by Aimee Murphy
The whole world is reeling at the news of the leaked SCOTUS decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson case. Many anti-abortion people are rejoicing at the news that the Roe and Casey precedents may soon be overturned, allowing states to protect the inherent right of prenatal humans to live free from violence. In their responses, though, many pro-life activists are also calling for a compassionate, rehumanizing response to those who are afraid of what this decision might mean for pregnant people, particularly marginalized women of color, disabled people, and LGBT people. I, for one, have been calling for locally-based change for restorative justice and social supports for years; though I wish that those systems were already changed to address the “demand-side” of abortion, I also acknowledge that legal protections for prenatal humans is a good and necessary step to building an authentic culture of peace and life.*
As supporters of the inherent dignity and right to life of all human beings from womb to tomb, my fellow pro-lifers often call for the abolition of abortion. On our way to achieving that goal, though, we should acknowledge the tragic reality that some people will likely still seek to end the life of their preborn child in times when pregnancy is especially difficult or inconvenient, even after abortion is prohibited by law. In our effort to end abortion, we must never neglect or dehumanize those who have participated in abortions. Therefore, we uphold the dignity of all: preborn children, their parents, and even the abortionists and all others who have contributed to the abortion decision. We must create a new, human-centered paradigm for criminal justice after the offense of abortion, and of a life-affirming reproductive justice to prevent abortion.
I encourage my pro-life friends and colleagues to share a bold proposal for holistic, human-centered restorative justice after abortion with their communities, legislators, and leaders. Punitive, dehumanizing, and vengeful justice within our current retributive model is incongruous with human dignity. As pro-lifers we should understand that our retributive justice system — which only compounds and multiplies trauma and harm — can never be a human-centered, healing response to the communal pain and trauma of abortion. Instead, we need to see holistic, comprehensive community-based care for pregnant people, their prenatal children, and their families. Let's build a world beyond abortion: protect the preborn in the law, and ensure families have the food, housing, childcare, healthcare, living wage, and paid leave to choose life and parent confidently.
I support restorative justice after abortion. I want to see healing for all who have suffered at the hands of the abortion industrial complex and their dehumanizing lies. I want to see healing for those who have chosen abortion and suffered the loss of their own child, or for those who mourn lost siblings, cousins, or other family members. I want to see healing for the clinic workers, the abortionists, and the corporations who participated in abortions, who should be given the space to come to terms with their complicity and openly grieve the children killed and missing today due to the violence of abortion. I want to see a justice system that acknowledges the loss of countless preborn children, helps offenders make restitution for the harm done, and more than anything that works together with families and communities to heal and make abortion unthinkable by providing the resources that will end the “demand” for this violent procedure.
We can build a world without the violent starvation, dismemberment, or poisoning of hundreds of thousands of children each year — and we must. We cannot see a culture of peace while violence still seeps in, touching everyone and perpetuating dehumanization and discrimination against the smallest members of our human family. However, we as pro-lifers must know that overturning Roe is only one step among many that we must accomplish. We have a long road ahead of us, and we must get to work ASAP to make sure that no one ever feels like abortion is their best or only option.
*(Indeed, allowing the violence of abortion in the law is functionally a form of lethal discrimination against prenatal humans, usually based on arbitrary factors like age, ability, and size. Allowing abortion to remain legal because “our culture isn’t ready for preborn children to have their first right recognized and protected in the law” is poor justification, as was the similar argument against the abolition of slavery.)