If anyone thought the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade settled the issue of abortion in America, today’s headlines should convince them that the battle has actually just begun.
On Tuesday, Kansas voters rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed the Republican-controlled legislature to tighten restrictions on abortion or ban the procedure outright. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has signed into law a measure establishing abortion as a constitutional right in his state.
The Justice Department is suing Idaho over that state’s abortion restrictions. And President Biden signed an executive order yesterday intended to make it easier for women seeking abortions to travel between states to obtain access to the procedure.
When the Dobbs decision was handed down in June, like many who responded to the decision, I noted that the battle would now move to the states. And so it has.
Dallas and Austin seek to protect abortion rights
However, I did not foresee a world in which cities and towns within states would take steps to counter abortion rulings made by their state legislatures.
For example, a city council committee in Dallas, Texas, unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday to protect abortion rights in the city by prohibiting the use of city funds to investigate people who get the procedure. Austin has approved similar legislation, called Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone, known (ironically and tragically) as the GRACE Act.
No matter what steps the state of Texas takes to regulate abortion, these cities intend to not enforce them.
Once again we see how the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion continues to divide and polarize our country. George F. Will rightly noted that the ruling “inflamed the issue and embittered our politics,” concluding, “Thus, did the Supreme Court diminish American democracy.” Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg considered Roe v. Wade a “prominent example” of the fact that “doctrinal limbs too swiftly shaped, experience teaches, may prove unstable.”
Crossing a moral chasm
It is inconceivable to me that anyone would choose to have an abortion because they want to experience the procedure. Nothing about an abortion, no matter how it is performed, is enjoyable.
Why, then, are so many abortion advocates so passionate about preserving what they call the “right to choose”? Clearly, the discomfort (and sometimes worse) of abortion is seen as a necessary means to the larger goal of ending a pregnancy.
So is crossing the moral chasm that abortion represents. Some mothers try to convince themselves that their unborn child is only a potential human being (though many concede that the life they are ending is in fact a “child”). But the emotional conflict a mother must feel upon aborting her child is again seen as a necessary means to the desired outcome of ending her pregnancy.
In this sense, elective abortion, while horrifically tragic, is just one example of a larger pattern woven through the entirety of human experience.
Filling “this infinite abyss”
In the garden of Eden, the serpent assured the woman that if she ate the forbidden fruit, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Then, “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” (v. 6a). As a result, “she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (v. 6b).
In short, our first parents chose something they knew God had forbidden (Genesis 2:17) because they wanted to meet a need they did not believe he would meet. From then to now, this has been the essence of temptation.
In the Pensees, Blaise Pascal noted: “All men seek happiness. There are no exceptions. However different the means they employ, they all strive towards this goal.” This “craving” and “helplessness,” he believed, shows that “there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace.”
Man then “tries in vain to fill [this void] with everything around him . . . though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, by God himself.” (For more, see my latest website article, “The life, faith, and death of Vin Scully and our longing for God.”)
“He bestowed on us at once every good”
Think about the last temptation you faced. Did the Enemy not invite you to seek a possession or experience you knew God would not give you? Or did the tempter not suggest a biblically forbidden pathway to a legitimate goal?
In that moment, you had to decide whether to believe that your Father’s “no” is better than temptation’s “yes.” Here’s a way to reframe that moment from the negative to the positive: see temptation as an opportunity to trust God to meet your need in better ways than sin can.
In such times, it helps to judge what God does or does not do by what he has done for us.
If you were condemned to die but I sent one of my sons to be executed in your place, would you ever doubt my love for you? Paul asked, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
Responding to the apostle’s question, St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696–1787) observed: “By giving us his Son, whom he did not spare precisely so that he might spare us, he bestowed on us at once every good: grace, love, and heaven: for all these goods are certainly inferior to the Son.”
In this light, will you trust your Father for “every good” today?