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Opinion: With the end of Roe, America must build an infrastructure of life

Abortion opponents are celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade today. But tomorrow, the work starts

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Anti-abortion protesters celebrate following the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade outside of the Supreme Court in Washington.

Anti-abortion protesters celebrate following Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, federally protected right to abortion, outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022.

Gemunu Amarasinghe, Associated Press

The most important work of the anti-abortion movement may be what lies ahead in a post-Roe America. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial for people of faith and good conscience to lend a hand in building a renewed infrastructure of life.

The Supreme Court’s decision to return abortion law to the states is the right one, legally and morally, and we hope it will ultimately do what Roe v. Wade never did: calm the debate over one of America’s most divisive issues.

That won’t seem possible initially. The buildup to today’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health included the unprecedented leak of a draft opinion which further inflamed political rancor. And, in the coming days, things could get even worse. There have already been credible threats of violence at crisis pregnancy centers and even churches, as well as threats to the lives of Supreme Court justices. One group has called for a “night of rage” over the decision.

We call for peace, and a renewed focus on the vital work necessary to care for women and their unborn children. It’s time to build an infrastructure of life.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Galatians, the law is a teacher. In a democratic society, laws don’t just reflect a society’s values and norms; they also have the power to shape them — especially when they are moral and just. But the law must also be cradled in a society built to sustain it. The nation has much work yet to do in order to extend sustained support to those who find themselves in a circumstance — economic or otherwise — in which they might consider an elective abortion.

To be clear, the Dobbs decision does not outlaw abortion, but it sends the issue back to states where legislatures and communities can undertake the appropriate democratic processes to create laws that balance interests and align with community values. A majority of citizens today disapprove of elective abortion in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. Americans also see the importance of access to quality reproductive health care for women.

Legislatures are best suited to balance these important community interests. The Dobbs ruling moves abortion laws out of the courts and closer to citizens. The decision nudges the needle toward life, yes, but it also allows for reasonable state measures to hopefully protect the health of pregnant women while permitting abortion procedures in the cases in which the health of the mother is at risk or there are fatal fetal abnormalities or when a pregnancy results from rape or incest.

This new ruling respects life. But the quality of the law now depends on each citizen engaging in a good faith and civil process. And beyond the specific laws passed regarding abortion at the state level, the work of cradling unborn life will largely depend on everyday Americans. 

Abortion opponents are celebrating today, but a sobering responsibility awaits them and the entire country. America needs thoughtful state laws and, equally important, communities that construct an infrastructure of life.  And we need to build it with the help of those who are unhappy with today’s decision, and those who fear it will be harmful to women. Princeton University scholar Robert P. George urged fellow “pro-life friends” to read Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address: “Let us not exult over those of our fellow citizens ... who see the demise of Roe as a disaster. Malice towards none; charity for all.”

No pregnant woman should lack for love, or necessary health care and material assistance in post-Roe America. No father should be left ill-equipped to take on the shared responsibilities of parenting.

The Dobbs ruling is an important moment in this country’s history. American law should protect unborn life. Constitutional law should be guided by the Constitution’s plain meaning. But whether this ruling brings about greater political peace will depend on the nation’s ability to construct and sustain an infrastructure — socially, spiritually, economically and otherwise — that protects all forms of human life.

That work is now more urgent than ever.