For the first time in almost 50 years, the United States Supreme Court appears to be moving towards a strong position in support of unborn life. As reported all week, a leaked initial draft of the majority opinion of the Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has indicated that the majority of the Supreme Court in their initial vote stood squarely in favor of life.
Justice Alito, the author of the draft opinion, states boldly, “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled.” The majority opinion challenges the legal reasoning of Roe and notes that no right to abortion is to be found in the Constitution. Further, it says, “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
Woefully, more than 62 million unborn children have been aborted in the United States since Roe v. Wade. A case that was to guarantee that abortion was “safe and rare” has grievously proven otherwise in the decades since. The debate between whether an unborn child even has the right to exist vs. the right of a mother to control her body has sided with the mother with terrible consequences for both. In addition to the millions of precious and unique lives snuffed out, women who are supposed to be happy and “empowered” by the procedure come away carrying additional psychological, emotional, physical, and spiritual trauma.
Yet even while some liberal states enact laws permitting abortion up until birth, we are witnessing more broadly the dawning of a significant shift toward greater comprehension and value of life. With greater scientific advancements such as ultrasound technology that show the incredible process of fetal development at earlier and earlier stages, people are better understanding that every unborn baby is unique and will continue to develop if given the opportunity. Science has now proven that a fetus in utero can, in fact, feel pain and will attempt to avoid it if possible.
As more Americans see with their own eyes the undeniable humanity of these tiny human beings, they can no longer remain silent. The science now informs an emboldened culture that recoils from the violence of abortion and decidedly rejects industries that profit off of dismembering and selling fetal body parts. As more and more people are seeing past popular narratives that characterize abortion as an act of freedom, they are returning to a more consistent life ethic, one free from intentional harm and pain. This is the welcome cultural shift we are currently experiencing.
Yet as Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley of Boston noted earlier this year, “Dismantling unjust laws is only the beginning. We still have the arduous task of creating a pro-life culture, of changing hearts and minds.” As he continued, “our task is not to judge others, but to try to bring healing … to build a society that takes care of everybody, where every person counts, where every life is important.
It was enlightening to read in Alito’s proposed opinion that 30 states had laws against abortion when Roe v. Wade was decided. Clearly, the majority of the states of the Union did not support this decision. And in the present Dobbs case, 26 states joined in asking that Roe be overturned. The opinion asserts, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”
Presuming the text of this majority opinion remains unchanged, this ruling will effectively end the Roe and Casey charade that there is some nebulous right to kill one’s unborn baby found somewhere in the words and spaces within the Constitution. The justices affirm clearly that no such Constitutional right exists. And then they hand the issue back to the people—where it has always belonged. We the people have power in how we choose to move forward! We can choose division, or we can work towards common ways to strengthen our communities and states. The issue remains extremely divisive. But that too can change.
What is most encouraging and hopeful about this majority opinion is the impact it will have on our culture and on our nation. We have before us an opportunity to grow a culture that embraces life, and demonstrates through our social networks of support what that really means. We are at a magnificent juncture of true emancipation and empowerment where we can show what it means to heal from old wounds, and build something better. We have the opportunity before us to work across the aisle and demonstrate a greater respect for life as a collective community pursuit and not just fodder for political games. We can now enshrine Life Culture as a national value for generations beyond just Dobbs.
In the wake of this likely decision, each state and its communities will be free to rise up in supporting women in crisis and their unborn family members. Those who have been toiling for years to protect the unborn and support their mothers will now begin to see their efforts rewarded with thousands and millions of lives being saved. The impact of those lives cannot be underestimated. Each is unique and innately worthy of respect. What potential will their lives unleash as more children are embraced by our communities? Their distinctive contributions will impact the world in ways we have yet to behold.
If the Supreme Court does move forward in the formal issuance of this majority opinion, what will be the impact in our own state of Utah? In 2020, the Utah Legislature enacted SB174—Senator Dan McCay’s bill that would ban abortion with few exceptions (rape, incest, life of mother, severe fetal abnormality) if Roe v. Wade were overturned. It appears that the day where this law favored by the people Utahns themselves have elected to represent them may be coming soon.
In the meanwhile, over 3,000 babies are aborted in elective abortions annually in the State of Utah. The most immediate impact of this decision would be giving many thousands of babies in our own state a greater likelihood of being allowed to live, grow, and bless our homes. Granted, some women would still choose to travel to other states to end the lives of their children. But certainly, many thousands would be spared.
As a state, we would have the opportunity to demonstrate how to celebrate women as they embark on their journey of sacred stewardship over a new life. We can surely do more to empower women to experience motherhood as a contributing asset to society, not just a liability.
This shift in perspective is ours to create—with the promise of many new citizens and families with fresh hope for their future.
Currently, organizations such as Pro-Life Utah and Pregnancy Resource Centers have actively supported vulnerable pregnant women with financial assistance, baby supplies, mentoring, connection to resources, and friendship. This is a work for all of us and will always be needed, even perhaps more as different states put in place their own laws. Women carrying heavy burdens need circles of trust and support that span the breadth of their motherhood. They need active and robust pregnancy resource centers that are well funded and supported. They need flexible and specialized accommodations in the school and workplace. But most of all, women need communities that embrace their children and families in a way that feels empowering. This is what our call to maternal feminism and Life Culture is all about.
We now have an opportunity before us. Groups on either side of the issue have been united in their declared desire to support women. As the legal landscape shifts further, we can choose to unite together more (not less) and combine our efforts together. As we do so, we can do what it takes to provide a robust and thriving safety net for women, which includes medical services, mental health support, financial support, and more.
The Supreme Court draft opinion states, “We do not pretend to know how our political system or society will respond to today’s decision overruling Roe and Casey. And even if we could foresee what will happen, we would have no authority to let that knowledge influence our decision. We can only do our job, which is to interpret the law, apply long-standing principles of stare decisis, and decide this case accordingly. We, therefore, hold that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion. Roe and Casey must be overruled, and the authority to regulate abortion must be returned to the people and their elected representatives.”
In light of this welcome draft ruling, Utah must stand committed to protecting both mothers and babies. Although there are those who argue passionately that the rights of the unborn are secondary, most Utahns feel differently with equal passion. This is a state centered on the family. We must continue to seek to lessen trauma, and reduce violence. Our Legislature has stood firm to boldly protect the rights of our preborn children, and we are grateful for their courage in their continued defense of our most vulnerable citizens.
As we await the final outcome of this case, we are hopeful the Supreme Court justices who have voted initially to overturn Roe v. Wade will remain courageous in honoring this life ethic. No matter what happens over the next few months, we have confidence that a new Life Culture era awaits.