On Friday, June 23, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its much-anticipated opinion Dobbs v Jackson which struck down its 1973 opinion Roe v Wade and the 1992 decision Casey v Planned Parenthood. Dobbs effectively ended the 49-year federal prohibition of legal restrictions on abortion in our country that Roe established and Casey upheld. It is hard to overstate the significance of this event in our nation’s history. Roe and Casey were arguably the most damaging pair of Supreme Court decisions since the 1867 decision of Dred Scott v Sanford which perpetuated the institution of slavery, and the 1896 case of Plessy v Ferguson, which granted government protection to the practice of racial segregation. Dred Scott and Plessy upheld corrupt social institutions that enshrined violence and injustice against Blacks in our country, the effects of which we still feel today.
Slavery has been called the Original Sin of the founding of the United States. By the mid-19th century, slavery had become such an integrated part of the economy and culture of southern states that even where people lamented its existence, it was thought to be a “necessary evil.” It was argued that abolishing slavery would require too much cultural change and that its effects on the economy would be too painful to bear. But slavery was evil. And it was to our nation’s shame that the economy had become dependent on it. Only after a horrific civil war did slavery come to an end. But there was social devastation left in its wake. The addiction to slavery, society’s dependance on it, led to economic hardship, cultural resentment, as well as a century of violence and institutional discrimination against those who had been slaves and their descendants.
There have been over 60 million abortions in the United States since 1973. Over the years, many have argued that, even if it’s a lamentable thing, access to abortion on demand is necessary, since people have come to construct their lives taking it for granted. Like the mid-19th century that had built an economy and culture that presumed the institution of slavery, our post-Sexual Revolution culture in many ways sees abortion this way. But tragically, in the name of facilitating the expansion of women’s freedom, millions of women were instead left feeling like they had no choice but abortion. Yes, Roe is overturned, praise God, but there is cultural wreckage left in its wake that must be addressed.
Here in Connecticut, like our neighboring states, the Dobbs decision does not change the fact that abortion continues to be legally available on demand. As Catholics, it is important that we don’t just advocate for legal restrictions on abortion but also engage in the work of cultural reconstruction. This means cherishing the lives of unborn children and pregnant mothers who are afraid and who need help. It means taking measures to promote an economy that does not force a choice between having a family and having a career, one that also makes staying home to raise one’s children an option not just for the well-off. It means raising expectations and demanding more from men, and promoting policies that strengthen marriage culture, as well as many other things. All of this will take time and effort and the conversion of our hearts. This isn’t the end but the beginning.