4 Predictions if Roe Falls

4 Predictions if Roe Falls May 4, 2022

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Let me be the first to say it loudly and proudly: I was wrong. For years, I was Puddleglum. I was a pessimist. I just assumed this would never actually happen. Yet here we are. Like many of you, I was on Twitter when the news leaked that SCOTUS may be poised to overturn Roe. And like many of you, it took me a while to go to bed thereafter.

The buzz was like nothing I’ve seen in all my years of political awareness. I stayed awake for a couple hours of it, but other friends stayed up longer. I drifted into a Twitter Space, scrolled for fresh hot takes, retweeted quality memes, and watched piping hot clips of people I knew getting swept up in crowds outside SCOTUS. Reporting from the scene, writing friend Grayson Quay called it “a night of pro-life jubilation.” Not that everyone was jubilant. Quite the contrary. As he memorably describes the scene, “I felt like I was in Times Square on V-J Day, but everybody there was pissed that we’d won World War Two. I dipped my wife for a long kiss anyway.” (The whole thing is great. Read it!) Another friend on the ground got cut off from a group outside SCOTUS along with his brother. They found themselves at the center of a screaming mini-mob, who told him among other things to “get a vasectomy.” (You can watch how patiently he kept his cool here.)

Meanwhile, a motley crew of unlikely pro-life activists struck up a song together, including Lauren Handy, who recently made headlines for keeping rescued fetal remains in her apartment. (You can read my defense of Lauren at my Substack here.) Randall Terry, of Operation Rescue fame, strummed a guitar and belted it out along with them. It was strange, yet fascinating to see perhaps America’s most notorious right-wing pro-life activist dancing on the grave of Roe with activists who waved signs like “LGBT Democrats Standing For Life.” It was also strange to feel myself in that moment more identified with such a crew than with establishment conservatives like Tim Keller, whose most recent foray into Twitter politics backfired dramatically when he claimed abortion reform was just as debatable as tax reform. As many have now pointed out, it is the height of irony that he should have chosen such a time for such a thread. Tim Keller, we hardly knew ye. I did a satirical roast here, but I also have further serious thoughts on this which are worth an article unto itself. Stay tuned.

It will be a while until we know for certain what this leak finally signifies. But the now-confirmed opinion itself appears to be worth many an uncorked champagne bottle if it ends up being what it looks like. For now, I won’t get into the whole sub-discussion that’s sprung up around the bit where Alito tries to do the “please take note that this isn’t supposed to apply to anything besides abortion” two-step. The short version of my take there is that the leftist alarmists aren’t wrong, and the same reasoning does apply to things like Obergefell. In principle, one can no more find an enumerated right to gay marriage than to abortion in the 14th Amendment. But in practice, I think it’s moot, because public opinion is far less likely to shift on the former than on the latter, for all sorts of reasons.

Many takes are being whipped up on this historic moment as we speak, by people much more qualified than I to parse it all. Still, not to be left out, allow me to put out four predictions—one neutral, one downbeat and two upbeat.

1.  The Republican Presidential Vote Will Splinter

Let’s start with an easy one. A worthy Republican presidential candidate may yet rise who naturally commands a unified voting base. But if Roe falls, he will have to work much harder to earn such a base. “But SCOTUS!” is no longer going to work as a safety net for otherwise unqualified candidates. Going forward, we can expect to see much more voter spread among third-party alternatives, without constant pressure from Republican voters to pick the lesser of two evils. All the better, I say! For far too long, voters on both sides have concentrated far too much energy, attention and hope into this one federal office. If abortion law is returned to the states, it will retrain people to localize their focus and shift more of that energy to state and city races. Great!

2. Protestant Church Divisions Will Worsen

This is the real downer. If you think the Big Eva Wars have been ugly, brace yourself, because I think they’re about to get even uglier. Why? A few reasons. For one, I can predict some churches and parachurch outfits might further normalize a Democrat vote for evangelicals, especially in the presidential cycle. Maybe not to the point of insisting that a Democrat vote is “the Christian vote,” but just doing more of “good Christians can disagree…,” “presenting two views on…,” etc. Post-Roe, voices already looking for reasons to dunk on normie pew-sitters will be able to say, “You can’t even say ‘But SCOTUS!’ now.” Expect some more big names to become comfortable personally declaring for a Democrat in the future.

Related, fiscal liberals will now feel even more free to rail against fiscal conservatives for not being “really pro-life.” Which, in case it needs to be said, has always been ridiculous. Yes, it is true that more children are going to be born into vulnerable situations as mothers without means lose easy access to abortion. No, it is not true that radical government aid expansion is the obvious universal long-term Solution. Of course there’s room for reform. The costs of adoption are obscenely high, for one thing. But it’s not inhumane to hesitate over fiscal propositions whose cumulative long-term effect on the economy could leave future babies and mothers in even worse shape. This is just one more variation on the theme of “Fiscal conservatives don’t really care about the poor.” It’s an old theme, it’s a tired theme, and conservatives should go on ignoring it. Don’t be held emotionally hostage. Don’t feed the trolls. Do, however, consider upping your donations to the many crisis pregnancy centers, churches, and other private charity groups already doing yeoman’s work in this area. And if such donations aren’t already part of your charity budget, assuming you have one, make them so.

On which note, may I say it’s been more than a little irksome to see the “Now is the time for Christians to show they care about pregnant women” takes floating around? I can somewhat forgive this sort of talk coming from a church outsider who’s had no sustained community contact with healthy, normal Christian conservative folk. I don’t forgive it from church insiders. I can only conclude that the people dropping these piping hot takes were either literally born yesterday or are just acting like it. The informed way to frame this sort of thing would be something like, “Hey Christians, don’t stop that good work you’ve already been faithfully doing lo these many decades as you adopt children, house and provide for mothers, and keep cupboards full at your local Loaves and Fishes! Keep the momentum going! More of the same, saints!” Something like that. That would be great.

Lastly, lest I be accused of only punching left in all this, let me pause for a word to my right: I am concerned that some conservative Christians may contribute to this widening rift by needlessly going after anyone who didn’t pull for Trump in 2016 and/or 2020, just because they didn’t pull for Trump. I understand that many of you are feeling an adrenaline surge right now. You feel vindicated, you feel euphoric, and you want to stick it to the people who told you that you couldn’t be a faithful Christian while voting for Trump. I get it. But, by the same token, don’t throw away this opportunity for unity with all your fellow pro-lifers who simply have a different philosophy of voting. Not all of us who chose not to vote Trump are the David French variety of non-Trump voter. We simply take a different approach to casting a vote—an approach that goes beyond consequentialism to consider the intrinsic meaning of a vote qua expression of support. Some of us looked at the choices and decided we would pass, the same way some of us had in previous elections long before Trump ever thought about running for president. This didn’t mean we weren’t hoping Roe would be overturned, and it doesn’t make us any less thrilled now that the dream seems to be on the edge of reality. It just makes us different. We won’t give you a hard time if you won’t give us a hard time. Deal?

And while I may catch flak for this, I actually understood what Karen Swallow Prior meant in the thread that’s been circulating where people tried to push her to admit that voting for Trump was the right thing to do. I’m not saying that she worded it in the most helpful way, with the unspoken implication that all Trump voters were de facto less principled than she is. I just thought the initial chivvying was still inappropriate, and subsequent suggestions that she’s not actually pro-life were misplaced. This is the sort of thing I’m concerned about. If you were convinced at the time that there would be something intrinsically false to your conscience about voting for Trump, there’s no need to publicly repudiate your former self the way Rod Dreher did in his recent article. And I still like Rod, for the record. I would just encourage him to speak only for himself and let the rest of us decide if we’re content with our choices or not. Some of us still are.

3. The Radical Left Will Keep Losing Sympathy

Moving now from the Church to the world outside, an interesting phenomenon is developing in certain “anti-woke” corners thereof. People who have expressed “the party left me” disillusionment with the far left have by and large been saying…well, not much of anything about all this. I’m not the only one who’s noticed. Look at this lament by far-left commentator Alan Levinowitz: “it’s truly remarkable to me (and a little infuriating, not going to lie) watching the most prominent ‘hey I’m just a standard 2008 liberal watching my party get hijacked by kooky progressives’ remain completely silent on Roe, or, still worse, suddenly discover they aren’t into it.” I mean, there’s…a lot there. Also worthy of its own post. As I look at the explanations such progressives have given for themselves, like this representative tweet by Bret Weinstein, it seems that leftist rage-crying over the fall of Roe will only push them further away. In their eyes, leftists lost the authority to talk about women’s bodies when they pretended we couldn’t even define what a woman is, and they likewise lost the authority to scream “My body, my choice!” when they rammed through vaccine mandates.

These assessments make sense at a certain basic level of analysis, and it’s always satisfying to watch one’s enemies shoot themselves in the foot with their hypocrisy. But naturally, I would invite these disaffected liberals to go deeper. This represents a hopeful opportunity for conservatives to make their case as invitingly as possible, as well as pointing out the through-lines in leftist thought across multiple issues. Next time somebody wags a finger at you with a “The world is watching!” it’s worth asking, “Which part of the world are we talking about?”

4. Babies—And Their Mothers—Will Be Saved

Let’s end on a high note: If this is really happening, then a lot of babies are going to make it out of the womb alive who otherwise wouldn’t have. Lack of easy abortion access saved them in the past, and it will save them in the future. On Twitter, I had a tweet “do numbers” that shared a little bit about what this means to me personally: My mother was adopted after her bio mom chose life in a pre-Roe world (despite the fact that, ironically, they have polar opposite views on abortion rights to this day). A few followers shared similarly in replies. Aside from the intrinsic moral wrongness of enshrining abortion rights in law, it is simply a lie that most women without abortion access are just going to do it anyway by some back-alley means.

We really need to remember just how deeply ambivalent so many pregnant mothers are as they stand on the edge of this choice. Even a small, subtle shift can nudge them one way or the other over the borderline. Even a couple more days to think it over can be enough.

Babies will be saved. And so will the hearts, minds and souls of their mothers. That’s worth getting excited about.

So let’s pray harder. And if we get what we pray for, let’s do this.


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