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

Dobbs is about a Mississippi law setting a 15-week limit on abortions. May a state regulate abortion before viability? The Supreme Court might say yes or no. It might use the case to overrule Roe, or it might make a narrow ruling that OKs the Mississippi law while somehow keeping Roe and Casey in place. We’ll find out by the end of next June.

There were about two thousand people standing in front of the Supreme Court building on December 1, roughly evenly divided between pro-life and pro-Roe. A crowd-control fence divided the two groups, although there was plenty of peaceful passage back and forth. Capitol Police kept an eye on things.

It was a noisy gathering. Each side had about three hours worth of speakers, with mics and loudspeakers. There were chants and songs and shouts. Despite the sound system, I couldn’t make out many words on either side because of the ambient noise. Anyone following the live-streamed rallies remotely probably heard more speakers than I did.

It was worth listening later to a recording of Kathryn Jean Lopez’s speech. I recommend it. https://youtu.be/4ymvmIiaiO8

I met up with a group from Feminists for Life to pick up a sign. Just about every other pro-life group I’ve ever heard of, plus a few I hadn’t, was represented in the crowd. The diversity was great, as though speakers at the side rallies at the annual March for Life had been suddenly handed the keys to the main stage. The only thing we all had in common was a determination to move past Roe.

placard saying "Peace begins in the womb"
The sign I carried outside the Supreme Court, courtesy of Feminists for Life: Peace begins in the womb.

U.S. Supreme Court to hear challenge to Roe on December 1

The state of Mississippi enacted a law in 2018 restricting abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation. It was challenged in court (of course). The case, called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, has reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for December 1, with a decision to be handed down in 2022. The Court will be asked to rule on whether states may enact any pre-viability abortion restrictions.

This gives the Court a chance to overrule Roe and Casey. It also gives the Court a chance to affirm them.

For all the recent agitation that has accompanied the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court Justices, no one knows how Dobbs will come out.

I’ll be traveling to Washington, DC on December 1 to stand outside the Supreme Court beside pro-life activists from around the country urging the Justices to let the Mississippi law stand. Discount airfare, one-day trip, pack a lunch: no sweat. For me, it’ll be like the March for Life seven weeks early.

For those staying closer to home, a coalition of Christian groups is organizing an online prayer event to be held on November 18 at 8 p.m. Eastern time. From the event’s invitation:

Join Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians across the country coming together online to pray for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case. This is the case that could could overturn Roe v. Wade—the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in all 50 states. This historic online gathering will bring together Christians across denominations. Together, we will pray for a just outcome that protects millions of preborn babies and their mothers. Jesus says, “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20). Join us!

Find the flyer for the November event at prayfordobbs.com. There’s also a printable information sheet about the Dobbs case. Share freely.

One needn’t be Christian to recognize the right to life, and groups like Secular Pro-Life are supporting the Mississippi law. There’s room for everyone to urge the Court to move past Roe.