Everyone is talking about the controversial Supreme Court decision which overturned Roe v. Wade this week, which means that abortion is – even more powerfully – dividing Americans. As shockwaves emanate throughout the culture, David French and I don’t do a deep dive into the legal or political dimensions of the ruling on this week’s Good Faith podcast. Rather, we instead take a look at the social and spiritual dimensions, asking questions like:
- What does this actually mean for abortion in America?
- What are the opportunities and fears now in play?
- How should a pro-life Christian respond to pro-choice friends and family members?
- How should a pro-choice Christian respond to this decision?
- What is the most important move to make now for Christians on both sides?
In the excerpt below, David and I discuss what the decision means legally for our nation as well as what it means morally for us as individuals.
DAVID FRENCH: So, Roe v. Wade, everybody knows by now, is overruled. The issue of abortion is returned to the states. Just to be super precise about what happened, the Supreme Court did not ban abortion. The Supreme Court held that the 14th Amendment of the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion. So, the issue of the legality of abortion is returned to the states and to the elected branches of the federal government, where it has appropriate authority. So, that means — depending on where you live in the United States — your world might not be different at all. So Curtis, you’re in California, this did nothing to change the law in California. Where I live in Tennessee, we have something called a trigger law, which means that once Roe is overturned, a sweeping abortion ban, not a total ban, but sweeping limitations on abortion come into effect. It just really depends on where you are as to what the actual legal impact of the abortion decision will be.
Let’s talk about the way that people are going to be actually thinking about and processing this.
CURTIS CHANG – Maybe this is the pastor in me, but I have friends who are going to respond to this news with a deep visceral fear, alarm, anxiety, and insecurity. That’s a human reality that has to be acknowledged, addressed, and factored into how to respond at every level. Many of our neighbors, friends, and family members are reacting to this with some deep emotional pain. Some listeners – and obviously this depends on what your perspective is – think this is great news and this is a much sought after cultural and legal victory. Of course, some people are going to feel that way. But it’s critical all of us recognize people are feeling very threatened right now – not just because of the abortion issue, but because of the sense the Supreme Court is poised to actually overturn a lot of other treasured sort of rights that have been opened up in the last 30, 40 years… whether it’s same sex marriage, contraception, and other rights. There’s this pervasive sense where I live that other values may be jeopardized. In a divided and incredibly fragile state that we are in as a society right now, as well as in many of our individual relationships, this is yet another stress point on what holds us together.
DAVID FRENCH – One thing I have seen that I don’t like? The sentiment of, “I can’t wait to watch liberals be sad at this.” That says to people that essentially “my opponents are not human beings who’ve arrived at their position out of sort of a sense of real good faith and through a sense of good faith, moral reasoning. Rather they’re malicious and bad individuals, and we should sort of revel in their downfall.” You often see this online: “I am happy when my opponents are sad and the more sad my opponents are, the more happy I become.”
You don’t even really have to explain why that’s a problem, because that’s sort of antithetical to our role as believers in a society and people who love those with whom we disagree. Reveling in their sadness for its own sake is deeply, deeply destructive.
At the same time, it is a mistake to argue that the intensity of the emotion and the anguish around this issue is sort of reason by itself not to take this the legal step. Essentially that means you have an “emotional intensity veto” on legal change. If enough people are just simply angry enough or enough people are emotionally bound to an institution enough, then that by itself results in sort of a status quo as stasis. That is problematic all by itself, because the Roe decision itself was deeply wrenching. The Roe decision itself was something that was incredibly profoundly potent as just a cultural and political hinge point in American history. To say the reverse of that emotional decision is out of bounds because of its intensity but the initiator needs to stay in place, provides a “legal veto” that’s rooted in emotional intensity but not universally or uniformly applied. That’s a real problem. So there’s a good way and a bad way to respond to the profound emotion of the moment. But I think the profound emotion of the moment is not by itself indicative of the wisdom or foolishness of the Supreme Court’s decision itself.
[This excerpt was lightly edited for clarity.]
HOSTS: Curtis Chang and David French
PRODUCER: Kris Carter
The Good Faith podcast comes out every Saturday on The Dispatch. Listen and subscribe here or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Curtis Chang is the founder of Redeeming Babel.
Image Caption: Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) and her lawyer Gloria Allred on the steps of the Supreme Court; WikiCommons