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How do we respond thoughtfully to the Dobbs opinion?

When rumors of a decision to overturn Roe V Wade surfaced earlier in 2022, I was skeptical. This decision is one pro-life advocates have been hoping, praying for, and advocating for since 1972. But I didn’t think it would happen. (Though I have hoped it would since before I moved to the United States.)

And then it did.

2022’s Court has decided that regulating abortion is the responsibility of the individual states, and falls outside of constitutional rights. The entire decision can be read here. It’s 213 pages, but it’s worth reading to be fully informed.1

Responding to a Big Change

The response to the Court’s opinion has been exactly what you would expect. Roughly 28,834 different “what does it mean” think pieces have been written of varying degrees of helpfulness. Many Christians have shared their happiness over the decision—again, something they had long prayed would happen. Many on the social and political left have shared their lament and anger over the decision. It all amounts to what you’d expect: a lot of stupid and ignorant noise intermingled with many helpful and considerate statements.

Hopefully, what follows falls into that latter category.

As the news unfolded and I had the opportunity to process some of it, there were three concerns that seemed to keep rising to the surface:

  • Why do Christians care so much about abortion?
  • Is celebrating the Dobbs Opinion insensitive?
  • What do we need to do differently in the days ahead?

The sanctity of human life is fundamental to the practice of our faith

Christians have, from literally the beginning of the church, opposed abortion and cared for orphans. God has special care for the vulnerable, and so must we (Deut. 24:17-22; Psalm 68:5; James 1:27). The Didache, one of the earliest compilations of Christian teaching, explicitly condemns abortion. At one point, Christians were apparently so consistent and effective in their belief and practice regarding the sanctity of life that it shamed Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate. It was what we were known for, even by those that hated us.

While I think there are good faith arguments that can—and should—be made about we live up to that value. And in all honesty, I think some of the criticisms against Western Christians by the political left are bang on. They’re right to call out our hypocrisy regarding certain other hot-button social issues, even as we have pursued this one.2 But even when the charge of hypocrisy is valid, it doesn’t change the fact that upholding the sanctity of human life is a fundamental expression of our faith.

Following the Dobbs opinion, it does mean we’ve got a lot of work to do to help people see that pro-life really does mean pro-life, and not just pro-birth. (And yes, I know there are many who have long been doing this.) For me and my house, that means finding good partners to support. We want abortion to be unthinkable in the truest sense. If we’re going to do that, then we need to support the right groups financially and however else God leads.

Thank God with sensitivity

I think it’s appropriate for Christians to thank God for the Supreme Court’s decision. After all, this is a big deal! But as we do, we should be careful that we do so with sensitivity to those around us. Although I’ve seen some chest thumping from the TheoBro crowd,3 I’m grateful that most of the Christians I know have rejoiced humbly, with an awareness not only of our shortcomings, but, more importantly, with a sensitivity to the consciences of others.

When we thank God for this publicly, we need to do so with a sensitivity to the experiences of others. For women in our churches who may have had an abortion at some point in their lives. For women who are concerned that state legislators are going to make ham-fisted laws without consideration to medical practice in order to score points with their base.

So when I speak about this issue, the Dobbs opinion in general and abortion in particular, and when I think about what “should” happen, I want God’s grace to be evident. I don’t have all the answers, and I have limited experiences by virtue of being a man. I don’t want any woman leaving a conversation with me, or leaving a worship gathering at my church, feeling as though she’s been thrown under a bus, especially not on this issue. If the gospel makes the church a safe place for those who are weary and heavy laden, that is what I want people to experience.

We need to stop making assumptions

People are complex, which means life is complex. And one of the worst things we can do when facing the reality of complex situations and people is to make assumptions. So as this weekend’s news unfolded, I wanted to be careful not to assume anything, even with my wife. I wanted to hear her perspective as a woman. As a pro-life woman, yes, but as one who also has legitimate concerns about women’s healthcare in a state whose elected officials may not be the best at following medical advice. For me, it was helpful to listen to her—to ask questions, to see her perspective where I wasn’t always sure we agreed. And that was helpful. It’s part of what informed what I’m even sharing today.

All of us need to do more of this. No matter which side of the debate we sit on, we must stop making assumptions about those around us. Honor their complexities and the complex realities of their lives, even as we hold tight to our convictions. Take a posture that assumes that we could be wrong about something, especially on something as complex as the Dobbs opinion. Try to learn and care for people who aren’t us. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll see the conversation progress to something healthier.

  1. And, by the way, no matter what side of the debate you’re on, you should read the actual decision and not simply the pontificating of people on the Internet. ↩︎
  2. For example, I do believe we need to have a real conversation in the American church about guns. ↩︎
  3. Mostly younger men who should really have their phones and internet access taken away forever. ↩︎
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