Roe Falls: The End of the Beginning
The Dobbs decision is the most significant political event in generations, but there are bigger things yet to come.
Though it seems anecdotally that the inverse is more common, I found my way into the world of politics by virtue of being pro-life. It was in middle school that I first learned that the people of an alien culture coexisting beside my own still sacrificed children to demons, and did so in temples that aped healthcare clinics with priests masquerading as medical doctors. My horror was instinctive and demanded some kind of action, and I spent much of my time in the years that followed praying at clinics and marching in protests and advocating for the unborn in what little ways I could.
My entire worldview formed around this one, simple belief: Murdering babies is bad, and it ought to be illegal. Yet even in pro-life circles, and even in the last decade, that outcome seemed far from guaranteed. Everyone wanted to see Roe overturned, and most held out hope that someday it would be. But it was usually viewed as something off on the horizon—as the end goal of a struggle that may, if we were fortunate, see resolution in our lifetime.
It happened yesterday. After nearly half a century of wholesale industrial slaughter, a Supreme Court majority—comprising Samuel Alito, the three justices appointed by Donald Trump, John Roberts along for the ride, and Clarence Thomas concurring with a flamethrower—has overturned Roe v. Wade. In the opinion of the Court, Justice Alito writes 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."
But this is not victory. In Dobbs, the Court did not strike down the sacrifice of children; it just struck down the mandatory sacrifice of children. As the last clause there suggests, the Court managed yesterday to affirm nothing more than the claim that "the Nation’s historical understanding of ordered liberty does not prevent the people’s elected representatives from deciding how abortion should be regulated." A brief overview is given of what that looked like before Roe:
Until the latter part of the 20th century, there was no support in American law for a constitutional right to obtain an abortion. No state constitutional provision had recognized such a right. Until a few years before Roe, no federal or state court had recognized such a right. Nor had any scholarly treatise. Indeed, abortion had long been a crime in every single State. At common law, abortion was criminal in at least some stages of pregnancy and was regarded as unlawful and could have very serious consequences at all stages. American law followed the common law until a wave of statutory restrictions in the 1800s expanded criminal liability for abortions. By the time the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, three-quarters of the States had made abortion a crime at any stage of pregnancy.
This summary has the double effect of reminding how little foundation Roe had in American history and law, and suggesting how much damage—beyond, of course, the 63 million human victims—the Burger Court's decision has inflicted. Virtually the entire legal and moral landscape of pre-Roe America on the question of a child's right to life has been demolished. After 50 years of brutal damage to the conscience and Constitution of a nation effectively possessed, there can be no quick or easy return to the historic American consensus that murdering babies is bad, and ought to be illegal.
Roe is dead. That means the first phase of a cultural and spiritual war has been settled in our favor. But the war will go on, and new campaigns will see the conflict spill over into more than the cultural and spiritual domains.
The most devoted partisans of legal infant-sacrifice have already made it abundantly clear that they will wage violent jihad in its defense. Pregnancy centers are burning from coast to coast, Justice Brett Kavanaugh nearly met an assassin's bullet, and organized terrorists are warning of more to come. This was predictable, or at least it should have been. Only once before in our history has the country been so divided over the fundamental rights of a human person; that conflict was resolved on a battlefield.
Then, too, the division was one of states against states. We learned at the cost of 600,000 American lives—just 1 percent of those already lost to the war started by Roe—that a Union cannot endure whose members cannot agree on what constitutes a human person deserving the law's protection. Yet that is exactly the situation Dobbs now sends us hurtling towards. Many states will now affirm the most basic right bestowed on all human beings by their creator. Many, such as much-discussed Virginia, will try to broker an impossible compromise between the camps of life and death. Most important of all will be those states that commit themselves fully to Moloch's cause. Notably leading the charge is Massachusetts, whose progressive Republican governor effectively declared the state a haven for abortion in post-Roe America, explicitly setting up one state of the Union in life-or-death conflict against a number of the others. This is not a path to enduring peace. It is political brinkmanship—not to mention murder by proxy.
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Robert P. George, a right-liberal professor of philosophy well known for his committed pro-life stance, took to Twitter yesterday to encourage magnanimity halfway to victory, instructing fellow pro-lifers: "Please read Lincoln's Second Inaugural and be guided by its spirit. Let us not exult over those of our fellow citizens—good people who are sincerely concerned about women's welfare—who see the demise of Roe as a disaster. Malice towards none; charity for all."
Outside the window of my office, in full view of my desk, stands a ten-foot-tall statue of David G. Farragut, the Tennessean admiral who fought for the Union in the first civil war. So my mind drifts instead toward the Battle of Mobile Bay:
Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.