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Supreme Question

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April 2022

It has worked this way for ages. Boy sees girl, or sometimes it’s the girl who sees boy. Whether it’s immediately or down the road, something starts to click. The dance begins. Like turns to love, then love turns to marriage. From two come others. Families grow. The cycle repeats. It’s really such a beautiful thing.

What keeps it from happening is sometimes just a matter of shyness. Of starting that first conversation. There are always those pickup lines used in bars. You know, the stuff like “And I thought the beer here was good,” or maybe “You owe me a drink. I dropped mine when I walked past you.” For most people, they’re way too embarrassing and probably a turn-off to anyone with class. But the fact of the matter is that one way or another, conversations need to start, particularly those about truly important matters.

Like the right to life. Abortion has become a forbidden topic of conversation at every family gathering, church service, and political event. Oh, there are those sound bites, code words like “freedom of choice” or “reproductive health.” But there’s no meaningful discussion. Perhaps it’s because the topic is so visceral, and people get so emotional, that no one wants to dredge up the hostilities that always seem to follow. And so people just keep to themselves about it. That’s such a shame. Abortion is like an elephant in a room, an elephant that keeps growing bigger because no one will admit to seeing it.

But something happened recently that offered an opportunity for a meaningful conversation about abortion. A couple months ago, long-time U.S. Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer announced his retirement effective in June when the Court concludes its current term. Under our Constitution, President Biden has the right to nominate Breyer’s successor, who will be confirmed with the advise and consent of the Senate.

Since the Constitution was ratified in 1789, there have been about 170 nominees for a seat on the Court. For almost two centuries, confirmation was no big deal. A relatively few nominees ran into problems, but by and large, the nominees have sailed through the process. And they sailed through even though the political party not in power would rather have confirmed someone more in its liking. As for the public, it generally had no interest in who would sit on the Court.
But it all changed in the mid-1980s. Hearings became contentious, expensive, and ugly. At a hearing led by then-senator Biden, Robert Bork, a legal giant and decent man, was essentially accused of being a racist and woman-hater. Current justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh were accused of being sexual harassers and abusers. The charges, all false, were smokescreens meant to hide the elephant in the room—legal abortion. Democrat senators were hellbent on preserving Roe v. Wade, no matter who they hurt in the process.

Once Justice Breyer announced his retirement, now-president Biden lost no time in revealing his plans: his nominee would be a black woman. People may legitimately question whether a nomination should be based on race or sex rather than legal ability. But there is no question that Ketanji Brown Jackson is well qualified. She is a former law clerk to the justice she may replace on the Court. She currently serves as a judge on the prestigious District of Columbia court of appeals—a steppingstone for many SCOTUS justices. When nominated for that judgeship, Republican senators confirmed her.

There is also no question that she supports legal abortion. Biden previously stated that support for legal abortion was his litmus test for a nominee. As a practicing lawyer, Jackson took pro-abortion positions. Republicans promised that unlike the three-ring circuses orchestrated by Democrats opposing Republican nominations, Judge Jackson’s hearing would be dignified. And it was. Still, questions needed to be asked—and they were.

But the most important question wasn’t asked: “Should a woman have a Constitutional right to kill her unborn baby by abortion for the sole reason that the baby’s father is black?” Not because the woman was raped by a black man, or the victim of incest by a black relative, or because she and her partner broke up—none of which happened. Only because a woman does not want another black person in the world.

We need to have a national conversation about this question, because abortion is the ultimate contradiction about what we stand for as a nation. We profess freedom and equality for all. At the federal, state, and local levels, we outlaw discrimination in all its forms—as well we should. Yet, when it comes to human life, we tell our women that they have a super-legal right that no one else enjoys. We tell them that they may kill their unborn babies at any time in the process, for whatever reasons they want. Including race. Including sex. Including disability. It makes such a mockery not only of our laws but also of our core beliefs.

It’s far past time to have an honest conversation about who we are as a people. About the disconnect between our beliefs and actions. Judge Jackson will be confirmed. But in the end, we will have missed a golden opportunity to talk. And talk we must.

 Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics.  He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.
    © Paul V. Esposito 2022.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.  Visit us at http://www.the-culture-of-life.com/ and on Facebook.

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