Give thanks today. Get to work tomorrow.
It’s the prevailing sentiment expressed by Catholics sharing their perspectives on the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
The ruling, handed down on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, June 24, upheld Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, overturned the court’s previous ruling in Roe v. Wade and brought the pro-life cause its most transformative victory since Roe ushered in nationwide abortion on demand in 1973.
“Our work is really just beginning,” said Krys Crawley, director of Life’s Connection, a pregnancy resource center with locations in Mukwonago and Waukesha. “’Praise God,’ was my first reaction. Then I was brought to tears. All of the hard work that so many in the pro-life movement have done has finally gotten us to today. The work has been so hard, so rewarding and so needed. We fought to get to today but we have still more work to do.”
“Roe is done. That is reason to rejoice,” said Dr. James Linn, M.D., a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist in group practice at Columbia St. Mary’s in Milwaukee. “We still need to change hearts and minds to make abortion unthinkable. We need to help prevent or change the situations that lead women to seek abortions. We need to redouble our efforts in all of these areas of pro-life action however we can.”
For Gina Loehr, Fond du Lac area mother of six, author and retreat leader, the day was an answer to many prayers.
“God has done the ‘impossible,’ which should not come as a surprise: it was in a revelation about unexpected pregnancies that the Angel Gabriel said, ‘Nothing shall be impossible for God,’” she said. “What a sign of hope for our praying, faithful Church; what a restoration of justice for the oppressed here in the United States; what an affirmation of the values of the majority of Wisconsinites who believe that all lives matter.”
“We have longed for the day when no more babies die and no more mothers cry. The blood of the more than 550,000 aborted Wisconsin babies cries to heaven for justice,” said Dan Miller, state director of Pro-Life Wisconsin. “Nothing will stand in our way to see that abortion ends in Wisconsin. Victory for the rights of the preborn is quite literally in the hands of our state legislature and governor.”
The atmosphere was joyful for staff and volunteers at both locations of the Women’s Care Center in Milwaukee. Executive Director Sheryl Laird said she did not think she would see the end of Roe v. Wade in her lifetime.
“We look at it like this is a moment for humankind. This is amazing. We will just continue with such great humility for all the people who have worked toward this, in our legislature and those in the pro-life movement,” Laird said. “We at WCC care so much about helping every woman who comes through our doors who makes the decision for life.”
Dan Zeidler has been working in the pro-life movement since the early 1970s, with a special emphasis on ministry to post-abortive mothers and fathers. When he heard the news, there was one place he knew he needed to go — Holy Cross Cemetery, where the remains of victims of abortion have been laid to rest.
“They are the victims of 50 years of abandonment by the Supreme Court Roe decision,” said Zeidler. “These babies should not be here. They should be alive just like you and I are alive, and have a right to life.”
Though the ruling protects life in the womb, its impact could mean greater respect for human life at all stages, said Dcn. Jim Matthias, director of the Respect Life Ministry for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
“If we want the violence and hatred in our streets to end, we need to make sure that all people are viewed as children of God – each endowed with life as a gift from our creator,” he said. “Regardless of the law of the land, we have always fought and will continue to fight to build a culture of life. A culture where the vulnerable, the poor, the stranger, the sick and the least of society are treated with the same respect and dignity as everyone else.”
“We will never respect human dignity at later stages of life if we don’t first respect the lives of innocent babies in the womb,” said Fr. Jacob Strand, pastor at Holy Trinity and St. Michael Parishes in Kewaskum.
Fr. Strand was with his parish’s seminarian, Zachary Galante, when he heard the news of the ruling. The pair immediately headed to church to pray before the Blessed Sacrament and led adorers in singing the Te Deum and Salve Regina.
“It was quite emotional for everyone,” he said, adding that he mentioned the historic ruling in his homily for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Reflecting on a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians — “For freedom Christ set us free” — Fr. Strand pointed out that “this is a reminder that the authentic freedom to which we are called is not merely the capacity to choose, but rather the power to choose what is good.”
“Laws are enacted to encourage us to choose what is good,” he said. “As such, the fact that some states will no longer protect the bad choice of abortion is something to be celebrated.”
For Crawley, the ruling represents a hard-won victory for the pro-life movement, but also signals a challenge to continue the work of supporting a culture of life.
“We have the opportunity for the blinders to come off of these women and the men who are facing a pregnancy they weren’t expecting,” she said. “By going to abortion clinics, these women never hear the truth. We can now provide this important information to those who come to us for help and support that may not have found us before today.”
The demise of Roe is “a huge victory,” said Zeidler, “but it is not the end. It is the beginning of a new phase in the battle to protect and defend life.”
“As extremely important as the reversal of the Roe decision is, recognizing it as a monumental step forward, the pro-life struggle must continue to win minds and hearts, offer help to needy moms, and work for public policies at all levels of government to protect and nourish life,” said Zeidler.
At both locations of the Women’s Care Center, “phones have been ringing off the wall with women calling for services,” said Laird. “Last month, we were up to a 27-percent increase and this month a 30-percent increase.”
Considering the tension among the pro-abortion public and attacks on pregnancy help centers, Laird admitted the WCC had to increase security and pour much of their limited resources into keeping them and the women they serve safe from harm.
“We put in more security cameras and hired more security people to make sure our centers are safe,” she said.
Laird recalled a young woman who was 15 weeks pregnant and had an abortion scheduled for the last week in June. The young mother learned the abortion was canceled and she came into the center in tears and in a state of panic.
“We talked to her and helped her walk through her choices and decisions, and in the end, she chose life and is planning for adoption,” she said. “We are so grateful and so moved with inner joy, and humbled that the brave court could make this decision and now more babies will be born.”
The staff at Life’s Connection is expecting to see a 75 to 100 percent increase in the need for their services, which include pregnancy and STD testing, ultrasounds, pregnancy counseling, parenting classes and material support for families.
“Here, we will be able to help all women who are facing an unexpected pregnancy by giving them healthy options, including parenting and adoption, promoting healthy pregnancies and education while providing free services,” said Crawley. “This will build them up instead of tear them down.”
It will be crucial for Catholics to persist in prayer and efforts to educate themselves and others — to “help all people to value human life through prayer and action.”
“Everyone needs to understand the facts of fetal development from the moment of conception,” she said. “They also need to realize the immense risks of abortion and how it affects women and men emotionally, physically and spiritually for their entire life.”
It is also important for people to remain vigilant against the misinformation surrounding abortion and its relationship to women’s healthcare, said Dr. Linn.
Many abortion proponents have claimed that a lack of federal protection for abortions will translate to increased maternal death in the cases of miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies. This is untrue, said Dr. Linn.
“The treatment of miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies will not be affected by the end of Roe,” he said. Miscarriage care, which often requires the surgical removal or medical induction of a fetus that did not survive, is provided by all OBGYNs and is not the same as abortion services.
“Prior to Roe v. Wade, such treatments were never illegal and they are not going to be illegal now,” he said. Meanwhile, care for ectopic pregnancies, which occur when an embryo implants outside the uterus (usually in the fallopian tube), “is not controversial among Catholic physicians, and has never been illegal prior to Roe v. Wade.”
“I follow Catholic teaching and I have treated ectopic pregnancies at Catholic hospitals for more than 30 years,” said Dr. Linn. “I take care of several of these unfortunate pregnancies every year. Treatment of conditions such as these, that sometimes involve the unintended death of an embryo or fetus, are permitted by double effect reasoning that has been part of Catholic moral teaching at least since the 13th century, when it was put forth by St. Thomas Aquinas.”
Medical conditions that threaten the life of the mother sometimes require the separation of the mother and her unborn child, Dr. Linn explained — these procedures, too, “are not considered abortions in any states.”
“Abortion was illegal in Wisconsin by state law for more than 100 years prior to Roe v. Wade,” he said. “During that time, it was never illegal to treat miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies, and it is not and won’t be now.”
For more information about the mission of Life’s Connection, visit lifesconnection.org.
For more information about the mission of the Women’s Care Center, visit womenscarecenter.org/milwaukee-wisconsin.
For resources on combating misinformation surrounding pro-life healthcare, visit the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologist’s website at aaplog.org/resources/position-statements/.