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Three Tasks After Roe

If Roe falls, there will be difficult legal and political struggles, but three other areas will demand our thought, effort, and perseverance—engaging with those on the other side of the argument, developing pro-family policy, and protecting parental rights. In this Featured Collection from the Public Discourse archives, we revisit some excellent articles on these themes.

Those who have worked and prayed and labored for the day when Roe was no longer a stain on the nation are rightly eager that it may soon be overturned. Roe is a stain on the Court, an offense to our Constitutional system, and a moral horror. If the Court corrects this wrong, celebrations are in order. I hope Church bells sing out, psalms of deliverance are sung, horns are blared, holidays declared, and people host festivals their children and grandchildren will remember when old themselves. I have bubbly and fireworks stocked and ready to pop.

Injustice is intolerable; deliverance cause for joy.

And then, back to work. The effort, this long effort for which so many heroic men and women have labored, has merely begun.

We know the political struggle will not abate, either at the national or the state level, for many will attempt to enshrine Roe (or worse) as statute. States, cities, and corporations will become more explicitly pro-choice. Abortion “tourism” and abortion “havens” will flourish, as will mail-order abortifacient providers.

There are miles to go before we sleep. A cliché, but true.

In addition to the legal and political struggles, all of which will be difficult, three other areas demand our thought, effort, and perseverance, or so I suggest, without pretending that these exhaust the list or exclude others. In this Featured Collection from the Public Discourse archives, we revisit some excellent articles on these themes.

First, pro-life individuals and groups will need to augment and expand their work. This is a time to celebrate, but not to rest. Neither is it a time for preening. We cannot sink into a torpor of self-congratulation or obnoxious boasting, and the effort to be good friends and fellow citizens with those who experience the overturning of Roe as incomprehensible or cause of fear will not abate, as ably explored by Julia D. Hejduk in “Seeing beyond Roe.” The right to life includes the responsibility to live with others.

Second, I have some sympathy for abortion supporters who claim the pro-life side is not concerned enough for the welfare of the born. I grant this is often a rhetorical cudgel and used disingenuously as a way to circumvent the central issue. At the same time, I cannot ignore the great difficulties of poverty, the incredible costs of home ownership, student debt, and child-rearing which cause many to fear marrying or starting a family. Our society has very little understanding of, or commitment to, the common good or pro-family policy. The big ideals of “one nation” conservatism which defined some forms of conservative thought are now all but vanished from our imagination, and far too many people believe themselves alone. If we really wish to support life, we’ll need to seriously explore pro-family policy. Of course, we can and will disagree on the details and proposals, so we better start thinking and arguing now. For a start, I recommend Serena Sigillito’s “A Conservative Case for Pro-Family Policy,” Patrick T. Brown’s “Pro-Natalism from the Left,” and David Talcott’s “Pro-Life Welfare is a Bad Idea.” Those with Red Tory sympathies, like myself, who believe in a real polity rather than merely an alliance of individuals, should put our best foot forward in support of the dignity of life in its fulness. The right to life includes the responsibility to care for life.

Third, I believe we are in for a lengthy and difficult struggle for parental rights. Family is the home of tradition, the place where we learn to live beyond ourselves in a story of indebted responsibility to the past and in careful stewardship of the future. Family is where we are formed as proper individuals—neither atoms of libertarianism nor clients of the state. The struggle for family and its proper liberty and responsibility, I believe, is in its early days, and the corporations, think tanks, foundations, elites, and agents of government who supported abortion rights will, I think, be unfriendly to parental rights. The right to life bears with it a responsibility to rear and educate that life, and the rights of parents must be protected, as explained by Robert Clarke and Arthur Goldberg in their respective essays on parental rights.

If Roe falls, cry out with joy, for something wicked and irrational has been overcome; after those days of joy our labor continues.

Thank you for reading Public Discourse.

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