Published June 28, 2022
In legal theory, the precise relationship between morality and law is complicated. In practice, they’re often not as linked together as we might think. These conflicts surface philosophically on questions like whether and how human laws should reflect a higher law, such as the natural law. It manifests practically in issues such as abortion. Is abortion moral because, under Roe, it was lawful, or are there other ethical dimensions that the law should consider, such as the intrinsic value of life? Though the Dobbs decision was not squarely focused on the morality of abortion and the moral value of life itself, it was unavoidable that these ethical concerns would come into focus.
Under the previous holding of Roe, the state’s interest in protecting life was arbitrarily reduced to an incoherent and judicially created “viability” standard. In other words, the state’s interest in protecting unborn life was limited to when the child can live outside the mother’s womb. But as Mississippi argued, it makes no sense to allow a state to protect a baby when he can survive alone and not when he just needs a little more help.
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Andrew T. Walker is the managing editor of WORLD Opinions and serves as associate professor of Christian ethics at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a fellow with The Ethics and Public Policy Center. He resides with his family in Louisville, Ky.