Is the Supreme Court going to overrule Roe v. Wade? That’s the question raised by the abortion case before the Court in the fall. “Roe and Casey are egregiously wrong,” the attorney general of Mississippi, Lynn Fitch, writes in her brief for Dobbs. “The conclusion that abortion is a constitutional right has no basis in text, structure, history, or tradition.” I saw the brief for the first time as I was standing across from an abortion clinic in Manhattan. “Roe and Casey have inflicted significant damage,” she writes. She was specifically talking about the law and how abortion jurisprudence has been a disservice to “principles of democratic self-governance.”
As the brief was being filed, I saw a young woman crying on a street corner after an abortion. Abortion hurts women and kills children. Shortly thereafter, another young woman walked out with a friend, who asked her if she was okay. “Am I okay? Are you really asking, Am I okay?” She was not okay. And we’re not okay with nearly a half-century of legal abortion in the United States. Dobbs is an opportunity for us to reflect on what we’re doing with legal abortion in America.
Fitch writes something that should be quite self-evident from looking around the Internet and the streets I frequent, where prayer regularly gets hissed at. “Far from bringing peace to the controversy over abortion, Roe and Casey have made matters worse.”
Specifically in question is a Mississippi law that prohibits abortion after 15 weeks, with exceptions when the life or physical health of a mother is endangered or when the unborn child has severe, fatal abnormalities. Mississippi wants the Court to throw out Roe and leave it up to the states. In states such as New York, which is known as the abortion capital of the world, abortion will remain. But it shouldn’t. It is only in looking away from the reality of abortion that we tolerate it.
To read the brief from Fitch is to face facts. She points out that the Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act points out some brutal realities: “The United States is one of few countries that permit elective abortions after 20 weeks’ gestation. After 12 weeks’ gestation, 75% of all nations ‘do not permit abortion’ ‘except (in most instances) to save the life and to preserve the physical health of the mother.’” In the brief, Fitch explains further reason for the law: “At 5–6 weeks’ gestation, ‘an unborn human being’s heart begins beating.’” At about eight weeks, the developing baby begins to move about in the womb. At nine weeks, “all basic physiological functions are present,” as are “teeth, eyes, and external genitalia.” At ten weeks, “vital organs begin to function” and “hair, fingernails, and toenails . . . begin to form.” At eleven weeks, there may be hiccupping as the diaphragm forms. At twelve weeks, there can be “sucking motions” and the opening and closing of fingers, while the baby “senses stimulation from the world outside the womb.” At that point, the child “has taken on the human form in all relevant respects.” In short, it’s a description of what a mother and father who are welcoming their unborn baby see in ultrasounds.
Mississippi, in enacting the law, “identified several state interests concerning abortion.” First is the protection of the life of the unborn. Second is protecting the medical profession. The brief explains: “Most abortion procedures performed after 15 weeks’ gestation . . . are dilation-and-evacuation procedures that ‘involve the use of surgical instruments to crush and tear the unborn child apart before removing the pieces of the dead child from the woman.’” Mississippi says in the brief what we all should have been screaming from the rooftops since Roe came to be. This is “a barbaric practice” that is “demeaning to the medical profession.” Mississippi is also protecting women with its law; dilation-and-evacuation abortions are fraught with medical complications, injuries, and psychological problems.
Dobbs is taking abortion away from the cruelty of euphemisms. It is exposing the lie of abortion as health care and freedom.
We won’t be a healthy society until we embrace that what we’re doing as a nation under Roe is not only killing millions of children a year and leaving behind a trail of sorrow but killing the soul of this nation. Roe makes no sense constitutionally or in any other way. About more than overturning Roe, Dobbs would save us from the culture of death that we’re immersed in. And it’s going to take more than Dobbs to make sure women and girls know that there is a better way — including an end to the hostility to women’s care centers that help women with alternatives. But ending the tyranny of Roe in the law would certainly help.
This column is based on one available through Andrews McMeel Universal’s Newspaper Enterprise Association.