After Roe is gone

Roe v. Wade
Omar Lopez/Unsplash

I graduated from high school the year of the momentous U.S. Supreme Court decision that imagined a right to destroy an unborn human life within an American’s right to privacy. It was a few years later that I became aware of it, and of the horror it celebrated in a nation that regularly claimed the moral high ground among its neighbors.

The years between that awareness and the reversal of Southern Baptists’ advocacy for abortion on demand were the only years I seriously considered leaving the denomination. I have since been an officer of a statewide pro-life group, a columnist who writes more strongly on this subject than nearly any other, and a collaborator with several pro-life groups in Austin that have affected legislation that has, in turn, saved thousands of lives in Texas. For the first time in nearly 50 years, I dare hope that our Supreme Court will repent of Roe v. Wade, returning the right of states to protect its unborn and their mothers. It’s all the buzz among pro-lifers as the 49th anniversary approaches this month.

We imagine an America where preying on young pregnant women for profit is no longer a multi-billion- dollar industry, where our federal government no longer favors anything arguably called “abortion” because they fear being thought of as against women. We imagine a generation where people like George Tiller or Kermit Gosnell are considered mythic monsters rather than actual characters, honored by their neighbors. We might even a imagine a time when sexual abstinence before marriage attains a higher level of respect in our culture. Some things will change if Roe is overturned, many of them really unimaginable.

But some things shouldn’t change. Pro-life advocacy will still be necessary, because young people will still conceive children they can’t care for. The network of volunteers that has arisen in the past 50 years will be needed just as badly, though perhaps by fewer girls. One of the things we discovered since Roe is a group of girls that had formerly disappeared from their high schools if they became pregnant. Some of them were in families that picked up some of the burden for their daughters and nieces, but many were in families unable to help for financial, social and spiritual reasons.

Our pregnancy resource centers originally organized as crisis pregnancy centers aimed at fighting abortion but had to become more than that. As the movement matured, these oases of love and life became places where kids could learn basic life skills, pick up a car seat, and get a case of diapers or baby food. An army of middle-aged women learned to counsel and witness to girls who visited the centers. They became repositories of all sorts of useful information for girls who had not been raised by competent adults. PRC volunteers became those competent adults. Those girls won’t disappear if Roe is gone; the volunteers must not either.

Overturning Roe will dissipate the pro-life struggle back into the states. I can see Texas effectively banning abortion, running Planned Parenthood out of the state because they can no longer make millions (or access public funds) here. That, by the way, will prove what many of us know about Planned Parenthood: this talk about “women’s health” or “reproductive services” has always been a cover for their lucrative abortion product. Remove their ability to sell the one product that makes them profitable and their concern for women will vanish.

But pro-life states like Texas will not necessarily stay that way. Our culture will not become pro-life because we regain the ability to protect unborn life. People will still do whatever they want while avoiding responsibility for their actions. Babies will still be seen by many as a regrettable consequence of sexual liberty. There will be a constant clamor to loosen the laws in the name of freedom. We will need pro-life activists in Texas because lobbyists for abortion will relentlessly chip away at laws protecting babies in the same way pro-lifers chipped away at Roe’s impact over the past decades. Perhaps the tide will be against abortion generally, but that can change, we know that. It will remain important that we have legislators who honor the sanctity of human life, and that we have those who scrutinize proposed legislation with a mind toward a bill’s impact on the rights of unborn persons. Even in Texas.

I continue to pray for the end of Roe v. Wade as the judicially imposed “law” of the land. As I am given opportunity, I will work to that end. Pro-life people are poised to do the right things after Roe is gone because we have built a pro-life infrastructure during America’s dark decades. Our care, our love for our neighbors, must not wane as our nation emerges from its greatest shame.

Gary Ledbetter
Southern Baptist Texan
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