Published September 27, 2021
What comes after Roe v. Wade? After almost a half-century, the Supreme Court is poised to admit that the right to elective abortion established by Roe v. Wade and affirmed in Casey v. Planned Parenthood was a fabrication with no basis in the text or history of the Constitution. Princeton’s Robert George predicts the justices will vote 6-3 to overturn Roe in the upcoming Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.
As he points out, it is not just that six justices presumably believe Roe to have been a mistake, but that their concern for the reputation and legitimacy of the Supreme Court also directs them to scrap Roe. Upholding Roe would be as destabilizing as overturning it. Nothing has politicized the Supreme Court as much as becoming the self-appointed arbiter of abortion, and nothing in their abortion jurisprudence would become the justices like leaving it.
The end of Roe will be a triumph of faithful advocacy for the powerless against the powerful, from judges and politicians to Hollywood and Wall Street. Pro-lifers must not grow weary or complacent after overturning Roe, for such a ruling will only return abortion policy to the ordinary American processes of representative democracy.
When Roe falls, some states will restrict or ban elective abortions, others will continue to celebrate and subsidize them. The pro-life movement will still face many battles. But we will fight these without the handicap of the federal judiciary having veto power over every democratically enacted limit on abortion. We will also be better able to show that there is a better way of life than that encouraged by a culture of abortion.
Glimpses of the Post-Roe Future
There are already glimpses of the post-Roe future. Texas has deployed an innovative legal strategy to hamstring the abortion industry, and it has allocated $100 million to support pregnant women. Meanwhile, elective abortion has all but been driven out of Missouri, and other states are not far behind.
These states not only provide examples of effective legal strategies against abortion, they also demonstrate that we don’t need abortion. Contrary to the predictions of abortion advocates, areas with abortion limitations are not dystopian nightmares. The parade of horribles that abortion supporters trot out to support their position turns out to be largely imaginary.
Indeed, Texas and many other conservative states are attractive destinations for those leaving deep-blue states such as California and Illinois. These moves are rarely made with abortion in mind, but this indifference itself shows that the supposed necessity of abortion is a myth.
A Culture of Abortion
Abortion does not promote human, and specifically female, flourishing. Only a sadist could look with satisfaction at the culture abortion has encouraged and enabled. The violent evil of abortion itself is obvious in the age of ultrasound, and decades of abortion on demand have shown that that it only encourages other evils, rather than remedying them. Nothing enables irresponsible and exploitative men as much as abortion.
Abortion removes the perceived problems of an undesired pregnancy, but it encourages the dynamics that produce such situations. Abortion supports a materialistic and selfish culture, in which wealth and status are the measure of a life, and relationships are about looking out for number one, rather than mutual love and self-giving.
Advocates for abortion justify it as the protector of individual autonomy and sexual authenticity. But though our culture treats these values as sacred, they leave people lonely and dissatisfied. Even before the pandemic, Americans were increasingly romantically unattached, childless, and socially isolated. This is not all due to the sexual culture built on abortion, but it is evidence of that culture’s failure to provide what is most important in life and to make us happy.
Abortion culture promotes unstable relationships and passing hookups, which have proven less fun than promised. It is particularly brutal to young women. It trains them to be sexual playthings for a string of men who don’t love them, and to be dedicated workers who prioritize career and consumption over relational fulfillment. But work and stuff will not love you back.
Despite attempts to glamorize the culture abortion sustains, its rottenness is apparent, even in those who declare that abortion helped them become rich and famous. Celebrities’ endorsements of abortion as the enabler of fame and fortune are not compelling when we are all too aware of their broken relationships and shuffles in and out of rehab.
Furthermore, for every woman proclaiming that abortion helped her reach the top, there are many who got there without abortion. And there are even more women for whom abortion is another desperate part of life at the bottom of a fetid culture, rather than a stepping stone for ambition. It does not have to be this way.
Pro-lifers Must Continue to Show the Better Path
Just as we must continue the political and legal fight to protect innocent human life after Roe is gone, pro-lifers must continue to show that there is a better option than abortion’s culture of death. We must demonstrate that relations between men and women need not be a battleground of selfishness, and that children may be seen as blessings, rather than as barriers to achievement or as luxury goods to be ordered up after acquiring everything else.
The lure of abortion is the promise that good may come from doing evil. But the evil of abortion is not so easily instrumentalized and contained. Rather, it infects our culture and spoils even the goods that it supposedly supports.
Nathanael Blake is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.