At long last, Roe v. Wade has fallen. The decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which also overturns Planned Parenthood v. Casey, is an astonishing victory for pro-lifers who have worked for decades to help vulnerable women and families and to help the surrounding culture understand the need for justice for the most vulnerable human beings of all: our prenatal children.
The moment is so consequential that it will take time, perhaps years, to grasp its implications for our country. But one thing that comes to mind is all the pro-life warriors (especially figures like Pope Saint John Paul II) who have gone before us and never got to see this day. Let us remember that this victory is the result of a multi-generational quest for justice.
In some ways, this is just the end of the beginning of that quest. Pro-lifers have much more to do, and much of it will involve correcting disinformation about what this ruling actually means. Here are the top ten pieces of misinformation that will need correcting now that Dobbs has been decided and published.
1. The Dobbs decision bans abortion.
It is precisely because Dobbs doesn’t ban abortion that the pro-life movement has so much difficult work in its future. All the decision does is allow states to form their own policies and laws based on how their own debates play out. Unelected judges will no longer impose their abortion views onto an entire country. Some states, like Texas and Ohio, are likely to have significant laws that will protect prenatal justice. Other states, like California and New Jersey, will respond by trying to expand abortion access. We have much more work to do as a movement to help shape state policies to protect and support both women and their prenatal children.
2. Given that most US Americans support Roe, this decision overturning it is deeply unpopular.
We hear this a lot, but nothing could be further from the truth. The confusion stems from the fact that while many people say they support Roe, most people have very little idea what it says or did. Roe (and a decision which later supported its central holding, Planned Parenthood v. Casey) turned the United States into one of the most extreme countries in the world when it comes to abortion. Indeed, before Dobbs the Washington Post found that we were one of only seven countries which allowed abortion after 20 weeks. Gallup has consistently found that about 70 percent of US Americans actually want abortion banned after 12 weeks. We can’t say for sure, but given that Dobbs will basically allow states to reflect the views of the majority it is likely to be a fairly popular decision.
3. This decision will criminalize the choices of women, especially women who have miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.
This bit of misinformation is an effective talking point because it leans into the trope that pro-lifers don’t care about women. But let’s get one thing 100 percent clear: every single pro-life organization is against criminalizing women for having an abortion. Indeed, the last recorded case of prosecuting a woman for an abortion was in 1922! You may have heard of a recent proposal to criminalize women from a fringe legislator in Louisiana, but that proposal was castigated by pro-lifers everywhere, including by his fellow pro-life legislators and his pro-life governor.
There have been some cases of women being prosecuted for miscarriages, but these cases involved women negligently causing the deaths of their prenatal children by using illegal drugs. They have nothing to do with abortion or the Dobbs case. Care for ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages also have nothing to do with abortion law. Indeed, the hard-core abortion restrictions that exist in some states right now all make exceptions to protect the life of the mother and many explicitly mention care for miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.
4. This decision will lead to bans of other practices related to prenatal life like surrogacy and IVF.
Dobbs has absolutely nothing to do with these or any other matters beyond abortion. While states could (and, in my view, should) strongly regulate these practices so that they respect the dignity of women and of prenatal children, that was perfectly possible even if Roe and Casey had remained in effect. Again, this decision is only about abortion.
5. This decision will lead to a ban on contraception.
This is the most outlandish position of them all. Dobbs has absolutely no bearing on contraception, nor is there any constituency which exists that is trying to ban contraception. There are some who think that the Supreme Court case which made contraception legal was wrongly decided, but every single state in the union strongly supports legalized contraception. And it isn’t close. This is pure scaremongering and an attempt to distract from the issue of abortion. While Catholics see a link between abortion and the contraceptive mentality, they recognize that they are categorically different moral issues.
6. This decision will lead to bans on same-sex marriage and interracial marriage.
I stand corrected. This is the most ludicrous position of them all. Obviously, Dobbs has nothing to say about any marriage. For many decades now, major media have been trying to tie abortion and same-sex marriage together as if they are inherently related issues. But they are not. The only way one could come up with this claim is if somehow the Dobbs decision may lead to other Supreme Court decisions being overturned. But like contraception, there simply is no constituency out there working for this. It is more scaremongering and distraction.
7. This decision makes the US a restrictive and extremist country.
Again, before Dobbs the United States was one of only seven countries which allowed abortion after 20 weeks. It is Roe and Casey that were extreme! Dobbs is not. Indeed, the Mississippi law which brought this case before the Supreme Court restricted abortion at only 15 weeks. Compared to most of very progressive Europe, 15 weeks is actually pretty abortion friendly. Many such countries have thresholds of 12 weeks. Again, Dobbs simply returns abortion policies to the states. There will be a wide range of laws enacted—the average of which will probably put us on par with many European countries.
8. This decision will allow religious people to impose their dogma on those who think differently.
Do we think, in his ultimately successful struggle for civil rights, that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (a Christian moral theologian as well as an activist) was trying to impose his religious dogma on those who think differently? In a sense he was, right? If one cares about justice for the most vulnerable at all then one cares about imposing onto those who think differently. That’s what justice does. But the appeal to the fundamental equal nature of all human beings is obviously not just a religious position. King had many non-Christian allies who also wanted to impose racial justice on those who think differently. We also have many non-Christian allies (especially the wonderful group “Secular Pro-Life”) who also want to impose prenatal justice on those who think differently. This isn’t about imposing religious dogma. This is about upholding basic human rights.
9. This decision is clearly against the interest of economically vulnerable people, especially economically vulnerable people of color.
This is easily refutable just by looking at the numbers from Gallup. People from households making less than $40,000 per year are the most pro-life—while those making over $100,000 are the most in favor of abortion rights. People of color are more pro-life while non-Hispanic whites are more pro-choice. The Dobbs decision actually gives the pro-life views of people of color, and of economically vulnerable people, the chance to actually matter in our coming state-level debates over abortion. It will be interesting to see if those privileged people who claim to want to listen to these “missing voices” do in fact welcome them into the coming abortion debates—or if they will instead try to imposed a white and privileged view of abortion onto economically vulnerable people of color who think very differently.
10. At bottom, this decision is really about men imposing their views on women.
Though there is so ebb and flow to the numbers, in general there is very little difference between men and women in their views on abortion.
Perhaps because men coerce so many women into having abortions that they do not want (intimate partner violence correlates very closely with abortion), some of the strongest supporters of abortion rights are men. Meanwhile, every single major pro-life organization in the United States is led by a woman. Pregnant women know better than almost anyone that there is a living, kicking human being inside of them who is not a “clump of cells”, “part of the woman’s body”, or some other biologically nonsensical claim. They know on a level far more intimate than a man ever could that prenatal children are, in fact, human beings.
And now, with Roe and Casey gone, bringing this objective truth to public debates about abortion could actually lead to prenatal justice. Let us work and pray that it comes to pass.