Kathryn Lopez: Light in the darkness

Published 11:55 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2021

There was a prevailing feeling of optimism as I stood outside the Supreme Court with the sun warming us on a brisk late fall day as oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Mississippi abortion case, were to be heard. For those of us who gather outside the Court every January to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade with sorrow, hope was palpable.

If Roe is overturned, that will not be the end of abortion in America, but states like Mississippi and Texas will all but ban it. The bad science of Roe was emphasized by the presence of over 100 doctors and other medical professionals outside the Court. If you were a speaker at the rally, as I was, the process of checking in included a receiving line of doctors in lab coats encouraging us to persevere. Doctors know the violent harm that abortion does to a woman and her child.

Some moments in the oral arguments were tremendously clarifying. Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked ghoulish questions, comparing the real activity and pain an unborn child demonstrates in utero to the jerking reflex of a cadaver.

It was a creepy line of questioning, but I was a bit grateful for it nonetheless. Sotomayor thinks unborn babies are like dead people? What a dark view of life! But that’s what the culture of death does: It poisons our outlook on life in so many respects.

Shortly thereafter, one of the few men who spoke at the Empower Women, Promote Life rally outside the Court, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, held up a sonogram photo of his next grandchild, already clearly a part of his family. This is the reality of life. It is life in the womb — a developing human being, not some clump of inert cells.

Though, these days, sometimes the more radical abortion advocates don’t hide behind euphemisms. Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, has recently encountered protesters who explicitly say “F— the baby,” but without the hyphens. But you don’t have encounter the boldest protester to see that sentiment. It was present during the oral arguments. As arguments were made against the Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, we could hear what a defense of Roe really boils down to: the right to a dead baby.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett drew this out in asking twice about safe-haven laws, on the books in all 50 states. Safe-haven laws were introduced in the early 1990s, when we saw desperate stories of women who would abandon their just-delivered babies in dumpsters. The safe-haven laws allow for the drop-off of an infant at places, such as hospitals, where the baby will be immediately cared for, no questions asked.

Presumably, Barrett asked these questions because it sheds light on what the pro-Roe camp thinks: Giving anything less than three trimesters to a woman in which to choose to kill her baby is forcing parenthood upon her. But she is already a mother while pregnant, and she has the choice to give that child to a family who will raise her. Placing babies in loving homes is not a problem in America. It’s the teenagers in foster care who are the challenge.

The Dobbs oral arguments and the scene outside the Court was a great moment of light in the darkness of a half-century of Roe. Overturning Roe won’t end abortion in America, but it will be more than a small step in setting us on the right course, one in which mothers and babies are welcomed and celebrated rather than thrown away.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review magazine and author. She is also chair of Cardinal Dolan’s pro-life commission in New York. She can be contacted at klopez@nationalreview.com.