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Betsy Kneepkens: Dobbs case is just the start when it comes to pro-life work

Probably one of the more impactful pieces of modern-day abortion legislation is currently being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The expectation is that the high court will render a decision on Dobbs v. Jackson in June of this year. This case questions the constitutionality of a 15-week and beyond abortion ban signed into law in Mississippi in 2018. Many pro-abortion advocates believe the court’s decision will weaken or overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 court ruling that struck down states’ restrictions on abortion. The Roe v. Wade decision made abortion laws a federal and not a state issue. 

Betsy Kneepkens
Betsy Kneepkens
Faith and Family

For pro-life advocates, a favorable result of Dobbs v. Jackson would be to allow states to govern abortion restrictions. Unfortunately, this change will not end abortion in this country. Still, it will give each state the right to regulate abortion according to what the state populace considers socially and morally acceptable. 

As Catholics, this matter is of premier importance because the outcome allows varying states to make laws that have the potential to respect and dignify the most precious gift God created, the human person. This high court decision can allow states to extend dignity to individuals no matter the person’s size, circumstance, or condition. This ruling has the potential to better achieve what the Declaration of Independence sought from the beginning: “that all men (persons) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” The Dobbs v. Jackson ruling can, in many ways, not all ways, be a game-changer that has the possibility to correct an inconceivable wrong, a brutal period in our country’s history when an unborn life’s survival is dependent on the cooperation of its mother. 

Suppose the decision is favorable and reflects the hope of pro-life individuals. In that case, it will be essential to gear up for the not-too-surprising media barrage poisoning the electorate to believe the court’s decision is evil. Media around the country have already started sending messages. If and when Roe v. Wade is overturned, we can expect a journalistic narrative that suggests an impending societal collapse. 

For instance, Newsweek was already at it with the headline “Texas Abortion Law Prompts Taliban Comparisons” or USA Today proclaiming “Oklahoma’s Abortion Law would be the Most ‘Cruel’ yet for Women.” An MSNBC contributor said, “Texas’s new pro-life law makes women into escaped slaves.” Recent journalism history would suggest the current media warfare is a mild reaction compared to what we can expect after the Dobbs v. Jackson decision. The individual testimonies of the absolute worst-case scenario will likely come next. I surmise those citizens who believe life has a right to exist, thrive, and survive from conception to natural death will be portrayed as selfish, misogynist, and uncompassionate. 

As Catholics, the response to Dobbs v. Jackson should be the same whether this decision is favorable or not. A more significant problem and equally serious is that we live in a society where a woman believes the best course of action in a difficult situation is to end the life in her womb. The notion that this is even a solution is beyond disheartening. We can rejoice if the decision is favorable and be highly disappointed if the ruling is unfavorable. However, we have lots of work to do as a faith community. Catholics must create a culture where no mother, father, friend, or relative would even conceive of having a life in a mother’s womb ended intentionally, even if we are called horrible adjectives. 

A Supreme Court decision will not solve the end of abortion. I believe society needs to learn to recognize personhood as the apex of creation and treat it as such. Women must begin claiming and proclaiming the logical reality that our Creator specifically chose females to be the vessel under which his generative master plan is fulfilled. When we acknowledge that the female species was formed bodily and, in their nature, to value his master plan, we can easily appreciate God’s hope that we would accept our co-creative role. God’s all-powerful wisdom entrusted women to be the greater caretaker and, therefore, collectively, we ought to be the most ardent preservers of his children in the womb. 

Sadly, using our free will, females have largely failed God’s initiative. If we genuinely comprehended the gift God entrusted to us, all women would be saying, “not on my watch” will I allow abortion to exist. As Catholics, we need to work tirelessly to create a culture where the concept of abortion becomes the most despicable deed. Mothers’ needs should not be dependent on our current system of volunteer organizations like crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes. 

Instead, all government, commercial, and faith institutions must be called out to support life. Marriage must again be the institution by which children are conceived and reared. And until we have the family restored, fathers need to be connected to their offspring from the time of conception and accountable for their child’s protection, stability, and needs until their children reach adulthood. Adoption must become every parent’s reasonable and loving act in an unsolvable situation and call out that act of love as heroic. 

The Supreme Court’s decision on Dobbs v. Jackson may be the last legal chance this century to move the abortion ruling back to the states. If that happens, we should all be glad that those decisions are now going to be made closer to home. We need to remember we are nowhere near done with the abortion issue. 

As a society seeking the rightful dignity of the human person, we must work so that eventually, the law to preserve the rights of the unborn is not necessary because respecting life in the womb would be expected. This principle is a lofty goal for us Catholics but a responsibility we owe to our Creator. We might have a boost from the Supreme Court next month, but we still have our work cut out for ourselves. Pray for the favorable outcome of Dobbs v. Jackson. 

Betsy Kneepkens is director of the Office of Marriage, Family, and Life for the Diocese of Duluth and a mother of six.