One giant leap

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Pro-life demonstrators in Washington celebrate outside the US Supreme Court on 24 June as the court overruled the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision. Photo: CNS, Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters
Pro-life demonstrators in Washington celebrate outside the US Supreme Court on 24 June as the court overruled the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion decision. Photo: CNS, Evelyn Hockstein, Reuters

The overturning of Roe v Wade on 24 June is a stunning moment, but it doesn’t mean abortion will go away. What are the lessons for those who believe in the sanctity of human life?

The overturning of Roe v Wade by the US Supreme Court should challenge Australians to move beyond sloganeering on abortion, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP has said.

Roe had “invented a constitutional right and distorted democracy in the process”, he said.

He welcomed the return of decision-making to democratically-elected politicians, saying it may now “put some breaks on the abortion pandemic”.

“I don’t think this was an attack on women or women’s rights. It was, at best, a legal question of who should decide these matters.”

“But I’m not naïve about it stopping all at once; for pro-lifers like myself, the question is what to do to support pregnant women better and to renew the culture, not to penalise women but to make abortion rare, even unthinkable,” he said.

Archbishop Fisher disagreed with the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, who described the decision as a “setback” for women.

“I don’t think this was an attack on women or women’s rights. It was, at best, a legal question of who should decide these matters,” he said.

Morally serious matters should be left to citizens and their elected representatives to decide, Archbishop Fisher said, adding he was “confident Mr Albanese would support that Australian understanding of democracy”.

Thousands turned out for the massive rally, delighting organisers who said numbers exceeded expectations. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Mr Albanese joined US President Joe Biden and other world leaders who expressed disappointment at the decision.

Mr Biden, America’s second Catholic president after John F. Kennedy, called the overturning of Roe a “sad day for the court and for the country”.

While he had never spoken with Mr Biden, Archbishop Fisher said it was “strange” the president supported “a very liberal abortion regime”.

Catholic politicians ought to abide by the Church’s teaching and shouldn’t advertise their Catholic credentials and promote abortion, he said.

“Can’t we have a reasoned national debate about reducing numbers of abortions, rather than it always being about reducing barriers to something that has already been available on demand for two generations now?”

Archbishop Fisher said that Australian commentary in the aftermath of the decision has been “very one-sided, as if all that was at issue is whether one is pro-women or anti-women”.

“Instead of sloganeering, can we recognise the moral seriousness of this question and find a rhetoric and policies that demonstrate love and respect both for women and the babies?” he asked.

“Can’t we have a reasoned national debate about reducing numbers of abortions, rather than it always being about reducing barriers to something that has already been available on demand for two generations now?”

Archbishop Fisher practiced law prior to becoming a priest and holds a Doctorate from Oxford University in bioethics.

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