A pro-life bioethicist reflects on the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade

By Dave Andrusko

I did not know until a colleague informed me today that the Wall Street Journal ran this particular podcast: “Based on his Wall Street Journal Opinion column ‘Free Expression,’ Editor-at-Large Gerry Baker speaks every week with some of the world’s leading writers, influencers and thinkers about a variety of subjects.”

You’d expect the topic this week to be—what else?—The Supreme Court’s historic reversal of the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision. And it was.  Baker interviewed pro-life bioethics expert O. Carter Snead who is director of the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture at the University of Notre Dame and who has spoken at NRLC’s Conventions.

It’s a wonderful read; it’s lengthy and dives into many phases of the abortion issue. We’ll just touch on a couple. If you have time, by all means read “The Dobbs Decision and the Bioethics of Abortion.”

#1. Media coverage of Dobb v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization:

There may be people who are intentionally trying to mislead others. I wouldn’t want to say that, but it’s certainly possible. That number, by the way, that 65 to 67% number also generally tracks the percentage of people who’d said in surveys that they wanted Roe v. Wade to remain the law of the land. They wanted Roe not to be overturned. Now, in many cases, the very same surveys ask people what they think the law and policy of abortion should be in America and, almost without exception, the very same people advocate for positions that Roe v. Wade forbids.

 #2. How radical Roe and Casey were:

Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, taken together, created a regime of abortion on request up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, which is a very unpopular view according to American surveys. It’s an unpopular view if you look around the world. …What the court did effectively in Roe and Casey was to impose on the country a very extreme regime of abortion on request and, even after viability, the court required there to be a health exception that was taken to be very broad, to encompass any aspect of a woman’s wellbeing far beyond serious interest in physical or even emotional health associated with the pregnancy, extended beyond to things like economic health and familial health. So effectively, the American regime on abortion from Roe and Casey was among the most extreme in the world. This came out in oral arguments a couple of years ago.

#3. Having the legislative branch decide abortion law is far superior to a court decision.

So what I suspect is going to happen is people are going to feel they’re very, very distressed right now. A lot of people are. But I think they’re going to find that self-governance is not as frightening as they think it is. Bad laws, if you consider a law to be bad, are a heck of a lot easier to change than bad Supreme Court decisions. I mean it takes decades and decades to try to change the court and to try to elect presidents and senators, including presidents that you might be disgusted by, in order to try to produce this sort of result which, again, is a modest result. The question is going back to the states. And again, I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic to the women in those states where abortion is going to be restricted. I very firmly believe pro-lifers have a special obligation to come to the aid of those women in every way they possibly can. 

#4. What the future may look like:

What I hope happens is that, through the deliberative process of the political branches, people will come to … I know thinking about abortion and talking about abortion is obviously unpleasant and people don’t like doing it, which is why most people have only impressionistic understandings of what the law of abortion is and have intuitive solutions that they support in public interest surveys. But I think we’re going to have to have this conversation about abortion, and I think part of that is going to educate people about what abortion is, what its causes are, but even more specifically, what and who the unborn child is and what and who these mothers in crisis are. I hope that it moves us to a more compassionate posture.