What’s at Stake in Dobbs v. Jackson
By Father Jeremy Trowbridge, Spiritual Director of the Life and Evangelization Office
December 16, 2021
Within the Catholic life we have a prioritized focus on dignity and respect that is due to every human life. This awareness is rooted in the life of the Gospel to live and love as Christ has shown us and to acknowledge all human persons as created in the image and likeness of God as Genesis indicates for us. 
As such, our mind and heart connect with the movements of culture as we observe the life of the world. A unique opportunity has presented itself to the highest court in the land when we consider the recent case that has just been submitted to the Supreme Court this past Dec. 1: Dobbs v. Jackson. 
More specifically, the case is called Thomas Dobbs, state health officer of the Mississippi Department of Health v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, an abortion provider within the same state. 
The disparity is between the two focuses upon the law which restricts abortions after viability. This is the specified time that the State of Mississippi has identified as the stage of development wherein a fetus can live outside of the womb of the mother. 
As a quick side note, this designation of viability is negligible in the eyes of Catholic morality as we learn in the Cathecism of the Catholic Church (2270), which says “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person — among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.”
Returning to the case, the Supreme Court justices understand that viability is a key focal point in this case; however, they look to the cases which address abortion. 
Interestingly, the court never addresses abortion directly; rather they consider broader constitutional themes under which abortion could be included. For example, Roe v. Wade centered its decision based upon privacy while Casey v. Planned Parenthood was decided upon autonomy. Both ultimately permitted and protected the atrocity of abortion.
As the oral arguments continued we heard that the central concern of Dobbs moved from the line of viability during the development of the fetus to focus on the topic of abortion itself being a procedure that is not clearly spoken of in the Constitution and as such ought to be considered outside of the competency of the Supreme Court.
If those were to be the case then it would move the discussion of abortion down to the state and local levels where the citizenry across the nation would need to flex their local interests regarding abortion and its availability in their local communities. 
In a practical sense, we will be spectators over the course of the next several months. It is anticipated that Dobbs v. Jackson will not be decided until June, approximately. What this does present for the Catholic family is a long-term opportunity for prayer and deepened awareness. 
We can engage our rosary and Divine Mercy groups to hold this as a highly prioritized intention. We can promote prayer in our adoration chapels and at Mass to bring before the Eucharistic Jesus the deep appeals to move the culture of life forward in our nation. This time gives us an opportunity to invigorate our Respect Life groups in our parishes. 
We can evaluate the needs of our local pregnancy centers and see if there are new ways to assist them and their good work in our communities. 
In short, because this case will be in the national spotlight for the next many months, let us deepen our prayer, and fine tune our talking points and assist in shedding the light of the Gospel upon this topic. After all, our nation’s bishops have identified that “the threat of abortion remains to be the preeminent threat of our time” (Faithful Citizenship, Introductory Letter).
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, in questioning Jackson, raised a consideration which must remain on our radar: “there are two interests at stake ... both the interests of the pregnant woman and the interests of the fetus. ... and the reason this issue is hard, is that you cannot accommodate both interests. You have to pick.”
In his closing argument the representative for Dobbs refers back to Justice Kavanaugh’s recognition, “This is a hard issue. It involves, and I would emphasize, your honor, that, as you said, there are interests here on both sides. There are interests for everyone involved. This is unique for the woman. It’s unique for the unborn child too whose life is at stake in all of these decisions.”
To navigate this path, the Supreme Court has a lot before them. Let us call upon our dear Lord and the intercession of Pope St. John Paul II, Apostle for Life, to pour heaven’s strength upon this issue that all life may be respected and dignified at all times!
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