I was reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s words from June 16, 1858, to more than 1,000 delegates at the Republican State Convention in Springfield, Illinois, after a draft opinion by a U.S. Supreme Court judge overturning abortion was leaked to the media. The leak has sparked protests, inflammatory rhetoric and even violence. It is pitting state against state and dividing families.
While Lincoln’s words referred to the inevitable struggle to settle slavery between the states, they should serve as a warning as our nation embarks on another important debate over life and death. Said Lincoln: “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.”
The leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito calls Roe v. Wade “egregiously wrong from the start” and should be overturned. At the moment it appears that 26 states are ready to restrict abortion, while 24 will permit it. Of the 26 pro-life states, 13 – including Missouri – already have “trigger” laws that ban abortions if Roe is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Abortion is legal in Missouri up to 22 weeks into pregnancy. After that it is illegal unless the mother’s life or health is threatened. Missouri lawmakers passed a 2019 bill, signed into law by Gov. Mike Parson, that would ban abortions starting at eight weeks of pregnancy – with no exceptions. That law was blocked by a federal judge, but will be moot if Roe is overturned. The 2019 law includes a “trigger’ that goes into effect if Roe is returned to the states. Presently there is only one clinic in Missouri – in St. Louis – performing abortions. In 2019, 1,741 abortions were performed in Missouri, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, ranking 42nd among the states in abortions performed.
While Missouri attempts to protect the unborn, other states like Illinois and Kansas welcome Missouri women who want to kill their babies. Illinois promotes the procedure on highway billboards and flaunts it at the statehouse. While Kansas allows it, voters may soon change their state’s constitution to ban the practice. Other states like Texas have outlawed abortion after six weeks and allow people to sue individuals and organizations they believe have helped someone obtain an abortion. Missouri lawmakers are debating a similar measure.
While Christians must encourage compassion and understanding while protecting lives, the political intensity is sizzling:
• A radical pro-abortion group, Ruth Sent Us, called on supporters to picket churches. A pro-life Catholic church in Boulder, Colo., was vandalized May 3. Ruth Sent Us rallied its supporters to protest the six Supreme Court justices whom they believe will vote to overturn Roe. “Our 6-3 extremist Supreme Court routinely issues rulings that hurt women, racial minorities, LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights. We must rise up to force accountability using a diversity of tactics,” reads the group’s website, including a link to the justices’ suspected home addresses. Judicial intimidation is prohibited under federal law. Pickets showed up at five of the justices’ homes anyway.
• The heated rhetoric permeates Congress. In March 2020 Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stood in front of the Supreme Court and threatened Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh by name: “I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price! You don’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.” He later recanted.
• Earlier this month pro-abortion protesters and police clashed in Los Angeles when a group of protestors began throwing rocks and bottles in front of a federal courthouse. One officer was injured.
Don’t think it won’t come to Missouri – it already has. On May 6 in Springfield, an argument erupted between protesters. A vehicle driven by a pro-life group began slowly circling a large contingent of pro-abortion protesters. According to The Springfield News-Leader, the incident turned into a shouting match. A pro-abortion protester reached through the open window of the truck, pulling out a series of wires, disconnecting them from an amplifier the truck driver was using to amplify his message.
We must pray for God to help us. Someone’s view will prevail. To paraphrase Lincoln, I do not expect the Union to be dissolved, but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.