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January 18, 2022

Pro-life Movement at a Crossroads

Dobbs and a Divided Society

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January 22, 2022, marks the forty-ninth anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion in all 50 U.S. states. This term, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the most important abortion case in decades, and could overturn Roe and related cases.

For 50 years, this issue has divided Americans and poisoned our politics, even as prenatal children are denied protection and justice, while women facing unexpected pregnancies are left without the public, social, and material resources that an authentic culture of life would provide.

Catholic principles call for a consistent ethic of life and just laws that protect and promote the life and dignity of each and every person, especially the poor and vulnerable, and regardless of age or stage in life, ability, immigration status, race, religion, gender, or any other factor.

At this watershed moment in our nation’s approach to abortion, the Initiative brought together leaders within the pro-life community to discuss its successes, failures, challenges, and opportunities. The dialogue explored the history of the pro-life movement; the context of this moment and threats to democratic institutions; and how best to ensure that every child is protected in law and welcomed in life, and that women are respected and supported.

This dialogue explored key questions:

  • What is the judicial and policy status quo on abortion in the United States? What is the history here, and how does U.S. policy compare with that of other nations?
  • If the Supreme Court effectively overturns the Roe and Casey decisions in Dobbs, what happens next? How will state legislatures respond? Congress? Pro-life and pro-choice Americans? The U.S. Catholic community?
  • What are our responsibilities as individuals and institutions in preparing for such a decision, and in responding to it in a divided nation in which our democratic institutions have been threatened? How can those who oppose Roe work to persuade those who support it?
  • Where is the pro-life movement today, given the challenges posed by the Biden administration and the legacy of the Trump administration? Are partisanship and broader ideological agendas assets or problems? Is the movement prepared for a post-Roe world?
  • Where is the consistent life ethic today? How do Pope Francis’ words and actions apply here? How can people of faith be consistent and principled in the defense of all lives?
  • What does a pro-life policy agenda look like? How we can ensure that every child is not only protected in law but welcomed in life, and that their mothers and families are supported and assisted? How can people with different views on this issue work together to support and protect vulnerable children and women?

Kim Daniels, co-director of the Initiative, member of the Vatican Dicastery for Communication, and former spokesperson for the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, moderated the conversation.

Resources

View a list of articles, books, podcasts, and other resources for this dialogue.

Photo credit: (Catholic News Association/Katie Yoder)

Participants

Erika Bachiochi

Erika Bachiochi

Erika Bachiochi is a legal scholar specializing in Equal Protection jurisprudence, feminist legal theory, Catholic social teaching, and sexual ethics. She is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and a senior fellow at the Abigail Adams Institute, and her latest book is The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision (2021).

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa

Destiny Herndon-De La Rosa is the president and founder of New Wave Feminists (NWF), a consistent life ethic women's rights organization. NWF’s activism is rooted in building bridges so that communities can serve women, children, and ultimately families, better. They work throughout the United States and are currently building a shelter in Juárez, Mexico, to provide care and support for pregnant migrant mothers at the border.

Gloria Purvis

Gloria Purvis

Gloria Purvis is the host of the Gloria Purvis Podcast at America Media. She is a consultor with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty and served on the National Black Catholic Congress’ Commission on Social Justice, the Maryland Catholic Conference’s Respect for Life Advisory Board, and the Pastoral Council of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams

Daniel Williams is a professor of history at the University of West Georgia where his research focuses on the intersection between politics and religion in modern America. He is the author of Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-life Movement before Roe v. Wade (2016) and The Politics of the Cross: A Christian Alternative to Partisanship (2021).