Roe v. Wade

Yesterday’s decision by the Supreme Court is now history.

Personally, I have been on record about a woman’s right to choose for many years.  It is based on personal experience in 1965.  Use the search word “abortion” if interested in more at this blog site.

In “Death Wish” on June 8, I made my prediction: “The so-called ‘life’ constituency is in the 50th year of Roe v. Wade and they want it gone, and they think they’ll succeed.  In the long run, their campaign has already failed.  Not everybody, not even a majority, supports getting rid of the protections for women’s rights given through Roe v Wade.  They will never rid the world of abortion, in fact they might increase it, albeit more dangerously.  Whatever the ultimate words, the ruling will be analyzed endlessly.  It is expected probably the end of June.”

I have three observations, in an attempt to contribute constructively to this conversation. 

First, within the last month a situation has  come up within my own general sphere of notice, which seems very pertinent to the issue of Choice.  Because it is a private matter I have to be very circumspect, and decline to fill in many blanks.  You can fill in the blanks.

A young woman we know is pregnant, by choice, “out of wedlock”  as the saying goes.  She is adult, over 21.  This was with the agreement of the father-to-be.  They apparently agreed to co-parent the child, who has recently been determined to be a girl.  Most recently, the male has changed his mind.  There is no talk of abortion, but you can imagine how the issue plays out in the mother-to-be’s constellation.

All I can envision is an extremely rough road ahead, especially for the to-come baby.  Where will the support system be, particularly from the sanctity of life crowd, when push inevitably will come to shove?

I could add lots of pieces, but choose not to.  This is not going to be a simple deal, for anyone.


Second, I have a bit of advice to those in my constituency, which is the “woman’s right to choose” group, and I pose an example from my own career.

Given: Roe v. Wade is a game perceived as one side won v. the other side lost.

Years ago – it was 1974 – a group of which I was Executive Director was challenged by a competing group which was  smaller, but very aggressive.  At stake was the right to represent well over 1,000 employees in a collective bargaining state.  The employees were spread about in numerous building units, basically isolated from each other.

As the majority, responsible for outcomes, we were vulnerable, and the minority used all of the tactics available at the time to amplify our vulnerabilities.

Each piece of paper that came from them, we answered.  This simply resulted in the next piece of paper on another issue.  We were constantly put on the defensive.

One day came the piece of paper that figuratively “broke the camel’s back”.  It was the last straw….

Somebody – possibly it was me, though I don’t recall that – decided enough was enough, and at that instant we decided to go on offense, rather than stay on the defensive.

Sure, we weren’t perfect – the grass could be shown to be greener, comparing us with some other place.  We were accountable, but given the local circumstances we had always represented the people well…and they knew it.

Not too long after that came the actual election.

It was a landslide, over 60% in our favor, if I recall.  It surprised us; it surprised our competitor even more.  The people had spoken.

My advice to the Freedom of Choice crowd: go, and stay, on offense, however you define the term.  You have the high ground, as viewed by the massive majority of your colleague Americans.

It will be a lot of work, but you’re up to it.


Finally, don’t lose perspective.

At the moment, the extreme Pro-Life faction appears to have won.  Yesterday’s win can be a pyrrhic victory for them.  I always think of how the successful campaign to make booze illegal failed, from the beginning of its legal success.  Yes, a different issue, different time, but the same kind of problem.

Best I know, the pure pro-life had more public support in the beginning they have now.  To “win” required polarization – dividing us into tribes, where for one side to win, the other had to lose.  Theirs was a take-no-prisoners approach.  No compromise.  You won’t hear it from them, but now they’re terrified.  Why else would they move to make it harder for the other side to vote, as they’ve successfully moved in any state where they’re politically in charge?

My church, the Catholic Church, is probably a good example of the quandary.  (Four of the five Justices who threw out Roe v Wade are Catholics.) In the years of this battle, in which the Catholic hierarchy has been at the forefront, the actual church membership has been divided in opinion, and the Church has lost many, both in terms of members and support.  None of this it would admit, but there are fewer in the pews, and probably less in the collection plate.  For the time being, the slack can be taken by wealthy conservatives, but that doesn’t last.

I see this, first hand.  I’ll be in church tomorrow morning.  I see it each time I go.

I am pro-choice, and I respect life deeply.  I think I am typical among those I know who are similarly pro-choice.


In the short and long term it is unproductive to everyone to lurch from one side winning, to the other – it just becomes a constant losing narrative for both.

In the short term, regardless of your partisan preference, there is probably no choice other than to work to elect the more moderate people to office at all levels.  To do this, not only do you have to vote, but to vote for the most moderate candidate.  It is probably the only way to get back some equilibrium.  Absent that, we will all have problems ongoing.  We will all lose.

POSTNOTE: At Basilica on Sunday there was not one word about the Supreme Court ruling.  Of course, the ruling was only two days earlier.  I expect more in the Diocesan newspaper (not on-line) about the official church spin.  I get the newspaper, and when it comes, I’ll pdf the article and post it here.  This may be as soon as Wednesday.


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