By Dr. Tim Millea
The recent leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion related to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has affected public discourse on abortion dramatically. The pro-life community is imagining what seemed to be impossible.
However, on the other side of a potential success are the “what if” questions? What if the draft is an accurate prediction of the final decision? What if Dobbs is upheld and Roe is overturned? That would certainly be reason for celebration and gratitude but victory in one battle does not win a war. In this instance, the field of battle will change and the contest will continue. If Roe is overturned, debates regarding abortion will be relegated to each state. Some will continue their current abortion policies, some will expand them and others will restrict them.
Decisions made in Iowa will occur through our elected officials. Ultimately, however, the citizens and voters of Iowa will be responsible for these decisions. The election of pro-life officials will require our efforts and vigilance. Further, access to abortion in other states, as well as chemical means (“abortion pills”) that, potentially, can be obtained online or via telemedicine, remain possible options.
In a post-Roe environment, the abortion industry’s tactics and strategies will change and adapt in each state, including Iowa. The same is true for the pro-life community. We have a responsibility to provide better alternatives to pregnant women who may be considering abortion.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a Planned Parenthood subsidiary, 75% of women seeking abortion are classified as poor or low income. Of those, 60% were already caring for at least one child. The most frequent reasons for seeking an abortion are not surprising: loss of income due to the pregnancy and post-partum, inadequate income to support the child and lack of resources to care for the child. None of these concerns can be avoided. The only “avoidable problem,” in the mind of the woman, is the pregnancy. Therein lies the importance of the pro-life community in the lives of women at risk of abortion and their children.
Many resources for women at risk are already in place, including crisis pregnancy centers such as Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf. Various churches and charities have programs in place to provide assistance as well. However, fewer abortions mean more babies and thus a greater need for help. How do we ensure ready access to the resources mothers will need: financial, medical, social, psychological or occupational?
Increased support for centers, agencies and programs that now exist will be critically important, both financially and with volunteer help. However, we must develop additional resources, such as expansion of adoption agencies and improved efficiency of the adoption process and employment and emotional support for fathers as well as mothers at risk. A revived interest in “maternity homes” for pregnant women is growing nationwide, providing a place of safety and security, as well as help with career guidance, parenting skills and emotional support.
Our Church’s leadership provides clear examples of proactive measures in anticipation of these societal changes. The Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) is a strong advocate for the “Iowa MOMS” maternal support bill, which would provide reimbursement for baby supplies, counseling services and housing, employment and educational resources. “Walking With Moms in Need,” a program developed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Pro-Life Activities Office, provides resources and information directed at the parish level.
Just as a woman facing a crisis pregnancy is an individual concern, each of us must face this next phase in the pro-life effort as our individual responsibility. One of the principles of Catholic Social Teaching is subsidiarity, the tenet that decisions should be made at the lowest level possible. In the care of mothers and their children, born and unborn, all of us can contribute with actions, donations and prayer.
Organizing efforts within our parishes will yield more powerful and effective means of support. Many parishes around the country are in the process of funding, maintaining and staffing maternity homes. What if? What if each parish in our diocese commits to seeking out women and families in need and accompanies them through and beyond a difficult time? A lesson from St. Therese of Lisieux applies: “Love is nourished only by sacrifices.”
Encouragement is necessary for women at risk of abortion. Encouragement is necessary for people working in health care striving to end abortion. Inform your doctors and their staff of your commitment to life and encourage them to do the same. Health care professionals who are unapologetically pro-life maybe difficult to find but that will change with time and prayer.
The fastest growing segment of the Catholic Medical Association over the past decade has been medical students and residents. Our youngest colleagues are ardent and eager defenders of life and they need our prayerful support.
We live in challenging yet exciting times that offer an opportunity to do genuine and lasting good for our brothers and sisters. As Saint Paul wrote to his friends in Corinth, “…now is a very acceptable time ….” A very acceptable time to turn a “what if” into a reality.
(Dr. Tim Millea is president of the St. Thomas Aquinas Medical Guild and a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport.)