Remember this past spring, when the unprecedented leak of a U.S. Supreme Court draft gave everyone weeks to ponder or protest what eventually became the ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization? The leaker’s attempt to sway legal opinion about the status of abortion failed. Although Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the chief health officer in Mississippi, was hounded out of his job for defending a state law that banned abortions after 15 weeks, the Mississippi legislature was vindicated when Justice Samuel Alito’s larval opinion matured into a butterfly. 

Now it’s been about a month since a SCOTUS majority let Dobbs rip the Band-Aid off the national wound that was Roe v. Wade. Whether the leaker realized it or not, more time to preview that ruling would not have helped, for at least two reasons. First, progressive arguments for abortion tend to be emotional rather than logical. Second, you don’t have to scan national news to see the corrosive effects of Roe v. Wade and poor civics education; you can see those effects right here in the Old North State.

The Supreme Court decision in Dobbs affirms strange new respect for the idea of federalism, and that makes Democrats queasy. Ever since Barack Obama rose to prominence, they’ve talked about “democracy” while serving apprenticeships in the “Here there be monsters” school of maritime map-making. 

What I mean is that whatever brings decision-making closer to citizens scares Democrats like an old-time voyage through uncharted seas. People they can’t control seem like monsters of the deep, whether they identify that way or not. This is why “legislating from the bench” made Roe v. Wade a thing almost 50 years ago and why our Democrat president uses executive orders like harpoons against his political opponents. As one lawyer quipped on Twitter, “[Democrats] want technocratic progressivism with agencies immune from oversight, [and] SCOTUS is taking that binkie away.“ On top of that, Democrat insistence on abortion as “health care” makes Captain Ahab’s mania for the Great White Whale look whimsical by comparison. 

To the point that progressives argue from feelings rather than thoughts, “My body, my choice” was always a poor “pro-choice” slogan, because at least two bodies are involved in an abortion. That said, UNC Chapel Hill predictably failed to remain neutral over new public policy. Like Gov. Roy Cooper, the flagship university campus allied itself with doctors who think abortions are a form of health care. That misguided reaction to the Dobbs decision was aided by the journalism of publications like The Assembly, where a recent story emphasized that North Carolina’s 14 abortion clinics worry about what Republican lawmakers in neighboring states will do in the wake of the Dobbs ruling. Abortion providers statewide are “preparing to serve many more people who do not want to be pregnant,” the fear-mongering article noted, because eight neighboring states are expected to restrict abortions more than they had before Dobbs

Much depends on perspective. It’s not just abortion clinic workers who are sometimes treated cruelly. One wonders whether an Assembly story about the island of Tortuga in the 17th century would call it a pirate haven or a hub for free enterprise. Yet outing bias in one publication with a shout of “Avast, me hearties!” risks missing the point: Angry people who think SCOTUS just robbed American women of a right to abortion should instead be asking why SCOTUS used Roe v. Wade to lie to all of us for almost 50 years.

Sadly, progressives pay no attention to those doctors who explain why Dobbs won’t impact pregnancy-related medical care. They’re also suspicious of crisis pregnancy centers oriented toward life rather than death, so it’s news to them that SCOTUS hasn’t actually hoisted the Jolly Roger and declared war on women. 

Raleigh demonstrators oppose U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade’s constitutional right to an abortion. Source: NCDP Twitter

Willful blindness to opposing points of view is one of the corrosive effects of allegiance to abortion. It’s harder for people to talk to each other than it used to be. Have you noticed that the federal government’s executive branch now considers its judicial branch beneath contempt? Similarly, anyone following North Carolina politics knows that our governor and legislature don’t get along. 

Despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, progressives still claim that the pro-life movement has no regard for hard cases, or doesn’t care about babies after they’re born. And rather than wonder why SCOTUS lied to them for so long or whether their indignation is misplaced, some North Carolina leaders now join Democrats elsewhere in figuring that the ends justify the means when it comes to subverting laws they don’t like (here’s looking at you, Mr. Attorney General). But if recent SCOTUS rulings and widely varying reactions to mob violence have taught us anything, it’s that dissent can be fashionable without being heroic. Whether you admire the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or not, her reputation for saying “I dissent” did not mark her as a legal eagle forced to work with people who weren’t as smart. “I dissent” has never had the principled nobility of something like “Here I stand; I can do no other.“ It’s just the way that lawyers say, “I still can’t get colleagues to agree with me.”

The Dobbs ruling is a victory for what students of government call the separation of powers. In nautical terms, it says that the North Atlantic is not the Spanish Main, and nothing in the Constitution implies otherwise. Dobbs represents a long-overdue course correction. It admits that the “officers” who claimed differently back in 1973 falsified navigation charts. Harry Blackmun and the crew who mutinied with him should have amused themselves on the poop deck; they had no business near the ship’s wheel. While figuring out what to do next, we ought to err on the side of life, and remember that precedents founded in lies aren’t seaworthy.

Patrick O’Hannigan is a Carolina Journal contributor, a father of two, and a technical writer and editor. He resides in Morrisville, North Carolina.