Time to Lower the Heat in the Post-Roe Commentary

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Image by Ryan McGuire from Pixabay

We saw the overturning of Roe v. Wade coming, but it still is a shock. And I think that’s true whichever side of the abortion issue you are on, or even if you are in the “vast disquieted middle.” I have appreciated a few of the opinions that I’ve read and pass on some excerpts from those.

At “The Liberal Patriot” John Halpin’s piece is titled, “The Political Battle Over Abortion Will Never End.” Halpin notes that some thought that overturning Roe and thus sending it back to the states would mean it would be settled there. He views that this as foolishly optimistic. Here’s Halpin’s explanation:

“Americans are about to be at each other’s throats nonstop over abortion for the foreseeable future—fueled by a political system that rewards extremism and punishes majoritarian compromises that reflect the will of most people. Rather than create more democratic harmony and reasoned debate over complex moral and political issues, the conservative mandarins on the Court have just unleashed the worst forces of zealotry and ideological arrogance in America.”

Halpin is right that our political system rewards extremism and dis-incentivizes compromise. So going forward the extremes on both sides are likely in the driver’s seat. This is bad for America.

At “Common Sense” Bari Weiss counseled deep breaths and avoiding social media at least through the weekend. She also said this, which I appreciated:

“There are those who claim that the time for nonviolence has passed. That desperate times call for desperate measures. That we are in a war and in a war [meaning] the normal rules of politics must be suspended. These are the same people who turn a blind eye to—or justify—those threatening the lives of Supreme Court justices with whom they disagree. The same people who, in another time, justified violence against abortion providers.

“We could not disagree more strongly with this view.

“We know that it’s chic these days to write off virtues like civility and decency and humility and grace. We believe those things are the only way forward. That the only alternative to violence is persuasion and argument.”

Writing in The New York TimesRoss Douthat, sees the SCOTUS decision as a beginning more than an ending. He makes the point that the pro-life movement is seen by its critics as harsh, punitive, and patriarchal — in all the worst ways. That movement will now have to prove that it does care not only about the unborn, but about women at risk, about poor women, and about children after they are born. In other words, will the pro-life movement prove humane or harsh? Douthat continues:

“. . . the pro-life movement’s many critics regard it as not merely conservative but as an embodiment of reaction at its worst — punitive and cruel and patriarchal, piling burdens on poor women and doing nothing to relieve them, putting unborn life ahead of the lives and health of women while pretending to hold them equal.

“To win the long-term battle, to persuade the country’s vast disquieted middle, abortion opponents need models that prove this critique wrong. They need to show how abortion restrictions are compatible with the goods that abortion advocates accuse them of compromising — the health of the poorest women, the flourishing of their children, the dignity of motherhood even when it comes unexpectedly or amid great difficulty.”

Given that much of the recent anti-abortion legislation is harsh and punitive, it’s hard to be optimistic about the issues Douthat raises.

I concede that there is lots and lots of commentary out there, much of it very heated and very alarmist. The fundraising emails are coming fast and furious. I’ve chosen not to amplify the incendiary, but to pass along some observations that seem to me more considered. We will need such voices in the days ahead.

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Tony is a writer, teacher, speaker and ordained minister (United Church of Christ). He served as Senior Minister of Seattle’s Plymouth Congregational Church for fourteen years. His newest book is Useful Wisdom: Letters to Young (and not so young) Ministers. He divides his time between Seattle and a cabin in Wallowa County of northeastern Oregon. If you’d like to know more or receive his regular blogs in your email, go to his site listed above to sign-up.

11 COMMENTS

  1. It is hard to be optimistic, true.
    But to lower the heat because it’s uncomfortable for you? Because you prefer to go slowly, and take-a-think? Wouldn’t that just be so nice for you.

    Just head off to the cabin already.

  2. “We know that it’s chic these days to write off virtues like civility and decency and humility and grace. We believe those things are the only way forward. That the only alternative to violence is persuasion and argument.”

    And how has that worked out so far? And yeah, men need to take a deep breath and step away.

    • Is abortion murder? Well, clearly it isn’t if you look at state and federal government action for the last 50 years. If it were, there would be many people in jail. The Catholic Church doesn’t even recognize even a stillborn baby for baptism because it never took a breath outside of its mother.

      As someone who has had children, I understand what it means to carry a child. But I also know that a clump of cells is a lifeform but not a person. It’s certainly not a baby. If you abort that lifeform, yes, you are stopping it from continuing its growth but is that murder? That’s a hard question to answer as a society.

      So it might appear that the belief that abortion is murder is based on personal and/or religious belief. Neither fits with making law.

      Something else to ponder. Without doubt, there are absolutely millions and millions more religious people in the U.S. than there are atheists or agnostics. So if you think that religion can/should prevent women from getting abortions, how do we explain how there are millions and millions of abortions every year? It would seem that there may be some who say, “Abortion for me but not for thee.”

  3. Dear Anthony:

    Maggie Corrigan speaks for me.

    Dear Phil Lofurno:

    Women, and not you, will tell us what the debate should be about.

  4. If we are going to have a respectful conversation about Roe v. Wade, would you please read the op ed which the Seattle Times reprinted on July 4th? The title is: “After Roe, architect of Texas abortion law sets sights on gay marriage and more.”

    To paraphrase, the “architect” of the Texas abortion law persuaded the majority of the Supreme Court majority that IF pregnant American women, same sex couples, and LGBQ people are to enjoy real and lasting civil rights (no matter what state they reside in) THEN Congress must:

    a) Stop using court precedents to extend rights which aren’t explicitly named in the Constitution; and instead
    B) Pass amendments to the US Constitution which explicitly confer those rights.

    My questions are: “Why?” “Is that really true?” and “Does it follow that the rights of corporations (which also depend heavily on legal precedent) must ALSO be enshrined in the Constitution in order to be deemed real and lasting?”

    I’m under the impression that passing an amendment to the Constitution is really difficult — but attacking the legal precedents which extend rights to people (or corporations) who didn’t have those rights when the Constitution was first written…. is comparatively easy.

    Let’s suppose that Mitchell’s friend is RIGHT when he claims that Mitchell “deeply thoughtful” and “moral,” a man lacking even one “unkind cell in his body.” Does he believe that Congress will reach consensus on this issue – and add much-needed amendments to our Constitution 6 months from now? How about 6 years from now? Does he believe that Congress will fund alternatives to abortion which most women perceive of as superior to abortion? How many deaths from unsafe abortions, infertilities from unsafe abortions, and lawsuits against women who seek illegal abortions will it take before Congress passes ANY rights-related amendment to the Constitution, let alone an amendment which is truly an improvement on the status quo?

    This (upsetting) op ed ends with the following assertion:

    “Just six years ago, at the time of Antonin Scalia’s death, the majority of Supreme Court justices adhered to an interpretation of the Constitution that looked at it as a living document and relied more on precedent. But the court has shifted and become more receptive to textualist arguments — even liberal justice Elena Kagan recently declared, “we’re all textualists now.”

    Other democracies lost important rights in a very short period of time. Is it our turn now? I feel considerable despair. I assume I’m not alone in that.

    Question for the Seattle Times: “Were Judge Kagan’s observation taken out of context?”

  5. Edit: After doing more reading about the Supreme Court decision, is it correct to assume that a nation-wide right to abortion on demand would require a Constitutional amendment – because another life is at stake. However, people seeking nation-wide rights like same sex marriage and LGBQ rights could achieve that objective with a law passed by Congress.

  6. I don’t think now is the time for women to put their white gloves back on….and how come it’s always women’s issues that bring calls for “grace” and “civility”. I didn’t hear many voices counseling caution when Putin launched his first attacks, when gun violence took yet another round of school children’s lives. Do I sound angry? Do I make you uncomfortable? Very well.Call me angry. And furthermore, consider me as raising the alarm,..this WILL cause needless deaths. Yes, the poorest families will suffer.

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