These quotations, in chronological order, come entirely from legal experts who approve of abortion legalization.
John Hart Ely, Yale Law Journal, 82, 920, 935-937 (1973)
Roe “is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.”
What is frightening about Roe is that this super-protected right is not inferable from the language of the Constitution, the framers’ thinking respecting the specific problem in issue, any general value derivable from the provisions they included, or the nation’s governmental structure. Nor is it explainable in terms of the unusual political impotence of the group judicially protected vis-à-vis the interest that legislatively prevailed over it . . . At times the inferences the Court has drawn from the values the Constitution marks for special protection have been controversial, even shaky, but never before has its sense of an obligation to draw one been so obviously lacking.
One of the most curious things about Roe is that, behind its own verbal smokescreen, the substantive judgment on which it rests is nowhere to be found.
North Carolina Law Review, 1985
Roe, I believe, would have been more acceptable as a judicial decision if it had not gone beyond a ruling on the extreme statute before the court . . . Heavy-handed judicial intervention was difficult to justify and appears to have provoked, not resolved, conflict.
Edward Lazarus, Former clerk to Harry Blackmun, Find Law Legal Commentary, Oct. 3, 2002
As a matter of constitutional interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible. I say this as someone utterly committed to the right to choose, as someone who believes such a right has grounding elsewhere in the Constitution instead of where Roe placed it, and as someone who loved Roe’s author like a grandfather. . . .
[W]hen Democratic senators oppose a judicial appointment because of the nominee’s opposition to Roe, they not only endorse but make a litmus test out of one of the most intellectually suspect constitutional decisions of the modern era. They practically require that a judicial nominee sign on to logic that is, at best, questionable, and at worst, disingenuous and results-oriented. In doing so, they select not for faithful, but for unfaithful, constitutional interpreters to people the federal judiciary.
This is a strategy with baleful long-term consequences. The standard critique of liberal judges trumpets their willingness to substitute personal preference for legal analysis – and Roe is universally featured as Exhibit A. Conservative judges, in truth, perform the same kind of substitution just as often – but there is not yet as flagrant an Exhibit A for this contention as Roe provides.
As long as liberals embrace Roe, they will be forced to unilaterally shoulder an “activist” label that by rights, they should share with conservatives too. By not only embracing Roe, but pointing to it as the defining case of liberal constitutionalism, the Senate grandstanders only enhance the all too popular perception that liberal (but never conservative) judges routinely depart from the law, and give it far more credibility than it deserves.
The real debate in constitutional law today ought to be over the truly revolutionary nature of the conservatives’ agenda, and their willingness to do exactly what they accuse the liberals of having done in Roe: depart from constitutional sources to impose their own policy preferences. But until Democrats abandon Roe as the be all and end all of constitutional decision-making, they will continue to fight an uphill battle, having yielded the intellectual high ground to those who have no just claim to that terrain.
Kermit Roosevelt, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Washington Post, January 22, 2003
[I]t is time to admit in public that, as an example of the practice of constitutional opinion writing, Roe is a serious disappointment. You will be hard-pressed to find a constitutional law professor, even among those who support the idea of constitutional protection for the right to choose, who will embrace the opinion itself rather than the result.
This is not surprising. As constitutional argument, Roe is barely coherent. The court pulled its fundamental right to choose more or less from the constitutional ether. . . .
No opinion with such deficiencies could be expected to provide a sound basis for resolution of a hotly contested social issue, and indeed, Roe has aged poorly. . . .
By declaring an inviolable fundamental right to abortion, Roe short-circuited the democratic deliberation that is the most reliable method of deciding questions of competing values.
Akhil Reed Amar, Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2022. (Reading requires subscription)
WSJ Intro: For a constitutional scholar and pro-choice Democrat, there are reasons to endorse the leaked draft opinion overturning the 1973 abortion decision—and to see it as vindication for a range of liberal priorities.
In 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, the justices rightly buried their predecessors’ 1896 ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson, which had proclaimed the dubious doctrine of “separate but equal.” . . . Likewise, the New Deal Court properly repudiated dozens of earlier Gilded Age cases that read property and contract rights far too broadly and in the process invalidated minimum-wage, maximum-hour, worker-safety and consumer-protection laws of various sorts—laws that are now seen, quite rightly, as perfectly proper.
The liberal Warren Court also overruled a staggering number of precedents, introducing now familiar terms to our constitutional lexicon. . . .
Today, the Supreme Court’s 1973 opinion in Roe v. Wade, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, is similarly ripe for reversal. In the eyes of many constitutional experts across the ideological spectrum, it too lacks solid grounding in the Constitution itself . . .
Does Justice Alito’s draft, as many are now claiming, inflict collateral damage on other areas of constitutional case law, such as the Warren Court’s precedents on contraception and interracial marriage?
It does not. In fact, the Dobbs draft reinforces these iconic opinions by explaining why they were right—namely, because the freedoms recognized in these cases were “deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition.” . . .
Whereas the Court in Griswold [the case allowing married couples to have contraception] sided with 49 states against the outlier Connecticut, the Court in Roe invalidated the laws of at least 49—perhaps all 50—states. The Dobbs draft takes pains to cite this stunning fact . . .
In short, I am a Democrat who supports abortion rights but opposes Roe. The Court’s ruling in the case was simply not grounded either in what the Constitution says or in the long-standing, widely embraced mores and practices of the country.
For more of our posts on Roe v. Wade:
by Sonja Morin
Euthanasia has returned to legislative consideration in Massachusetts, my home state. For as long as I can remember, an attempt to introduce euthanasia into our state laws would rise up every couple of years like clockwork. And every time, the bill would be struck down soon enough, even if it was by a slim majority.
This year’s euthanasia bill campaign feels different: that there is a potential for the euthanasia bill to succeed. The reason? The deceptive language, attitudes, and actions that continue to entrench our society in dehumanization.
“Not My Problem”
Even for a seasoned consistent life ethic advocate, there was much to learn from my two-year stint working in a 276-bed nursing home facility. One of those realizations that haunts me to this day is the loneliness many of the residents experienced. It was so tangible that you could see it in their eyes.
Some of these residents were living in the facility because their relatives had already died. Others were there simply because their families made their ailing or elderly members out to be a burden: not worthy of their time or effort. Too many times, I encountered the same careless attitude in coworkers and visiting staff. It was no wonder that a few residents confided in me that they wondered whether life was worth living in the first place.
Utilitarianism is built into every part of our society. That is, if a person isn’t contributing something deemed “worthy” at every waking moment, they’re just not worth it. This callous attitude has festered in the world of care for the elderly and the sick. The focus isn’t care for the human person as they exist, but expediency. Those who hold this attitude likely wouldn’t say it out loud, but they wouldn’t mind another legal way to erase these “burdens.”
A recent article from the Los Angeles Times highlights the story of Gabriella Walsh, a California woman who died by physician-assisted suicide. When asked about her decision, she declared, “My life, my body, my death.” The similarity between this statement and the “my body, my choice” cry of the pro-choice movement was immediately obvious.
But that’s not the only way pro-euthanasia groups have taken notes from abortion efforts. The overall language used – from words like “autonomy” to phrases like “bodily freedom” and “private decision” – is plastered all over. Such language is repeated so often that it lulls the public into a passive acceptance of euthanasia, without really understanding its implications.
From a media and communications standpoint, this strategy tends to work: something short, repeatable, and gripping that broadly reaffirms socially-accepted attitudes. But how many more will be woefully deceived by this messaging that convinces the masses that it is better for the elderly, sick, and disabled to die rather than exist at all?
Band-Aids for Gaping Wounds
Countless people suffer today because of lack of access to healthcare – from financial barriers, geographic distance, discrimination, or lack of availability. No matter one’s stance on how the healthcare systems in countries are reformed, nearly everyone understands that reform is absolutely necessary.
Live Action recently covered the story of Gwen*, a Canadian woman who struggles with chronic illness. She was seeking out euthanasia because she couldn’t obtain the healthcare she desperately needed. Gwen suffers, not through any fault of her own, but from the failures of a system that is supposed to be based upon care.
A small but emerging portion of the pro-euthanasia movement dares to argue that legalization would help with environmental efforts. They’ve resurrected a centuries-old argument that someone who is consuming resources but isn’t “meaningfully contributing to society” does not necessarily deserve to exist. They falsely place blame on the elderly, sick, and disabled as the main forces of environmental destruction, rather than the corporations and governments that are largely contributing to it.
People widely recognize the importance of caring for the environment and improving access to healthcare. In fact, these issues often go hand in hand: when we are invested in creating a healthier planet, we improve health conditions for ourselves, and vice versa. But just as abortion doesn’t solve misogyny, war doesn’t solve disputes, and destroying homeless encampments doesn’t solve poverty – eliminating humans cannot be a substitute for true social change. When we use other forms of injustice to avoid fully solving issues, we only perpetuate harm.
The pro-euthanasia movement – whether consciously or not – is burying humans out of misguided ideology. The one thing that can stop it in its tracks is the truth: that humans have dignity, and deserve to live free from violence, no matter their circumstances. We might not have all the answers when it comes to solving injustices towards the elderly, sick, and disabled, but we do know that violence isn’t one of them.
Keep alert for such legislation in your states or countries, and take action if there are such proposals.
*Her name was changed for privacy reasons.
For more of our coverage on euthanasia, see:
Figuring out Euthanasia: What Does it Really Mean?
by John Whitehead
The anniversaries of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings mark 77 years since the only wartime uses of nuclear weapons. We should be profoundly grateful that such weapons have never been used again in this way to date. Yet our increasing distance from the bombings carries a risk with it.
As the nuclear bombings move further into the past, awareness of the colossal threat posed by nuclear weapons may also become more distant. Complacency or ignorance about the threat hanging over the world since 1945 may become common. The result might be people ignoring the nuclear danger until it’s too late.
The nuclear bombing anniversaries are an appropriate time to address this problem. Reviewing basic facts about the nature and effects of nuclear weapons may help revive the awareness and concern necessary to counter their threat.
Mechanisms of Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear weapons generally work through either nuclear fission or some combination of fission with nuclear fusion. Nuclear fission occurs when the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller nuclei; under the right conditions, splitting an atom nucleus causes other nuclei to split in the same way, leading to a chain reaction. Nuclear fusion occurs when atom nuclei fuse with other nuclei, forming heavier nuclei. Both processes can release enormous amounts energy that can be weaponized.
Nuclear weapons’ destructive power, or yield, is measured in equivalents to tons of dynamite: the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima had a yield of 15 kilotons, or the equivalent of 15,000 tons of dynamite. The “Fat Man” bomb dropped on Nagasaki had a yield of 21 kilotons, or 21,000 tons of dynamite.
Fission is generally achieved using the elements uranium or plutonium. The Little Boy bomb used conventional explosives to forcibly combine two pieces of uranium to cause a fission chain reaction. The Fat Man bomb used explosives to implode a sphere (or “pit”) of plutonium in such a way as to cause a fission chain reaction. More contemporary nuclear fission weapons also typically implode uranium or plutonium.
Fusion is generally achieved using deuterium and tritium, both isotopes (variants) of hydrogen. In a fusion nuclear bomb, also known as a hydrogen bomb or a thermonuclear bomb, a fission chain reaction is used to produce sufficient energy to cause the deuterium and tritium atoms to fuse. The energy from the fusion also accelerates the accompanying fission, in a kind of vicious circle. The result is a massively more destructive release of energy than in a fission nuclear bomb.
Effects of Nuclear Weapons
When a nuclear weapon is detonated, it produces several immediate destructive effects, which all occur within about a minute:
Direct radiation. A nuclear detonation first emits a brief (less than a second) but intense burst of radiation. Such radiation is lethal to those close to the explosion. For a nuclear bomb with a 10-kiloton yield, direct radiation would be lethal within a 1-mile radius. Other, more wide-ranging, effects quickly become more important, though.
Thermal flash. A detonating nuclear weapon radiates energy that heats the surrounding air, creating a vast fireball. This thermal flash lasts several seconds. A 1 megaton nuclear weapon (yield equivalent to 1 million tons of dynamite) creates a fireball that is ultimately 1 mile in diameter and that is brighter than the sun for up to 50 miles away. Depending on the weapon’s power, a thermal flash can severely burn people 20 miles away.
Blast wave. The expanding fireball causes a rapid jump in the surrounding air pressure, creating a blast wave that radiates out from the explosion. Initially moving at thousands of miles per hour, the blast wave causes most of the destruction to buildings that results from a nuclear detonation.
The scope of death caused by these immediate effects of a nuclear weapon depends on the weapon’s destructive power, or yield. To give rough estimates, a 100 kiloton nuclear weapon would kill everyone within a 2-mile radius; a 1 megaton weapon would kill everyone within about 4 miles; and a 10 megaton weapon would kill everyone within almost 10 miles.
Beyond these immediate effects, nuclear weapons cause further damage in the short- and long-term. Fires caused by the thermal flash or blast wave will continue to burn and may even combine into a firestorm; this occurred at Hiroshima. Nuclear detonations also spread harmful radioactive materials, known as a “fallout,” which are mainly created by fission.
In addition to a weapon’s yield, the location of a nuclear detonation influences the harm caused. If a weapon detonates in the air (an “air burst”), the resulting blast wave reflects off the ground and causes more extensive destruction. If a weapon detonates on the ground (a “ground burst”), the blast wave destruction is more limited. Much of the fallout from an air burst rises into the stratosphere and may not reach the earth for months or even years. Fallout from a ground burst becomes attached to the immense amount of soil, rock, and other materials consumed in the explosion and returns to earth relatively quickly. Depending on weather conditions, fallout with high or even lethal radioactivity may descend to earth quite far from the detonation.
Consequences of Nuclear Weapons
To put all these destructive effects into specific terms that American readers might find meaningful, consider the calculations made by historian Alex Wellerstein. Wellerstein simulated the effects of using nuclear weapons with yields equivalent to the Little Boy bomb against several American cities.
Used against New York City, such a nuclear weapon would kill an estimated 264,000 people, while injuring 512,000 people. Against Los Angeles, such a weapon would kill 100,000 people and injure about 151,000. Against Chicago, the toll would be 151,000 killed, 209,000 injured. Against Washington, DC, 120,000 killed, 169,000 injured.
Even these estimates don’t provide a full sense of the nuclear threat, however. The bomb used against Hiroshima has limited value as a model for future nuclear destructiveness. In a nuclear war between the United States and Russia or some other nuclear-armed nation, the bombs used would be much more powerful than the Little Boy bomb and far more of them would be used. We happily have no past model for such a situation, but we have a general idea of what would happen.
A 1979 US government study of nuclear war’s effects explained matters clearly:
The destruction resulting from an all-out nuclear attack would probably be far greater [than US policymakers anticipate]. In addition to the tens of millions of deaths during the days and weeks after the attack, there would probably be further millions (perhaps further tens of millions) of deaths in the ensuing months or years. In addition to the enormous economic destruction caused by the actual nuclear explosions, there would be some years during which the residual economy would decline further, as stocks were consumed and machines wore out faster than recovered production could replace them. Nobody knows how to estimate the likelihood that industrial civilization might collapse in the areas attacked; additionally, the possibility of significant long-term ecological damage cannot be excluded. (Office of Technology Assessment study, p. 4)
More recent assessments of ecological damage from nuclear war paint a similarly bleak portrait.
The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are growing more distant in time but sadly the threat to humanity from nuclear weapons is not becoming more distant. We need to persistently educate ourselves about the devastation nuclear weapons can wreak, remember that danger, and resolve never to allow nuclear weapons to be used again.
More of our posts from John Whitehead on these anniversaries:
And for a positive development:
by Jim Hewes
This is a response to the question of what states will now do after the Dobbs decision when women procure illegal abortions.
There was a joint letter from more than 70 leading pro-life organizations stating that “criminalizing women who have abortions is not pro-life.” Many pro-life leaders and politicians have publicly stated a similar view, and this is reflected in the state bans that have passed.
Since pro-life people have always held that life within the womb is no different and needs to be treated as life outside the womb, does this mean that if a mother kills a child right after a child is born or a year after birth, she too shouldn’t be held accountable, and her actions should also not be criminalized?
Doesn’t this approach minimalize what abortion does, killing innocent pre-born lives? If a woman doesn’t go to an abortionist, then the killing never takes place. Yet almost no one wants to punish women who hired abortionists, because of the complex and difficult circumstances surrounding women who procure abortions. This includes the belief society has created that abortion is a mere elimination of a clump of cells, a simple outpatient surgery procedure, or taking a few medical pills.
A Healing Approach
I believe there is a way to face this challenging dilemma which comes from my 20 years of ministering to many broken and wounded post-abortive women through Project Rachel (also my ministry with Rachel Vineyard Retreats), as well as my years as a jail chaplain and mediator, where a restorative justice approach was used.
How is the concern of repairing the harm done to the victim (an innocent pre-born child) addressed? This is where “restorative justice” becomes so valuable. The goal is to offer the offender/perpetrator a time of reflection, accepting responsibility, transformation, rehabilitation, reconciliation, restoration, reintegration and reparation; and also to give the community an opportunity to see if their practices or lack of support in any way contributed to the offenders’ actions.
Something could be established with similar principles used in the current practice of “drug/opioid courts” Sentencing takes into account mitigating factors (being a first-time offender, not a threat to the safety of the society, etc.) Specially trained judge-mediators are appointed who determine what extenuating circumstances (pressures, poverty, failed contraceptives, lacking in knowledge of what an abortion actually is because of 50 years of propaganda, etc.) led to the abortion and then what creative “sentence” would be given to the women who procured the abortion. As in “Drug/Opioid Courts,” the “sentence’s” goal would not be to punish the person, but to help these women rebuild their lives. Women wouldn’t lose their dignity after their crime or have to face any type of incarceration.
In this restorative justice approach, a woman might be helped to develop certain life skills and work together at the same place with other women in similar situations, as she attempts to find healing, repair injuries, rebuild and restore her life. Restorative justice is primarily not about retribution or punishment but conveys that we as a society haven’t given up on someone.
These women would serve what is called “transformative incarceration,” which is a “character based” place, having rehabilitative, restorative and ministry based programs available; in their “sentence” they would be offered both individual counseling (such as Cognitive Behavior Techniques) and group counseling (modeled after the Rachel Vineyard Retreats), especially if is she was suffering from PTSD, as many post-abortive women do.
Since 75% of those who have abortions are either poor or low-income women (the poorest 13% have over 50% of the abortions), these key systemic factors must be addressed by society as a whole. Whatever led her to an abortion, resources would be made available to her, such as working on a degree, work as a tutor to help other women. She could be taught good decision-making processes; job assistance, training and placement; assistance finding affordable housing; availability of mental health personnel; educational programs; help with transportation; training in certain life skills; help with healing and restoring broken relationships; ongoing mentoring; medical care; spiritual support; help with reintegrating into the community. All of this could help keep this tragic action from being repeated in the future.
Restorative justice doesn’t diminish the seriousness of the wrong or cancel the affect this act has perpetuated. It offers an alternative way to make the best out of a tragedy. One can detest the deed or crime but not the person who has committed it.
Crime or wrongdoing depersonalizes both the victim and (surprisingly) also the perpetrator. Restorative justice humanizes both the offender and the victim (the pre-born), which is desperately needed in our culture of violence and death.
The number one concern of victims in the restorative justice approach is that what happened to them won’t happen to anyone else. Thus, a primary goal would be to lower the recidivism rate of 45% of repeat abortions.
An important element of this approach would be to offer actual working models such as the peacemaking circles, healing circles, and conferencing circles along the lines of the Longmont Community Justice Partnership, the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, the Welcome Home Reentry Program of Maryland, or the Hawaii Friends of Restorative Justice process.
Other models would use the principles and experiences of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). There’s a recognition that a human life has been taken; otherwise, it would convey that the pre-born’s life is not worth as much as a born child’s life.
There’s also the example Rwanda . The government reinstated a traditional system of justice called “Gacaca” (which means “on the grass”), a community court located near a village/ Those who had participated in the terrible violence were brought to communities to face their victims and their victims’ families. If those overseeing the “gacaca” didn’t believe what the killer stated or didn’t think the person’s apology was sincere, they sent them back to prison. If those who had been in prison, who were also considered neighbors, convinced the people they were sincere, they let them go back home. Those who organized the genocide (abortionists in this analogy) still went to court.
No one wants to be known or defined by the worst action of their lives. Any of us could be one bad action away from incarceration. All of us have at some point in our life “aborted” God’s will for us.
All of these model programs would be tailored to help each person and provide resources so they may truly live in society, to be given a second chance to become the best version of themselves.
Not Wanting Abortions at All
If this new ideal were to be implemented, the challenge would be for society to have all possible resources made available to pregnant women, so they may not even consider an abortion in the first place. We need to treat women (including those who have had an abortion) the way we want them to treat any possible future pre-born children: with reverence, compassion and support. We as a society have to be as generous and committed to these women, as we are asking women in unintended or crisis pregnancies to be.
Also, there would be a need to address the fathers of aborted children. A large portion of abortions wouldn’t happen if the father had wanted the child. So, the mother often first feels unwanted by the significant people around her, and sadly, passes this along to her pre-born child (“Pain that is not transformed is transmitted”). Society would need to hold men accountable as well for pressuring women, paying for illegal abortions, transporting women for abortions or abandoning them in one of the most vulnerable moments of their lives.
Dr Bernard Nathanson, Dr. Anthony Levantino, Dr. Steven Hammond, Dr. John Bruchalski, Dr. Haywood Robinson, Dr. McArthur Hill, Dr. David Brewer, Dr Beverly McMillan, Dr Kathi Aultman, Dr. Noreen Johnson, Dr. Patti Geibink, Dr. Joseph Randal, and Dr Kathi Aultman have all done many abortions but later changed. Not only do they no longer do abortions but they now speak out strongly against abortion from their first-hand experience. So other abortionists too may be eligible for a restorative justice approach, with models like the organization “And Then There Were None.”
It may take a transitional period, when abortion is made illegal in certain states. This approach may not be the final outcome, but it could be an important direction to find a creative and restorative way to face this very challenging situation created by the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.
Our member group, Rehumanize International, has delved into this topic at length in a white paper, Justice After Roe: Healing the Communal Trauma of Abortion through a Restorative Justice System
by Rachel MacNair
In a post-Roe world, predictions (hypotheses) can be made to test claims of differing perspectives. What’s coming is a huge “natural experiment.”
A natural experiment, unlike a lab experiment, wasn’t arranged in advance. An 1854 London cholera outbreak had differing patterns of water sources – cholera could be caused by contaminated water. Another example is the random lottery for the military draft for American men sent to Vietnam; those selected were an intervention group. The rest were a comparison group.’
Of course, for an experimenter to randomly assign some men to kill others and other men not to would be grotesquely unethical, as would deliberately giving randomly picked people contaminated water and others not. For post-Roe, having some states ban abortion and others not would be astonishingly unethical as an experimental design. But as something that’s foreseeably going to happen, it’s entirely ethical to collect the data.
Researchers have already used this method to ascertain that the Hyde Amendment led to a substantially lower abortion rate in those states that observe it compared with those states that use state funds to fund abortions.
Question 1: Will Women Die?
This is the back-alley butcher claim. When Roe was announced in 1973 when I was 14, my first thought was this was a good thing. It would put back-alley butchers out of business.
I soon found otherwise.
In 1968, a woman died from an abortion performed by Richard Mucie; I’ll spare you gruesome details. The jury gave him the maximum sentence for manslaughter. He got out on parole, but lost his medical license and set up an antique shop.
Then, because of Roe, Mucie went back to court and got his license back. He set up shop on Main Street – a Main Street address I picketed – and got an ad in the Yellow Pages. But his medical skills were such that family planning clinics didn’t refer patients to him. He stopped when he died of an old-age-related illness.
This is just one I know in my own city (Kansas City, Missouri). Various mainstream news media reports of scandalous abortion facilities have been published throughout the decades. See here for a consolidated list of documented problems at Planned Parenthood alone, including deaths, malpractice suits, health code violations, and ambulance calls. Americans United for Life offers an extensive report.
So, will women die from abortion? Yes. Individuals have died during all this time. But be clear:
Women’s deaths from abortion will mostly if not entirely happen from legal abortions.
This is because:
- The states that keep abortion legal are more populous than the states likely to ban it.
- The states that keep it legal have far higher abortion rates than those that ban it. The rate is the number of abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age. So a larger portion of the larger population of women in abortion-promoting states have abortions.
- A large portion of the women in states that ban abortions who nevertheless get abortions will do so by traveling to states where it’s legal.
Meanwhile, the very fact of a legal ban is likely to lower abortion numbers as people become more careful about getting pregnant (numbers of vasectomies have already shot up) and those who get pregnant are less likely to be pressured, or will resolve any ambivalence in favor of not doing it.
The pool of women getting legal abortions will dwarf the pool of women who figure out a way to do illegal abortions. Therefore, it’s a statistical matter that more of them will be available to be subjected to the kinds of problems that come with hard-hearted assembly lines.
We can be sure if there ever is a death from an illegal abortion, it will get major media coverage. Here, absence of evidence is evidence of absence. The major abortion restrictions started in Texas in September 2021 probably haven’t led to any women’s deaths as of this writing, or it would have been trumpeted all over.
In the far more likely event that a woman dies from a legal abortion, it will probably remain as unmentioned by the media as has become customary throughout these decades.
Question 2: Maternal Mortality
Two countries instituted legal bans after having abortion freely available: Poland and Nicaragua. For both, maternal mortality went down.
Other dramatic things going on at the time may help account for this. But at least the argument that banning abortions would mean more women die doesn’t find support here.
Mexico had a natural experiment as abortion was legalized in some of its 32 states but not others. Over ten years, one study found states with less permissive laws had lower maternal mortality than states with more permissive laws.
However, there were independent associations with female literacy, skilled attendance at birth, low birth weight, clean water, sanitation, and intimate partner violence. These statistically accounted for a lot.
The question of why less permissive abortion laws were associated with these other measures of benefit was beyond the scope of the study.
Will states that ban abortion have an uptick in maternal mortality over the long term, as predicted by abortion-legalization advocates? Will they instead have a lower rate, as predicted by those who think greater sensitivity to the lives of children will also translate into greater sensitivity for mothers? Will there be no impact?
We’re about to find out.
Question 3: Poverty
In the Dobbs case, there was an amicus brief from economistsclaiming their statistical methods showed women’s economic benefits from abortion were substantial. One major problem is their measures were from the early 1970s. Many married women couldn’t get credit cards in their own names until 1974. Economic conditions and attitudes about women’s roles have changed substantially.
Also, rather than killing children to elevate women’s positions, it would make sense to make conditions change all the more substantially – better childcare availability, paid parental leave, programs that alleviate poverty, etc.
These economists also disregard a glaring statistic: the feminization of poverty shot up after Roe. There’s a logic to that: men were more self-righteous about abandoning their own children and their children’s mothers. Unwed births and single motherhood went up. Any impacts of post-abortion trauma would also lead to more poverty.
So the question is: Will poverty go up in states that ban abortion, as women are impoverished by unaborted children? Or will poverty go down, reversing the trend that abortion availability set? Or might it go down because legislators who ban abortion realize they do need to provide more substantial anti-poverty supports?
Question 4: Child Abuse
One theory is that unwanted and therefore resented children are more likely to be abused. Another theory is that abortion removes a taboo on hurting children, and because it allows violence to children prenatally, violence will then be greater to postnatal children as well.
The current situation favors the second theory, in that child abuse rates shot up after Roe.
That doesn’t settle the question; there are plenty of alternative explanations. But whether child abuse rates go up or down in those states that ban abortion compared to those states that don’t will be quite helpful for getting an empirical answer.
More specifically: will the rate of sexual abuse of children go down, as the abortion facility is no longer handy to cover up the crime?
We already have a case to illustrate: while there’s been a uproar over the case of the ten-year-old child impregnated through rape who traveled from Ohio to Indiana to get an abortion, the fact is that the rapist was caught. If the judicial system works, he won’t be able to victimize more girls. In contrast to cases where the rapist took the victim to the nearby abortion facility, the cover-up wasn’t so easy. Perhaps the publicity may help communicate to other potential abusers that cover-ups aren’t quite as easy any more.
Question 5: Violent Crime
What will happen to the crime rate in those states that change their abortion status by restricting it?
One theory popularized by Freakonomics is that the drop in crime a couple of decades after Roe was due to all the kids who would have been committing crimes as teenagers and young adults being aborted instead.
I would note, however, that the crime drop was accompanied in the same time period by a substantial drop in abortions. Maybe whatever was causing a lowering of violence in one area was causing a lowering of violence in the other; which direction, or a feedback loop going both ways, would take way more study.
But the abortion-as-violence understanding would expect the crime rate, especially violent crimes, to go down in those states that ban abortion, while not going down it states that retain widespread abortion practice. Abortion would no longer be serving as a role model on how to solve problems.
I think we can count on it that researchers will take advantage of new circumstances to gather data on what the impact of abortion really is. Consistent-lifers have argued that violence is deceptive as a problem-solver across all the issues – war, death penalty, and euthanasia, as well as abortion.
We have a clear-cut natural experiment coming, with clear predictions depending on whether abortion is seen as a needed option or instead as horrific violence. We should be able to get a firmer grasp on which of the two perspectives better fit abortion by looking at future data.
For more from Rachel MacNair on consistent-life stats, see:
We publish this in observance of the upcoming anniversary of the test.
by John Whitehead
The nuclear age began when the United States conducted the first atomic bomb test in New Mexico on July 16, 1945. That day, years of work by civilian and military personnel involved in the Manhattan Project culminated in a use of the most destructive weapon in history. While overshadowed by the wartime use of nuclear weapons against Hiroshima and Nagasaki the following month, that original test, known as “Trinity,” had its own terrible legacy. The bomb test took its toll on people in surrounding communities whose suffering has not been fully recognized.
“The Brightest Light I Have Ever Seen”
The Trinity test took place in a barren region between the Rio Grande and the Sierra Oscura, a place aptly known as Jornada del Muerto — Journey of Death. The weapon, a plutonium bomb known as “the Gadget,” was placed on a platform atop a steel tower constructed at the site.
Detonation occurred just before dawn, at 5:30 am. The Gadget had an explosive yield of roughly 20 kilotons, somewhat more than the bomb that would be dropped on Hiroshima a few weeks later. Watching the test from an observation point miles away, physicist I. I. Rabi described the sight:
Suddenly, there was an enormous flash of light, the brightest light I have ever seen or that I think anyone has ever seen. It blasted; it pounced; it bored its way right through you . . . It was seen to last forever. You would wish it would stop; altogether it lasted about two seconds. Finally it was over, diminishing, and we looked toward the place where the bomb had been; there was an enormous ball of fire which grew and grew and it rolled as it grew; it went up into the air, in yellow flashes and into scarlet and green…It seemed to come toward one. (Quoted in Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, p. 672)
The Manhattan Project staff were hardly the only ones to witness the sight; the light from the Trinity test could be seen from about 280 miles, as far away as Amarillo, Texas.”
Snow in July
Following detonation, the bomb’s effects fell on various communities, who had received no warning about the test.
A family living on a ranch 70 miles away from the test site took shelter that morning as the sky suddenly turned dark, a thunder-like rumble filled the air, and their home shook. Outside their home, they found white powder covering their crops, cows, and water supplies. Other people in the region also found such powder on orchards, livestock, and other vital resources.
This same white powder was seen by 13-year-old Barbara Kent and other girls at a summer dance camp in Ruidoso, New Mexico. They were awakened in their cabin that morning by a tremendous explosion. The girls and their instructor ran outside.
As Kent later remembered, “We were all just shocked . . . and then, all of a sudden, there was this big cloud overhead, and lights in the sky . . . It even hurt our eyes when we looked up. The whole sky turned strange. It was as if the sun came out tremendous.”
The strange white powder began falling from the sky later that morning. “We all thought ‘Oh my gosh,’ it’s July and it’s snowing.” The campers decided to go swimming in a nearby river. “We were grabbing all of this white, which we thought was snow, and we were putting it all over our faces,” Kent recalled. “But the strange thing, instead of being cold like snow, it was hot. And we all thought, ‘Well, the reason it’s hot is because it’s summer.’”
The “snow” was the bomb’s radioactive fallout. The radioactive materials in fallout can be extremely harmful to humans exposed to them, whether the exposure is through the materials having direct external contact with the skin or through people breathing in the materials or eating and drinking contaminated food and water.
The fallout ultimately spread across thousands of square miles, reaching as far as Rochester, New York. Nineteen counties in New Mexico, including 78 cities and towns, were affected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later estimated that in some areas radiation reached “almost 10,000 times what is currently allowed in public areas.”
Private and Public Statements
Stafford Warren, the Manhattan Project’s chief medical officer, noted the danger created by the Trinity test. Five days after the test, Warren wrote to Manhattan Project head General Leslie R. Groves commenting “There is still a tremendous quantity of radioactive dust floating in the air.” He warned that “a very serious [radiation] hazard” was present within a 2,700-square-mile area downwind of the test. Warren recommended that no future nuclear tests be held within a 150-mile radius of inhabited areas—a recommendation that came too late for the half-million people in New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico within such a radius of the Trinity test.
Whatever concerns officials might have had in private, the public story given to the media was that the July 16 explosion was a detonation of ammunition and other military materials that caused no deaths or injuries. Barbara Kent remembers hearing a public announcement about the July 16 explosion: “They said, ‘No one worry about anything, everything’s fine, just go along with your own business.’”
Even after the atomic bombings of Japan, when strict secrecy was no longer essential, information about the test’s dangers was not forthcoming. Dr. Kathryn Behnke of Roswell, New Mexico, wrote to Stafford Warren in October 1947 to express concern about a rise in infant deaths in the region. “As I recall, in August 1945, the month after the first bomb was tested in New Mexico, there were about 35 infant deaths here,” Behnke wrote, “I understand the rate at Alamogordo, nearer the site of the test, was even higher than Roswell.” Although Warren had privately raised concerns about the test’s effects, his assistant wrote back to Behnke assuring her that “the safety and health of the people at large is not in any way endangered.”
The Test’s Legacy
The full toll of the Trinity atomic test is unknown. Because New Mexicans have been exposed to a variety of hazards, from plutonium operations at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to other nuclear tests within the United States, identifying the specific health consequences of the original nuclear test is difficult.
A 2020 National Cancer Institute (NCI) study concluded that up to 1,000 people may have developed cancer because of the Trinity test, but the study’s lead investigator acknowledged that determining exposure is challenging “because all of the needed data is not available.”
The NCI study also doesn’t take into account the increase in infant deaths noted by Dr. Behnke in 1947: data from that period indicates New Mexico’s infant death rate was 56% higher in 1945 relative to previous years.
In the absence of more definite data, anecdotal evidence suggests people exposed to the Trinity test suffered for it. Over the years following her encounter with the summertime “snow,” Barbara Kent had to have her thyroid removed and developed various cancers, including endometrial cancer and different skin cancers. Kent was luckier than her fellow dance campmates, though: she reports that by the time she was 30 she was the only one of those girls still alive.
Tina Cordova’s extended family lived in and around the town of Tularosa, about 40 miles from the test site. Ten of her relatives, including both her parents, developed various types of cancer, some of which proved fatal. Her father developed two types of oral cancer despite never smoking or chewing tobacco.
Cordova, who was not even born at the time of the test, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she was 39.
In 2005, Cordova co-founded the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium (TBDC). TBDC members gathered information, including through health surveys, of people alive during the Trinity test and their descendants. Of 1,000 surveys conducted, all include reports of cancers and other health problems that could result from radiation exposure. Similar cancers have often recurred across multiple generations.
Cordova and other activists have been seeking to obtain financial compensation for those harmed by the Trinity test. The federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) was passed in 1990 to provide compensation to people who lived in parts of Nevada, Utah, and Arizona and who may have been harmed by nuclear testing in Nevada in the 1950s and 1960s. RECA was subsequently expanded to compensate people involved in uranium production and civilian and military personnel directly involved in nuclear tests.
However, the ordinary civilians in New Mexico and elsewhere affected by the Trinity test are not yet eligible for compensation. RECA was extended for another two years this June, and Cordova hopes to build support for expanding the act to cover Trinity test victims.
Financial compensation, and a formal government apology, is long overdue for those people who can fairly be called nuclear weapons’ first victims. As Cordova comments, “In their [the government’s] rush to bomb Japan, we were sacrificed in the process. We were enlisted in the service of our country, unknowing, unwilling, and remain uncompensated.”
For other posts on nuclear testing and development, see:
by Sarah Terzo
We consistent life ethic supporters can become frustrated with those who commit acts of violence. But we must reach out to them with compassion. Harsh words only further entrench them. Here are two examples.
The Trauma of a Soldier
One example is that of a veteran named Don, who was interviewed in Plough Publishing’s book Bloody Hell.
At the time of the interview, Don was on death row in Pennsylvania. Interviewer Dan Hallock doesn’t give details about Don’s crime, but it might have been instigated by the PTSD symptoms Don suffered from his time in Vietnam.
Don describes seeing a soldier die for the first time:
I saw my first dead person, my first dead human being. I watched him die…He was running past my hole. A mortar round went off and he dropped right there, right in front of me, no more than two feet away. He looked at me and asked if I would help him… I said sure, I’d help him – he’d be fine. And then he just died…And I guess I felt something inside me die with him.
His name was Billy Boy. He was 19 years old. From the waist down he had no body left. Barely enough for his family to bury. 1
Don describes laughing with other soldiers while watching jets drop napalm on a grazing cow – and on innocent civilians.
He describes the aftermath of the attack:
An hour later we landed for a pickup and got to see the survivors. They were carrying their belongings and they had no place to go. It was like a parade across the rice paddy – a string of 75 or 100 peasants carrying burned and screaming babies, women, old men, some badly cut up with shrapnel wounds. 2
That night, Don got drunk for the first time in his life. Throughout his time in Vietnam, he used drugs and alcohol to cope.
The napalm attack was not the only atrocity Don witnessed or participated in. He describes how soldiers invaded villages and executed villagers:
[T]he villagers were all shot, their hands tied behind their backs, and the bodies were thrown into the Mekong.
We followed this pattern of destroying villages for the next three days… [T]he Mekong River was clogged with swollen bodies floating downstream. The water was the color of rust. 3
As traumatizing as these experiences were, Don began to feel that “only heavy combat and killing could make me feel so alive.”
He became reckless, and explains why:
[S]lowly I came to understand that I didn’t enjoy [combat], I’d only convinced myself that I did – to justify killing other humans. It was a way of denying the guilt I felt – that I hated myself for what I was doing. I eagerly went into those deathtrap situations because I was trying to kill myself – to end the anguish. 4
Eventually, Don was sent to an award ceremony where he was slated to receive the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry. He describes being angered by the brigade commander’s “words of glory and praise and how war is hell but necessary” and says, “I hated him because he sent young boys into steamy jungles to die while he relaxed in the comfort of his plush, air-conditioned office.”5
Don expressed his contempt by urinating on stage, aiming for the commander’s leg. He left without his medal.
Sent home from Vietnam
When he got back to his platoon, he started to cry and couldn’t stop. He says:
For two days I wept continuously… All I could think about were the people I had killed, about the good men I saw die, about my buddy – and I kept crying until our company doctor sedated me. 5
He was sent to see a psychiatrist and told the doctor about everything he’d seen and done during his time in Vietnam. According to Don, “All he did was put me on 60 mg of Valium a day and lock me in a room for two weeks.” 6
Finally, Don “fell apart – complete emotional collapse” and they sent him home. He believes they dismissed him “Not because I fell apart, but because I had nothing left. I was of no use to them anymore.” 6
They had sucked everything out of me – all I had – my strength, my humanity, my youth – I had nothing left, so they sent me home. Okay, we’re done with you – you can go now.
So, they sedated me and took me to 3rd Field Surg in Saigon. A doctor wrote in the record: suffering physical and emotional exhaustion, malaria, and drug addiction; subject weighs a mere 118 pounds; recommend release from combat status.7
The military gave him no help with his emotional trauma. He says, “They didn’t fix me or help me or anything – they just pumped me full of Valium and dumped me in the middle of Main Street, USA.” 8
Reenlisting after verbal abuse
At first, he was happy to be back home. But then, he was treated cruelly by antiwar activists. Their anger and rejection caused him to turn around and go right back into the military:
I thought, “Wow. Unbelievable. I’m home, really back home.” But then people started yelling at us. Someone spit at me. They were calling us murderers, trying to pin the whole thing on us as if we were personally responsible for the war.
I just couldn’t take that kind of a reception, so I hopped right back onto the next plane for Nam. I knew there were guys who understood me back there. We understood one another . . . 9
The antiwar activists were on the right side. They were opposing violence and atrocities overseas. But the cruel treatment they gave Don caused him to go back to the war, despite how much it had traumatized him.
An Abortion Worker Acknowledges She is Killing
Judith Fetrow worked in an abortion facility. Like Don, she was also emotionally traumatized by her job.
She was in charge of disposing of aborted babies and says, “I did not particularly want this job. However, I did not want to see the babies treated disrespectfully. I did not want to hear Janice callously say she was taking the kids and putting them into daycare.”
Fetrow knew abortion killed children. When pro-lifers outside the facility mistook her for a patient, she taunted them: “When someone begged me not to kill my baby, I’d look at them and say, “oh, I’m not here to kill my baby. I’m here to kill other people’s babies.”
When they asked her when she thought life begins, she would answer, “Life begins at conception and what I do is murder.”
While many abortion providers deny that abortion is the taking of a life, a surprising number have admitted publicly that abortion kills babies.
Harm to workers and women
Fetrow describes the emotional trauma workers experienced:
[I] saw two types of women working at the clinic. One group were women who had found some way to deal with the emotional and spiritual toll of working with abortion. The second group were women who had closed themselves off emotionally… You could look in their eyes and see that they were emotionally dead. Unavailable for themselves, or for anyone else.10
She also witnessed harm to women:
I watched Dr. William P— perforate [puncture] a woman’s uterus and then lie about the severity of the perforation.
The most horrifying complication that I witnessed was a woman who stopped breathing during the abortion. Dr. Michael S— just walked out of the room when he was finished.
Despite my telling him that our client was not breathing, he left me alone with her. When Dr. S— was forced to return we didn’t even follow emergency protocol for that situation. It was a miracle that this woman didn’t die.
She began having doubts about what she was doing, saying, “I began to wonder if we were really caring for these women, or if we were just working for another corporation whose only interest was the bottom line.”
Leaving the clinic – only to return
One day, Fetrow was so upset she decided to quit. But on the way out of the abortion facility for what she intended to be the last time, pro-lifers started shouting at her, “Murderer! The blood is on your hands!” She felt as though “someone had kicked me in the stomach,” and returned to the abortion facility.
Fetrow did eventually leave her job and went on to oppose abortion. Pivotal in her conversion was the patience and compassion of a pro-lifer who befriended her.
Judith and Don’s stories illustrate the need to reach out to people on “the other side” with compassion. While Fetrow eventually found her way out, Don never did. Could his story have ended differently if activists had reached out to him with compassion?
- Dan Hallock Bloody Hell (Farmington, PA: The Plough Publishing House, 1999) 46
- Ibid., 50 – 51
- Ibid., 52
- Ibid., 53
- Ibid., 47
- Ibid., 53-54
- Ibid., 54
- “Is Abortion Good for Women?” Rachel MacNair, Angela Kennedy. Swimming Against the Tide: Feminist Dissent on the Issue of Abortion(Dublin, Ireland: Four Courts Press, 1997) 82
For similar posts from Sarah Terzo, see:
by Rachel MacNair
Now that we can refer to the Roe era in the past tense, we have some different considerations for building a Culture of Life (and a Culture of Peace, which I see as the same thing).
Abortions Going Down
A commonly expressed fear in the media is that abortions can only be entirely prevented by draconian surveillance methods. I point out an analogy – murder of adults is a major felony with drastic penalties, and most citizens are satisfied that the penalties should be severe. The crime is that serious. But to really stop our huge homicide rate might take some draconian police state measures that we also don’t find tolerable. There are better ways to prevent homicides.
We can expect abortions to go down in the states that ban or severely restrict abortions for several reasons:
- The assembly lines will shut down within those states.
- The institutions promoting abortion will be somewhat weakened.
- Women who were being pressured, or who felt ambivalent, or who only needed one obstacle to decide they didn’t want it after all, will be out of the abortion loop. That’s a major portion.
- People may regard abortion has having more stigma and therefore no longer consider it.
- Couples will take greater care to avoid getting pregnant since undoing the pregnancy takes so much more effort.
Nevertheless, there will still be plenty of women who retain the Roe-era attitudes on abortion and will access abortion elsewhere.
Women Going to Other States
In those states that ban or severely restrict abortion, there will obviously be women who go to the states that have no such restrictions to get them. Several companies are offering to make include travel expenses as an employee benefit. Abortion providers in states where abortion remains legal are thinking of putting mobile clinics across the border from states where it’s banned. Sneaking abortion pills in will be hard to stop – the U.S. already has a bad track record with trying to stop illegal drugs, despite excessive surveillance.
This is going to be a reality for a long time. Just as the legal end of slavery in the U.S. brought responses of imposed sharecropping and arresting people for loitering (that is, being unemployed) and mass incarceration including chain gangs, the hearts and minds that haven’t been changed will find ways to keep abortion going in the places where it’s illegal.
Therefore, I see three categories of needed steps beyond legal bans:
- Education, including these topics: fetal development (no sexuality education is comprehensive without this); the many harms of abortion; life skills education that teaches both about preventing unwanted pregnancy and dealing with pregnancy if it comes; and education about the value of nonviolence across the board.
- Get women out of Planned Parenthood’s orbit for any kind of health care. PP has plenty of centers in most of the states that will restrict abortion, and they’ll be focal points for giving women advice on how to access abortion elsewhere, and pushing it on them.
- Provide needed services for pregnant women, new mothers, and their families.
Of course, all three points are ones we’ve been acting on and advocating all along. They apply every bit as much to those states where abortion will remain government-promoted, along with those states that are iffy. (The New York Times gives a run-down of which states are which.)
But the point about providing those life-affirming services comes up in the minds of many as being all the more a governmental responsibility when abortions are banned, and is commonly recognized by pro-lifers as well (for example, see this article in National Review or this in The Atlantic – and there are many more).
Lynn Fitch is the attorney general for Mississippi.
Here I’ll focus on proposals by Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, and Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah. I’ve discussed my own ideas for post-Roe legislation, but here I look at things that have been planned by some people in legislative power.
Paid Parental Leave
The New Parents Act would give parents options on paid parental leave by allowing them to tap their social security accounts, giving them flexibility and allowing a federal program without new taxes or entitlements – something especially appealing to Republicans. We have a page on our Peace and Life Referendums site devoted to why paid parental leave is important, including a speech by Henry Hyde when Congress was passing unpaid family and medical leave.
As for the payment mechanism, my initial reaction is that it’s clever and workable – but neither I nor CLN take a position on how things are funded as long as the method isn’t poverty-inducing.
Of course, we advocate for stopping the program of modernizing nuclear weapons and using that money to fund life-affirming services. We’d also be satisfied with switching money from other harmful military programs. But Republican senators don’t think that way just yet, and Democratic senators don’t either.
Expand the Child Tax Credit
This credit is refundable, meaning you can get money out of it even if you don’t owe taxes. It can be given monthly. This proved to be an excellent poverty-reducing technique when done recently, but it expired, and therefore needs to be re-instituted.
The problem: Republicans want to fund this by reducing or eliminating the federal income tax deduction for State and Local Taxes (SALT). In blue states like New York and California, state taxes are quite high. Republicans have it in for this deduction because they think it encourages those states to have overly high taxes. They think Democrats are protecting the rich people of their own constituency. Democrats want to protect the SALT deduction because it is, after all, a benefit to the rich of their own constituency. There’s also a logic to the idea that you shouldn’t have to pay taxes on income you don’t have any more, because you already paid it in state or local taxes.
Previous bills have been sunk over this argument.
It wouldn’t occur to us at CLN to have an opinion on the SALT deduction issue, of course, but that’s why Democrats who would otherwise favor the policy are likely to object to the payment mechanism.
Expand Child Support Enforcement requirements
Rubio discusses the poverty-reducing impact of this for single mothers, but there’s another point: one study that compares places with high enforcement to those without shows it reduced the abortion rate, but not the ratio. The rate is the number of abortions per 1,000 women of child-bearing age, and the ratio is the portion of actual pregnancies aborted. So the rate can go down by there being fewer pregnancies, and that’s apparently what’s at work here. It’s not that women decide they can handle the pregnancy due to child support enforcement – they may not trust it that much – but rather that men are way more cautious about actions that may saddle them with an 18-year financial commitment.
Provide additional funding, with reforms, to the WIC program.
Rubio’s proposed reforms would make the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program more generous, and include informing recipients about child support enforcement.
Expanding support for pregnant college students:
The Pregnant Students Rights Act would expand existing rights.
Other provisions proposed by Rubio (in his own words):
Expand tax relief for adoptive parents.
Expand access to social services by lowering barriers to faith-based organizations’ participation.
Establish a grant program to fund integrated mentoring services for low-income mothers.
Create a clearinghouse of resources for pregnant women.
Expanding support for pro-life crisis pregnancy centers.
We don’t know which of these proposed measures will pass, but several things on the list are good ones.
One major area isn’t addressed: health care access. That will be much more sticky given the uproar on Obamacare, Medicaid expansion, etc. Raising the minimum wage would be another proposal, outside the realm of ones Republicans would like. Housing, child care, prevention of domestic abuse – there are many other areas that should be covered. Not all are federal matters; they can also be covered under state legislation.
For another example of thinking along these lines that I hope is a sign of a major trend, The National Review has a June 28 article (the same day this is posted) called A Marshall Plan for the Pro-Life Cause. It also makes a list of legislative proposals – and they do include health care proposals. The original Marshall Plan was a massive nonviolent response in the aftermath of World War II in Europe, caring for people’s needs with the hope this would help prevent another war. Being someone who sees connections between war and widespread abortion, I see the analogy as quite apt.
While the Consistent Life Network doesn’t take positions on particulars, we strongly take a position on the principle: in our society as a whole, we’re a community, we’re all responsible for the babies that pop up in our midst, and life-affirming services are crucial.
We’ve marched and educated and advocated, and finally it’s happened, as of June 24, 2022: months shy of 50 years, the United States courts will now allow citizens to influence abortion policy without judges telling them they can’t.
The work ahead is huge, but at least it now has the chance to be more effective.
There’s an analogy with another January 22 event – the entry into force of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2021. It helps tremendously that nuclear weapons are explicitly illegal, but it’s not had much impact on those countries that actually have nuclear weapons. The treaty wasn’t an end point. It allowed for more effective organizing.
In the same way, we know that while some states will move to protect unborn children, others will push for their destruction all the more. And even the states that do pass laws to protect the babies will need to be pushed to do more than merely prohibit killing them, but also to provide for the flourishing of mothers, fathers, and children. Providing for such human flourishing is both worthwhile on its own merits and also makes it less likely parents will arrange to kill the unborn children in a different U.S. state or by some hidden method.
And everywhere, we must keep educating about how using violence as a problem-solver on this or any other issue is usually counterproductive and always wrong.
For those wanting a review of issues surrounding our new situation, especially since you may be having more discussions with others as people have taken an interest, see:
Dobbs & Regulations
Reflections on the Alito Draft Leak of May 2, 2022 (several groups)
Should Abortions be Illegal? / Bill Samuel
Who the Law Targets / Rachel MacNair
My Ideas for Post-Roe Legislation / Rachel MacNair
What Studies Show: Impact of Abortion Regulations / Rachel MacNair
Social Programs to Help the Poor are Pro-life / Sarah Terzo
“The Daily Show” Doesn’t Do Its Homework / Rachel MacNair
Harms of Abortion
How Abortion is Useful for Rape Culture / Rachel MacNair
Abortion Facilitates Sex Abuse: Documentation / Rachel MacNair
Abortion and Violence Against Pregnant Women / Martha Shuping, M.D.
The Myth of Sexual Autonomy / Julianne Wiley
by Julia Smucker
Once while taking a graduate-level test in cultural anthropology, I had a revelation of sorts. In the class, we’d been discussing what’s revealed when different cultural values come into tension. The test essay question went something like, “What would the repeal of motorcycle helmet laws say about American cultural values, and how does this relate to issues like abortion and gun control?” Seeing these three examples in juxtaposition, I realized that the preservation of human life, essentially a universal value, was clashing with something else that often takes precedence over it in U.S. socio-political discourse – not without controversy, but strongly enough to compete, and often win, against life itself. That something, I realized, is individual autonomy.
The relatively innocuous case of motorcycle helmet laws points to the likelihood that a critical mass of Americans might prefer to endanger themselves – or at least to have the choice of endangering themselves – rather than be required to use a piece of protective equipment. More recently, this has been paralleled in the forceful resistance to precautions against Covid-19, which also has the effect of endangering others. The vigorous pushback that occurs in response to any suggestion of legal limits on guns or abortion has an even more insidious effect: facilitating the direct killing of human beings.
One common defense of the value of autonomy over that of preserving life relies on the premise that the taking of life is so inevitable that it’s useless to regulate. Criminals will find a way to obtain guns no matter what, the reasoning goes, so making it harder to get one will only make law-abiding people less safe because only the criminals will be armed. Or, others argue, women with unwanted pregnancies will find a way to obtain abortions no matter what, so making it harder to get one will only make them less safe because the abortions will be done by illicit and dangerous methods.
I see at least three problems with these arguments.
Problem 1 : Presumption of Unchangeability
The language used to talk about criminality often treats “criminal” and “law-abiding” as fixed, innate categories of human beings. The truth this dichotomy obscures is that nobody is inherently criminal. Anyone is capable of committing a crime or violent act, and anyone is capable of choosing not to. Similarly, generalized narratives about women seeking abortions often presume a universal need or desire for one, which can’t be altered by circumstance. In both cases, an unchangeable nature or an unchangeable necessity is presumed.
In reality, there’s always a conceivable possibility that different circumstances could help lead to different choices – on both the “supply” side (if there are barriers to access making violent choices harder) and the “demand” side (if certain underlying causes that may lead to violent choices are addressed before a situation gets to the point where violence is considered). In all issues, if we want to reduce violence, we should be doing everything in our power to make it less easy to kill, and easier to choose life over unnatural death in all circumstances.
Problem 2: All or Nothing
Some arguments against regulation set an impossibly absolute all-or-nothing standard on the effectiveness of any public policy measures meant to curb violence: they must be 100% effective at stopping every occurrence of the thing they’re meant to prevent, or else they’re useless.
Another related dichotomy presumes that legislative means of preventing violence must either be the only solution or have no part to play at all. But if we’re serious about preventing violence, we should be using every tool in the toolbox. No tool, legislative or otherwise, is likely to be 100% effective in preventing all violence. But there are tools, legislative and otherwise, that could prevent some violence. Wouldn’t any human lives saved from violent death or trauma be worth the effort to prevent such tragedies when we can? If not, what is it exactly that’s worth more?
Problem 3 : Same Reasoning, Flipped Sides
As explained above, both arguments use strikingly similar logic whether applied to legal limits on guns or legal limits on abortion. As someone who considers human life to be of higher value than individual autonomy no matter the issue, I answer in both cases that even if we can’t save all human beings from being victims or perpetrators of violence, we should be doing all we can to save as many as we can. But for those who weigh life and autonomy differently depending on the issue, the arguments undermine each other. If you argue that regulations on guns are useless unless 100% effective, how do you answer someone who argues the same thing about regulations on abortion, or vice-versa?
What pains me most in these debates is having them with people I agree with on other life-and-death issues. People see us defending life on one issue, and then just as vehemently defending some means of inflicting death, and they see hypocrisy. Sadly, they’re not wrong (even though some who call out such hypocrisy are blind to the same hypocrisy the other way). I can only answer that not all of us think that way. Giving credence to charges of pro-life or pro-peace hypocrisy only hurts the cause.
For a post on a similar topic, see:
For more of our similar posts from Julia Smucker, see: