Pro-Life Rising, 40 Years after Roe v. Wade

Forty years ago, on Jan. 22, 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade, one of the two worst decisions in its history. The first Court’s mega-error, the 1857 decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford, declared an entire class of human beings beyond the protection of the laws; Roe v. Wade declared another class of human beings, the unborn, beyond legal protection. Dred Scott helped precipitate the Civil War; Roe v. Wade led to a vast expansion of the pro-life movement, the largest movement of social reform in American since the civil rights movement and the natural successor to that effort to repair the lingering damage done by Dred Scott.

The battle to build an America in which every child is protected in law and welcomed in life continues. Forty years after Roe, the pro-life movement can cite at least 10 reasons why it may, in time, carry the day.

(1) Abortion has never been accepted as part of mainstream medical practice. Abortion is regarded as tawdry and abortionists are stigmatized by much of the medical establishment.

(2) The science of human reproduction and gestation has confirmed the pro-life position and rendered the “science” of Roe risible.

(3) The sonogram, which permits us to see the results of human conception, has been a cultural game-changer.

(4) The people of the United States have decisively rejected the Supreme Court’s 1992 diktat in Casey v. Planned Parenthood, wherein the Court instructed the people to end the abortion debate. With leadership from, among many others, the Catholic bishops of the United States, the people decided that they would not be silenced, and the pro-life movement has grown ever since.

(5) The pro-“choice” world has always been rigid; it now displays an increasing desperation. Pro-life organizations have worked incrementally to regulate abortion clinics and protect women from butchers like Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell; to mandate informed consent in abortion-decisions and parental-consent in the case of minors seeking abortions; and to legislate waiting periods so that women in crisis pregnancies can consider their situation with as much calm as circumstances allow. The pro-“choice” world has resisted every one of these efforts to create situations of informed choice; it also resisted both a ban on the abortion of late-term fetuses partially born and legal requirements to try and save the lives of children who survive late-term abortions. Indeed, in certain political circles, abortion seems to be regarded as a kind of secular sacrament. This brutality has not gone unnoticed. Neither has the hysteria with which Planned Parenthood attacked the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.

(6) The pro-life movement is getting younger while the pro-“choice” opposition is graying. What really alarms the pro-Roe forces in American politics about the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., is not just the impressive numbers: it’s that the marchers get younger, every year. And that youthful vitality is not limited to one cold January day in the nation’s capital; there are new pro-life organizations among younger physicians and attorneys. All of which suggests that the pro-life movement is American civil society at its robust and self-revitalizing best.

(7) Pro-lifers have had increasing success at the state legislative level in recent years and can anticipate more success in this phase of the battle in the immediate future.

(8) The sheer implausibility of the legal argument in Roe v. Wade has become clearer over time. Few serious legal scholars defend the legal reasoning in Roe, and even honest liberal scholars agree with one of Roe’s dissenters, Justice Byron White, who labeled the decision an exercise in “raw judicial power.”

(9) The humane service rendered to hundreds of thousands of women in thousands of crisis pregnancy centers across the country has demonstrated, time and again, that the pro-life movement is the party of compassion in this debate.

(10) A 2012 Gallup Poll found that more than 50 percent of the American people self-define as “pro-life.”

So there is reason for a measure of satisfaction, if not exultation, on Roe’s 40th anniversary.

COMING UP: Colorado Catholic Conference 2021 Legislative Recap

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

On June 8, the First Regular Session of the 73rd General Assembly adjourned. Over 600 bills were introduced this session. Policy primarily focused on transportation, agriculture, healthcare, fiscal policy, and the state budget. However, the legislature also considered and passed many bills that could impact the Catholic Church in Colorado.  

Some bills that were passed will uphold Catholic social teaching and protect the poor and vulnerable of our society while others pose potentially harmful consequences to the Catholic Church, its affiliated organizations, and Colorado citizens who wish to practice their well-founded convictions. There were also many bills that were considered by the legislature that did not pass, including two bills that would have upheld the sanctity of life and two that would have expanded education opportunity for K-12 students.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC), as the united voice of the four Colorado bishops, advocated for Catholic values at the Capitol and ensured that the Church’s voice was heard in the shaping of policy.  

Below is a recap of the CCC’s 19 priority bills from the 2021 legislative session. For a full list of the legislation the Conference worked on, please visit: https://www.cocatholicconference.org/2021-legislative-bills-analysis/  

For regular updates and other information, please sign-up for the CCC legislative network here.  

Six bills the CCC supported that were either passed or enacted

Note: Passed means the bill was approved by both chambers of the legislature and is pending the governor’s signature as of June 9, 2021. Enacted means the bill was signed by the governor and became law.  

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters – Passed  
If enacted, counties where either 2,000 adults or 2.5% of the adult population primarily speak a language other than English will be required to provide a ballot in that language. 

HB 21-1075 Replace The Term Illegal Alien – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1075, the term “illegal alien” was replaced with the term “worker without authorization” as it relates to public contracts for services.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families – Passed  
If enacted, the state government will allocate much-needed funding for nonprofit organizations to provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need, including Catholic Charities.  

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing – Enacted    
With the enactment of SB 77, verification of lawful presence will no longer be required for any applicant for a license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare.  

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes – Passed  
If enacted, SB 146 will establish practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons.  

SB 21-158 Increase Medical Providers for Senior Citizens – Passed  
If enacted, SB 158 will allocate more funding for senior citizen care, which is currently understaffed and underfunded.  

Eight bills the CCC opposed that were passed 


HB 21-1072 Equal Access Services For Out-of-home Placements – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1072, Colorado law now prohibits organizations that receive state funding for placing children with adoptive or foster parents from discriminating on, among other things, the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or marital status. This new law will likely to be impacted by the imminent Fulton v. City of Philadelphia U.S. Supreme Court decision. 

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination – Enacted 
With the enactment of HB 1108, “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression” are now recognized as protected classes in Colorado nondiscrimination code. This may have serious religious liberty implications for individuals and organizations that wish to practice their well-founded convictions on marriage and human sexuality. 

SB21-006 Human Remains Natural Reduction Soil – Enacted 
With the enactment of SB 006, human remains can now be converted to soil using a container that accelerates the process of biological decomposition, also known as “natural reduction.” 

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program – Passed 
If enacted, SB 009 will create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives.  

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage – Passed 
If enacted, the definition of “family planning services” and “family planning-related services” will not be clearly defined in law and could potentially include abortion. Furthermore, SB 16 removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing family planning services to a minor.  

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals– Passed 
If enacted, SB 025 low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest– Enacted  
The enactment of SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any “licensed provider.”   

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period– Passed 
If enacted, SB 193 will eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support.  

Five bills the CCC supported that failed  

HB21-1017 Protect Human Life at Conception – Failed 
HB 1017 would have prohibited terminating the life of an unborn child and made it a violation a class 1 felony.  

HB 21-1080 Nonpublic Education and COVID-19 Relief Act – Failed 
HB 1080 would have established a private school and home-based education income tax credit for families who either enroll their child in private school or educate their child at home, thereby expanding education opportunities for families during and after the pandemic.  

HB 21-1183 Induced Termination of Pregnancy State Registrar – Failed 
HB 1183 would have required health-care providers that perform abortions to report specified information concerning the women who obtain the procedure to the state registrar of vital statistics, thereby increasing transparency in the abortion industry.   

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status– Failed  
HB 1191 would have prevented individuals from being coerced to take the COVID-19 vaccine by either the state or by employers.  

HB 21-1210 Modifications to Qualified State Tuition Programs – Failed 
HB 1210 would have allowed families to use some of their private 529 savings account funds for private K-12 school tuition for their children, including at Catholic schools.   

One bill the CCC opposed that failed 

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests– Failed 
SB 031 would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent.  

Two bills the CCC was in an “Amend” position that passed  

SB 21-073 Civil Action Statute of Limitations Sexual Assault – Enacted  
With the enactment of SB 073, the statute of limitations on bringing a civil claim based on sexual misconduct will be removed as of January 1, 2022. Under this law, victims of sexual abuse can pursue a civil cause of action if the statute of limitations has not expired, the abuse happened in Colorado, and the abuse could be considered a felony or Class 1 misdemeanor if it was a criminal case. 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act– Passed  
If enacted, SB 88 will allow victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue public and private institutions for abuse that occurred between 1960-2022. Victims would have three years to bring a historical claim, starting from January 1, 2022. Claims brought during this window would be capped at $387,000 for public institutions and at $500,000 for private institutions, with the ability of a judge to double the damages depending on how the private institution handled the situation. Despite unanswered constitutional concerns regarding SB 88, the Colorado Catholic dioceses will also continue to offer opportunities for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to receive support in a non-litigious setting.   

While the legislature has adjourned the 2021 legislative session, there is still the possibility that they will reconvene later this year. To stay up-to-date on Colorado legislative issues and their impact on the Catholic Church in Colorado, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE.