Monday, June 27, 2022

On Human LIfe

In the near-aftermath of the Dobbs decision, it is instructive to look on our recent history and glean some wisdom from it.

In 1968, Pope Paul published an encyclical, Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), in which he set down the Catholic Church's position on contraception's and birth control.  I was 14 years old at the time, and remember the tsunami of emotion that it engendered among the Catholic community.  Birth control was a sin, and good Catholic women looked about for other methods to limit family size.  The '60s were an interesting time.  The Vietnam war had the country divided, the sexual revolution was just kicking off, The Pill had freed women from the immediate threat of pregnancy.  

No one talked of abortion.  It was simply unthinkable.  Unwed pregnancy was a stigma, something no one talked about.  It happened occasionally, and those girls either got married, or moved out of town to have the baby, normally putting it up for adoption.  In 1973, Row cv Wade was decided, and abortion became legal in the US.  It has been hotly debated ever since.  Some states more liberal, some states more conservative, but the debate never really subsided.

Rather than being debated on religious of moral grounds, the debate shifted to the Courts and the legislatures, with the specter of Roe hanging over the arguments.  Abortion was legal, at least in many places.  Roe was decided by nine unelected justices who decided that abortion should be legal.    Many esteemed scholars disagreed, saying that the legal grounds for the decision were flimsy and that the rationale for the decision was flawed.

Now, last week, nine other unelected justices said that the rationale for Roe was flimsy, and the original decision was flawed.  Six of those justices decided to return the debate to the states, to the legislatures, and to the people.  The debate is not yet over, not yet decided, and the aftershocks of the question will continue to rumble across the political landscape.

This debate did not begin in 1973, with Rose, nor in 1968 with Humana Vitae, nor even in 1050 with the interlocution of oral contraceptives.  We have been talking about this for a long time, and the Dobbs decision is simply the latest wrinkle in the fabric of our country.  Perhaps we are forever doomed to argue the question, and I suspect that this question may never be answered by man but should perhaps be left to God.

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