As of this writing, it looks very likely that Roe v. Wade will soon be overturned. This was the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized the scourge of abortion in all 50 states. The decision declared that a woman’s right to privacy superseded the state’s interest in life. For that reason, a woman had the right to abort her unborn child and any law that restricted this was declared unconstitutional.
Since that decision, the pro-life movement has been working tirelessly to have this ruling overturned. We have be voting for pro-life candidates that would eventually nominate and confirm pro-life justices to the Supreme Court. By God’s grace, it looks as though that after almost half a century, all of this hard work will pay off in the courts.
To be clear, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, abortion does not become illegal in the US. Instead, abortion laws will default back to each individual state. There are some states like California and New York that will have very permissive abortion laws. And there are other states like South Dakota and Texas that may have very restricted abortion laws.
This is why the pro-life movement does not end with the overturning of Roe.
It is only getting started.
One of the reasons that this Roe was so controversial is that it took the question of abortion out of the hands of the electorate. Now “we the people” will get the chance to make the arguments for and against in the arena of ideas.
But the end goal of the the pro-life movement has never been purely legislative. Even if we win every single argument in every state, making abortion illegal everywhere in this country, we would still not have achieved the goal, nor would it end abortions. A country like Brazil has very severe anti-abortion laws. But according to The International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics, one in five Brazilian women have had abortions.
Does this mean winning a victory of Roe is pointless.
Of course not. The legal victory would be an important step on the journey.
But the real victory is not in changing the law.
It is in changing hearts.
We are called to help create a Culture of Life as described by Pope St. John Paul II. Pro-life legislation should not simply be the end in itself. Instead, it should be the natural outgrowth of a culture that values each human life.
In order to achieve this, we must win the hearts of the people of our culture.
So how do we do this?
I do not think that I have the magic bullet that will fix everything. But in the next few weeks and months, here are some important reminders.
We can do nothing without God. If Roe is overturned, it must be acknowledged that it is by God’s grace alone that He has allowed this victory. Going forward, we have to remember that the power to change hearts is in His hands, not ours. We must continue to turn to Him in prayer, fasting, and adoration, begging for His grace in the fight to save the unborn.
2. Humility in Victory
A very good friend of mine (who is wiser than I am) wrote to me about the possible overturning of Roe and he wrote: “Besides gratitude, magnanimity in victory may be the most important response to this unexpected act of Divine Mercy. It took time and effort to dissuade some people that treating another human being as property was wrong. Getting some to think of the unborn as human beings will also be a challenge.”
Tensions and emotions are already running very hot. When Roe is overturned, there may be a desire on the part of some to take a victory lap. To be sure, it will be a fantastic cause of celebration. But it is important to do so in a way that does not seek to denigrate and humiliate those on the other side of this issue.
We believe with all our hearts that they are in the wrong. But we are all made in God’s image. Our goal is not simply to defeat them in the courts. We want to convert them to the Gospel of Life. As my friend pointed out. This will take time and patience.
While we must be humble about the victory, we must continue to be bold in the defense of life. This may sound like a contradiction, but it is not. As the political rhetoric heats up, there will be a strong pull to compromise our support for the rights of the unborn.
In the beginning, there may be some legislative compromises that improve the current situation. For example, the Catholic Church teaches that abortion is wrong even if that pregnancy is the result of sexual assault. But if there is a law proposed that outlaws all abortion except in those cases, it may be morally permissible to vote for it, since it creates a better situation than what currently exists.
But this must be understood as a temporary measure. Our goal is to see that all life, no matter who it comes into the world, is sacred. There are no disposable people and our intentions on this should never be misunderstood.
Also keep in mind that you do not need to use your faith as a the center of your arguments. Right reason, independent of faith, can show that the murder of unborn children should be abolished. You do not need to begin your arguments by saying, “As a Catholic, I believe…” but rather “As a human being, I believe…”
4. Love and Compassion
The best way to change someone’s heart is to enter into a loving relationship with them. If we want to change the hearts of the pro-abortion supporters, then we have to enter into dialogue with them in a way that does not merely treat them as opponents, but as people.
As a teacher, I have many students who are hostile to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Because of my years of experience and study, I can often come up with tightly logical arguments supporting the defense of the unborn.
However, a strong argument may have the opposite effect on a strongly committed individual. It may cause them to become defensive and dig into their position, even if reason shows them otherwise.
What I have found is that connecting with these students on a human level can be very effective. Please do not misunderstand, I am not suggesting reaching out to people on a personal level as simply a means to an end. The person is the end. We are called to love the person, whether or not they are able to see the truth of the Gospel. We must be committed to care and compassion regardless of the effect it has on this issue.
But with that in mind, if we are going to change people’s hearts, we must reach to them heart-to-heart. We have to love them as they are and where they are. My former bishop said, “Of course you have to meet people where they’re at. Where else would you meet them?”
While not compromising the truth, we should be Christ’s love to those those who are pro-abortion. Even they do not see the value of all human life, we must see the value in their individual lives.
If we can change each individual’s heart, then we will change the entire culture away from a Culture of Death to a Culture of Life.
Copyright 2022, WL Grayson