Follow the “3Ls” in the aftermath of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
CLEVELAND, JUNE 25 – If you are watching CNN or other cable news channels today, you might feel like you’re seeing “end of the world” news coverage about Friday’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision and today’s protests over it.
Wonder how Americans felt around December 20, 1860? That’s when South Carolina voted to secede from the Union, an inciting incident leading to the Civil War.
His name isn’t prominent in the history books, but Christopher Memminger is in there. He wrote South Carolina’s rationale for leaving the United States, published in late 1860. Memminger later served as the first Treasury Secretary in the Confederate States of America. By historical accounts, Memminger was not a “radical” pro-slavery advocate, even though he owned slaves. One event changed his mind: the November 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln as president.
There are some points which all people, regardless of their beliefs about abortion, should consider in the aftermath of Friday’s Supreme Court decision. In the years leading up to the Civil War, sections of America basically ceased even trying to listen to each other. One example: sales of the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin were banned in many Southern states. Merely possessing the book was a crime in the 1850s South.
Hopefully we would agree that it’s important to keep listening to each other, to engage in discussion and debate, and reason together rather than become more divided. Unless you want to be like Memminger, don’t let history repeat itself.
Here are three “L” words of advice: Learn, Listen and Love
News reports saying that Dobbs v. Jackson is “unprecedented” or “transformational” are simply untrue. The Supreme Court has occasionally got important decisions wrong, only to reverse course later. Here are two powerful examples:
- In 1857, Southerners rejoiced when the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in Stanford v. Dred Scott that the Missouri Compromise, federal law adopted in 1820, was unconstitutional. This decision stopped Congress or the President from restricting slavery in U.S. territories. This ruling also stated that Blacks who were enslaved or whose ancestors were enslaved were not even entitled to legal rights. Scott couldn’t use the courts, according to the Supreme Court.
Of course, the Supreme Court was wrong with this ruling. But it took the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution – as well as the bloodshed of hundreds of thousands of Union soldiers who died in the Civil War — to set the nation on a permanent path of abolishing slavery.
- About 40 years later, in its 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling, SCOTUS decreed that publicly segregated federal and state facilities were legal if they were of equal quality. The effect of this “separate but equal” ruling was a constitutional basis for laws passed in many Southern states that prohibited Blacks from sharing the same schools, buses, and other public facilities as whites. These were known as “Jim Crow” laws. It was legal segregation.
“Separate but equal” lasted for more than 55 years. But in 1954, SCOTUS issued a unanimous ruling in Brown v. Topeka Board of Education that overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, called for integration, and also provided the legal impetus for the Civil Rights movement. Incidentally, hundreds of newspapers and television stations in the South wrote and broadcast stories in 1954 decrying how the Supreme Court had overturned their “sacred constitutional right to separate but equal” rationale for segregation.
It has taken decades to fully implement the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education integration ruling, but the important lesson we take away today is that the Supreme Court can and does change course on monumental matters of life and death and public policy. That’s how courts work.
If you are worried about the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson ruling, perhaps you should read it yourself instead of believing what you see in the news or read in social media or the regular media. You learn much when you analyze a legal ruling, even deducing how the justices reasoned to their decision. Here’s the entire ruling, taken from the U.S. Supreme Court website: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/19-1392_6j37.pdf
One common misconception already being spread is this: Dobbs vs. Jackson didn’t “outlaw” abortion the way that the Dred Scott decision outlawed Blacks slaves from having legal status. This ruling (5-4 on its federal meaning, 6-3 on its meaning in Mississippi) remands (or sends back) decisions about the legality of abortion to the 50 individual states. That means it takes power away from the federal courts and puts it into the hands of the states and people.
Over the next few weeks, here are nine words we could all employ well as we discuss Dobbs v. Jackson: “Can you tell me why you feel that way?” One can post arguments and memes all one wants on Facebook or other social media, but it won’t change another’s point of view. One-on-one conversations can help us all better understand each other, even if we don’t agree.
Good friend Richard Duncan, founding pastor of Cuyahoga Valley Church, points out that the best posture for those believing in the sanctity of human life right, now, should be humbly rejoicing. Colossians 4:5-6 reads like this: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
If there ever was a time to be gracious in speech, to be eager to listen, and to that , it’s now. There will be harmful elements in the United States and in other countries (especially Russia and China) which are going to exploit this SCOTUS ruling to further divide and weaken the U.S. When you engage in the practice of active listening, you gain empathy and become closer.
According to Colorado State University’s global education website, here are some tips:
— Pay attention! Don’t be easily distracted. Put down the phone, take out the ear buds, and make eye contact what they are saying? Don’t think about what you want to say. Focus on what they want you to hear.
— Show that you’re listening. Give small verbal comments like “huh” and “yes” and nod when appropriate. Don’t interrupt, as it can derail the conversation.
— Offer feedback. When the opportunity comes up, offer insightful feedback on what was said. You might simply reflect on your friend’s points, asking follow-up questions, or offering your own perspective. Respond thoughtfully.
— Don’t jump to conclusions! You’re not a mind-reader and neither is the person talking to you. If you find yourself becoming upset about what’s being said, ask for clarification. Give the friend a chance to rephrase or clarify. That way you avoid making unfair assumptions.
With Friday’s injunction lifting the three-year block on the state’s 2019 “Heartbeat Bill,” the Buckeye state is squarely in the bullseye of the inevitable protests unfolding after Jackson v. Dobbs.
Ohioan Bob Hershey has an expert understanding of this. A former director of the Cleveland Pregnancy Center, Hershey has nearly 20 years of experience on the front lines of pro-life ministries.
“It (Jackson v. Dobbs) will mean that men and women will be more desperate than ever to find a quick solution, and we all know that quick solutions can be harmful, he says. “Those who find themselves in an unexpected pregnancy need to feel they have a safe place to talk about it.
“It will mean loving them through their decisions,” Hershey adds. “The church can have a greater influence, and we will need to step in and help those that don’t know where to turn.
“For those who oppose our (pro-Life) point of view, I also pray that we are patient and loving toward them, and that we don’t get sidetracked,” he says. “Only talk about what abortion truly is, and then we need to offer compassion, hope, and help to this hurting world.”
It’s Hershey’s desire to see crisis pregnancy centers offering more help to expecting women and their partners, and that they can then find a local church to attend and receive discipleship. This need may become greater now for post-abortive situations as well
“In one important respect nothing has changed. Our mission still is to love God, love others. That stays the same for Christ followers,” he points out. “We’ve just been given more opportunities now to show God’s love.”
ADVICE & RESOURCES FOR MEDIA & OTHERS
Below are a few websites I’ve bookmarked for editors, reporters, and other journalists who want to responsibly cover ramifications of Jackson v. Dobbs in the days ahead. One big recommendation: Follow the SPJ Code of Ethics and Poynter’s guidelines on MINIMIZING HARM for all involved. That is the second tenet of the SPJ’s ethics code.
If you want a quick site to see what a variety of polls report, Pew Research has one. Here’s the link: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/06/24/what-the-data-says-about-abortion-in-the-u-s-2/
Crossway, a non-profit publisher, has a plethora of resources, including a free eBook titled “The Case for Life.” Here is the link: https://www.crossway.org/articles/resources-related-to-abortion-and-the-sanctity-of-life/?utm_source=Crossway+Marketing&utm_campaign=b4f76743b3-20220620+General+-+Abortion+Resources&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0275bcaa4b-b4f76743b3-303141957
Some others: www.care-net.org