Because of the upcoming Supreme Court decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, it is likely that most of us will be in a lot more conversations about abortion.
After the oral arguments on the case on December 1, experts on both sides of the abortion debate, analyzing the questions made by the Justices, are predicting that the Court, will either uphold a 2018 Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy (and permit other states to do so), or go further and overturn Roe v. Wade outright, making it possible for states to ban abortion altogether. Either way, if they’re right, the principal forum of abortion debate and law will soon shift, after 49 years, from the Supreme Court to state houses, and from nine unelected justices to regularly-up-for-election state representatives, senators and governors.
That shift means that there will be a lot more consequential discussions happening about abortion policy, not just in state capitals, but in the debates for state offices, and among those who vote.
For the past half-century, abortion has played a major role in electoral politics at various levels, since a candidate’s position on abortion is a bellwether of that candidate’s hierarchy of values. For many officeholders, however, their position on abortion often has been not much more than political virtue signaling to their base or party, since, for the most part, the major decisions had been seized by the courts. Now state legislative debates and decisions are primed to become much more — literally — about life and death.
Similarly for citizens, abortion discussions will go from exchanges of “opinions” that seldom matter little to ultimate decision-making to conversations with far greater responsibility. Over dinner tables, in classrooms, around water coolers, in supermarkets, gyms and community centers, on social media, podcasts, websites and blogs, newspapers, television and radio talk shows, those opinions will be shared, formed, perhaps changed, with greater intensity and potential impact on minds, hearts, elections, public policy and, eventually, wombs.
There will, of course, still be intractable shouting matches on cable news programs involving trained spokesmen sloganeering past each other — a heat — rather than light-producing caricature of what should be taking place for a subject of such sensitivity and importance for women, men and children. But abortion arguments will now increasingly take place among friends and family members, not professional debaters. Some will have strong principles and ideas; others will have mixed and even confused thoughts and feelings, as they seek to get out from under catchphrases and propaganda to understand, evaluate, weigh and prioritize the truths and values involved.
This reopened, public, cross-society discussion on abortion that the Dobbs decision augurs — with vast ramifications at the realm of law and policy, not to mention in individual human lives — is something that faithful Catholics should be ready for.
To be Catholic — as the “Catechism,” the popes, and the U.S. bishops make unambiguously clear, despite the attempt of some prominent Catholic figures to pretend and behave otherwise — is to be Pro-Life. Jesus says that whatever we do to the least of His brothers and sisters we do to Him; to abort anyone, He suggests, is equivalent to aborting Him; to receive a little child in Jesus’ name, on the other hand, is equivalent to embracing Him.
An essential part of the Church’s mission, indeed one of the most important things to proclaiming and advancing the Kingdom of God, is to create a culture in which Jesus Himself is welcomed, loved and adored. That can’t happen when a society facilely permits the image of God in the womb to be blithely desecrated, destroyed and celebrated as a human right.
Catholics in particular, therefore, consistent with our vocation to be salt, light and leaven, must be prepared to engage our family members, friends, neighbors, fellow students, co-workers, teachers, elected representatives, and perhaps even confused co-religionists with effective arguments as the Dobbs decision likely thrusts the debate on abortion to the central place such a discussion on life and death should have in any society dedicated to justice and the pursuit of life, authentic liberty and lasting happiness.
The handbook to get us ready for that engagement is being published today (February 4): Dr. Steven A. Christie’s new book entitled “Speaking for the Unborn: 30-Second Pro-Life Rebuttals to Pro-Choice Arguments” (Emmaus Road, 168 pages, $11.95).
Dr. Christie is a 56-year-old medical doctor and lawyer who with this book becomes an impressive apologist. For the first 35 years of his life he was a self-described “pro-choice liberal” and so believed many of the arguments he now debunks in this work. That conversion, not to mention his medical and legal training as well as his experience as a married father of five, helps to make speaking for the unborn a compelling, clear, compassionate, concise, practical, scientifically accurate, witty, user-friendly and effective training manual. He takes up 65 of the most common and influential pro-choice arguments and, to each, gives one or more convincing rebuttals.
Beyond his timely book, Dr. Christie has created a free website (speakingfortheunborn.com) where he gives a four-part video Pro-Life master class that can be used by individuals, families, Catholic schools and catechetical classes, Pro-Life clubs and more to learn the science, law and commonsense ethics from a non-religious perspective. The website also contains in utero photos, ultrasound images, animations and other helpful resources.
Dr. Christie’s aim is to help us “reveal the truth to those who desperately do not wish to see it, hear it or speak it. And to do so with intelligence, diligence and — perhaps most importantly — compassion.” He’s conscious that up to 25 percent of adult women have suffered an abortion and so frames his arguments with that human reality in mind. He also recognizes that many pro-choicers erroneously suppose that opposition to abortion is merely a religious belief and so he avoids all religious arguments, making the case for being Pro-Life from scientific, pro-woman, social justice, anti-violence and evidence-based starting points.
His approach will help many who are not yet decided about the personal and social ramifications of abortion to learn the strong foundations of Pro-Life convictions. It will also help those who already have firm Pro-Life conclusions to learn sounder and more convincing premises.
I’d love to give a little taste of what he provides.
In response to the “my body, my choice” slogan, Dr. Christie writes, “I fully support the right of a woman to do whatever she wants with her own body. I just don’t believe she has the right to do whatever she wants to someone else’s body. A pregnancy always involves two bodies, sometimes more.”
In response to the argument that Pro-Lifers are just trying to “force their morality” on everyone else, he states, “We all believe in imposing morality, and we do it every day. On critical moral issues — like rape, child abuse, murder, or theft — we never rely on each individual’s personal moral code to best guide his or her actions. We declare to the world that rape and murder are repugnant, immoral, and illegal — and we’ll throw you in prison if you dare to rape or kill! That’s ‘imposing morality’ and we impose it on every single member of society every single day. So let’s not pretend that we don’t believe in imposing morality — every single one of us does.” He continues, “Can you imagine someone saying, ‘I’m personally anti-slavery, but who am I to impose my view on others?’”
For those who claim that abortion is basic women’s health care, he asks, “When did lethally injecting a living unborn child, or tearing it limb from limb and suctioning it from its mother’s womb, become ‘health care?’ Treating the diabetic is health care. Setting a broken bone is health care. Performing open-heart surgery is health care. Killing a living unborn child has nothing to do with health care.” Moreover, he continues, “Nearly 95 percent of all abortions are performed on the healthy babies of healthy mothers. Abortion is not health care.”
Witty throughout, Dr. Christie includes several headlines from the satirical site BabylonBee, which expose, as comedy does better than most other means, the incongruity of pro-choice positions. Similarly he illustrates the humanity of those for whom he is speaking up by various photos of young babies, many with facial expressions precociously fitting for the debate.
His goal in the work is to equip us not necessarily with arguments and approaches that will lead others immediately to wave a white flag, but to get them to say, “I’ve never really thought about it that way before,” which is an indication, he says, of their opening to the truth, a crucial first step — he knows from personal experience — on the path of conversion. As we await Dobbs, Dr. Christie’s excellent new book is a way to help us all think differently. It’s also a means to prepare us — and through our generosity, others, especially the young — to engage in upcoming discussions with greater clarity, confidence and effectiveness.
Anchor columnist Father Roger Landry can be contacted at email@example.com.