Overturning Roe v Wade could transform abortion battle but only with the help of bishops

by John Smeaton

I was recently asked by Edward Pentin, Rome correspondent for EWTN’s National Catholic Register to make a statement on the likely impact in the UK of the possible overturning of the US Supreme Court 1973 decision on Roe v Wade: the ruling which effectively legalised abortion on demand throughout the United States at any stage of pregnancy. In the resulting interview, I expressed my hope that the overturning would transform the battle against abortion worldwide; a development which would depend on Catholic bishops making the most of this God-given opportunity to unequivocally condemn the slaughter of innocents taking place around the world in what amounts to the greatest massacre in human history. For such an overturning of legislation to bear lasting fruit, powerful Catholic episcopal leadership is absolutely essential.

Here is this interview reproduced in full.

Pentin: What is your view of this decision? How important is it to the pro-life movement in the UK if it goes ahead?

Smeaton: This decision would be a colossal victory. The anti-abortion movement in the US has been totally focused on achieving such an outcome for nearly fifty years, and they will deserve the world’s warm congratulations and deep gratitude. It would be impossible, however, to explain such a decision in purely human terms, coming as it would so soon after the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary by Pope Francis, in union with the bishops of the world.

Pentin: How might it directly affect abortion laws in the UK and elsewhere?

Smeaton: If the Supreme Court reverses the Roe v Wade decision on abortion, it would transform the battle against abortion worldwide, including in the UK, where the pro-life movement started with the launch of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children in 1966 — providing only that Catholic bishops exploit this God-given opportunity to condemn unequivocally the slaughter of innocents taking place here and around the world, the greatest slaughter of human beings in the history of mankind. To create real momentum in the UK, powerful Catholic episcopal leadership is absolutely essential.

Pentin: Is there similar momentum in the UK to alter or tighten abortion legislation in some way, or is it different given that the Abortion Act was passed through legislation and not the judiciary?

Smeaton: Since 1967, the grassroots educational and political movement against abortion in the UK has punched well above its weight — preventing both the imposition of abortion on Northern Ireland for over 50 years as well as blocking abortion decriminalisation in England and Wales. This success has been partly due to the strength of a substantial number of Catholic clergy who seek to uphold church teaching and who powerfully back the anti-abortion battle. Tragically, the work of the pro-life movement has been increasingly undermined by the bishops of England and Wales, particularly in their backing for the government’s sex education strategy in schools, which involves giving children access to abortion and contraception without parental knowledge. Until the bishops’ position is completely transformed, the well-organised pro-life movement in the UK will not have the backing of the community, which would be essential in getting restrictive abortion legislation passed.

In the US, of course, where the President nominates and the Senate confirms Supreme Court judges, ordinary voters can influence appointments of Justices and, thereby, the decisions made by the Court. In the UK, however, Supreme Court justices are appointed by a selection commission over which UK voters have zero influence. Constitutionally, therefore, the power of the pro-life movement to shape policy through democratic means is much more limited than in the US. Lamentably, the UK’s Supreme Court has had a profoundly negative impact on abortion in the UK, interpreting the British Abortion Act in accordance with pro-abortion ideology rather than the letter of the law.

Pentin: What is your view of pro-abortion activists threatening the Supreme Court Justices and campaigning outside their homes?

Smeaton: These are the well-known tactics of revolutionaries with blood on their hands through the centuries — intimidation in order to create a sense of chaos and fear. No doubt they will target other opponents of abortion, including Catholic parishes and well-known pro-life Catholic priests and bishops — just as happened in Poland in 2020. We must pray that any wavering Supreme Court judges are strengthened in their resolve to stand for true justice. The only thing which will defeat the revolutionaries is for Catholics to have total trust in God and His Blessed Mother, total adherence to the truth and unfaltering peaceful resistance in defence of innocent unborn children.