The Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe V. Wade, the landmark ruling on abortion, came down yesterday. Anti-abortion groups have been actively working toward this day for the past 50 years. As a Catholic, I should be celebrating a victory for life as the Church sees it. But I cannot celebrate when the decision means that countless children will be born into poverty and a bleak future. I can’t be happy that victims of rape may be forced to carry the child of their attackers. And I’m troubled considering all the women who will risk their lives getting illegal abortions in states where it is banned.
Because make no mistake: women will continue to have abortions. Wealthy ones will find ways to have their doctors perform the procedure for them. But poor women, already at risk in a country that struggles to provide adequate health care for them, are likely to choose dangerous methods to rid themselves of an unwanted pregnancy – just as they did in the years before Roe V. Wade gave women autonomy over their bodies.
Let me be clear. I am personally opposed to abortion. I adhere to the Catholic Church’s stance that life begins at conception and that every life is precious. But my religious beliefs should not form the basis of public policy. In the past 30 years, Christian groups have made inroads into laws and government regulations as our highest court in the land has moved toward the Right. Public funding for abortion has been banned. Companies have been given the right to deny insurance coverage for contraception to their employees. Religious schools are on the brink of receiving taxpayer money. But let’s be real. These encroachments upon the separation between church and state have favored Christians, not other religious groups. These policies are a direct assault on the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
The hypocrisy also kills me. At the same time that the Supreme Court is acting to curtail women’s rights, it has affirmed the rights of Americans to carry weapons of death wherever they please. Just weeks after 19 schoolchildren were massacred, the Justices saw fit to rule in favor of gun owners. Many of the same people who vehemently oppose abortion vehemently support unfettered access to guns. How can these people say with a straight face that they are “pro life”?
I would love to see a world in which abortion is unnecessary and unknown. Yet many religious groups oppose contraception, which over the past decades has caused a dramatic drop in the number of abortions. The Catholic Church often talks about the “greater evil” in matters of morality. Clearly the greater evil for Catholics is abortion. Why not, then, support women’s access to reliable means of controlling the number of children they have?
Women have made great inroads in society since the advent of legalized abortion and contraception. Their ability to decide when to have children and how many to have has been key to their success in the workforce and in positions of power. Yesterday’s ruling endangers the progress of half of the U.S. population. Is that really the legacy we want to pass down to our daughters?