An alternative dialogue in post-Roe America

What’s missing in the polarizing rush to adopt new abortion measures is an emphasis on higher concepts of life and dignity within each individual.

Citizens in Denton, Texas, attend a city council meeting on enforcement of the state's trigger law on abortion, June 28.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision reversing a federal right to abortion has quickly established a blue and red patchwork quilt across the 50 states. Interest groups are turning their attention to statehouses backing measures to protect the procedure, ban it outright, or greatly limit it. Yet there are signs that the ruling may be impelling a shift in how people cast the abortion question – not as a theological, legal, or scientific issue but a call to deepen a recognition of the dignity of both women and the children they choose to bear.

“Building up a community in a culture that values lives means that we need to make abortion unnecessary,” Cherilyn Holloway, founder of the Missouri-based Pro Black Pro Life, told ABC News.

That approach requires compassion toward the vast majority of women who seek an abortion because of their economic or social situation and their ability to raise a child. The majority (85.5%) of women who have abortions are unmarried, many with low-paying work or stigmatized for being pregnant. Nearly half (49%) have family incomes below the federal poverty level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

New public and private initiatives are emerging to support women facing unwanted pregnancies. The measures may not resolve the national debate. Yet at the local level they hint at a possible consensus on ways to lift up the daily lives of women and ease the often-difficult decision of birthing a child. Four bills in Alabama, for instance, would increase tax credits for adoption and mandate that adopting mothers receive the same paid maternity leave allowed to mothers who give birth. Meanwhile, with the future still uncertain on abortion laws, some businesses have offered to relocate or provide abortion-related travel expenses for their employees who live in states where the procedure is banned.

American society is far from a consensus on when human life begins and deserves moral status. In the meantime, that does not prevent a shared recognition of the nonmaterial qualities of life that exist in everyone and can evoke compassion toward women seeking or contemplating abortion.

“We who are a pro-life church have to listen very carefully to the pains of others,” Monsignor Henry Gracz told followers at the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception last Sunday. “Too much of the movement about life or choice has been people at each other’s throats.”

The Supreme Court has overturned its previous rulings on abortion. But one – a 1992 decision known as Planned Parenthood v. Casey – came with this advice: “The destiny of the woman must be shaped to a large extent on her own conception of her spiritual imperatives and her place in society.” Those imperatives have not changed. They still need acknowledgment and support.

The reversal of abortion as a federal constitutional right is now stirring society toward an understanding of what is a right, the kind that expresses individual dignity and is inherent in each person at any stage of human life. Once recognized and supported, it can be fulfilled. A dialogue over that realization may now be underway across the United States.

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