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One Year After Dobbs, a Reflection on the Overturn of Roe v. Wade

by | Jul 5, 2023

Reflections compiled by Maria V. Gallagher, Legislative Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation

Where were you when you found out that Roe v. Wade had been overturned?

The historic event, made possible by the Dobbs decision, is seared in the minds of many of us who struggled for so long and so mightily to see Roe eliminated. What follows are the reflections of those who will never forget the elation they felt when the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision was finally and mercifully overturned.

There are two “I was there” events in my life I shall never forget. One was walking crosstown during 9/11. The other was attending the National Right to Life Convention in Atlanta last year, when the Dobbs opinion finally issued. I was in a morning seminar which ironically focused on how “trigger bans” would take effect should Roe be overturned. As the draft opinion had been leaked weeks before, the attendees were on high alert for possible protests or worse during the Convention. [I remember having inadvertently walked through an insensate pro-abortion rally at City Hall in Philadelphia the week before.]

When Dobbs dropped, all we heard from inside the conference room were screams from the hallway. While I originally feared the worst, in coming to my senses I realized how blessed I was to be in THAT moment in the epicenter of the national pro-life movement. We had waited 50 years, and the majority of us thought the day would never come when we could walk in a country not darkened by Roe’s shadow.

As I hugged my colleagues from across the country in relief, I noticed the tears both of joy and sorrow from women who had lived through this awful scourge to see this day of triumph. Sadly, the work in Pennsylvania has just begun, but we at least labor in these fields knowing that the scales of justice tip back in our favor. Christopher Eric Pushaw, Esq., Executive Director & General Counsel, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation

Meanwhile, Michael Ciccocioppo, former executive director of the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation from 2002 – 2022, was also attending the National Right to Life Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, when Roe was overturned:

On Friday morning, June 24, 2022 most of the speculation was that the Supreme Court was going to wait until Monday morning to announce their final decision in the Dobbs case.  So the opening session of the annual convention got underway as usual.

What wasn’t usual was the number of news media people present.  I attended most of these conventions during my 21 years at the Federation.  The news media tended to ignore our gatherings.  But this year many news outlets were present and covering the convention.  They wanted to know what the nation’s premiere pro-life organization was saying about the possible overturn of Roe, and they wanted to get firsthand accounts of our reactions regardless of the final decision.

I was monitoring the situation in Washington on my cell phone.  So when the decision was announced I left the convention room right away to make some phone calls.  Maura Sirianni, a reporter from www.NEWSY.com, was in the hallway with a camera person.  I was the first person she saw.  She asked me if she could immediately interview me LIVE on the air for a reaction to the Supreme Court decision. I agreed. She consulted by phone with her producers and within minutes we did a quick mic check and started the interview.  Her first question was, “Are you surprised that the Court overturned Roe.” I told her that I was not surprised. I explained that I had been telling audiences for over 20 years that Roe would be overturned. What surprised me was that it took 49 years for it to happen.

Maryann Lawhon, a seasoned pro-life advocate, runs a life-affirming outreach called The Voice of John. She was at church the day of the Dobbs decision:

Little could I have imagined turning on the news later that day and hearing the words “The United States Supreme Court has overturned the U.S. Constitutional right to abortion.” 

Tears just flowed as I sat alone in disbelief.  Tears for JOHN, for 63 million children dead, for mothers wounded.  Tears for the lives that would be saved.  An overwhelming sense of hope and simultaneously, the question of what “Constitutional right” were they alluding to. 

A civil rights victory had been won that day, and yet I knew that our work was not yet done.  But on that day, I knelt before my statue of the Sacred Heart and said those words from 2 Chronicles “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”  I felt empowered to continue the good fight; I felt honored to have had some small part in the greatest civil rights battle in history.  God save the people. 

Bonnie Finnerty formerly served as Education Director for the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation. Here are her insights:

Sometimes it’s years or even decades after a particular event that one realizes its significance.  That was not the case with the overturn of Roe v Wade.  The import of the Dobbs decision was immediately felt and to us pro-lifers it was a feeling of sheer exuberance.

I happened to be attending the National Right to Life Convention when the news broke. Hundreds of us were listening to a presentation inside a huge ballroom when an excited voice from the hallway boomed “Roe is overturned!”

Quiet blanketed the attendees. And then the dam broke! Joyful exclamations, teary hugs, and prayers of thanksgiving flooded the ballroom. We gleefully rode the massive wave of a long-awaited, hard-fought victory! 

As a relative newcomer to the movement, I looked around and realized that many in the room had worked against all odds, overcame innumerable obstacles, and experienced discouraging setbacks as they sought to restore legal protection of the unborn. But they persisted, laboring diligently for 30, 40, even 50 years for this precise moment!

THIS was the culmination of their life’s work! Their blood, sweat, and tears in fighting for the fundamental right to life were now paying off. I was overcome with gratitude for their commitment to justice. I am so thankful for such heroes.  They are the civil rights champions of our generation. 

While everyone at the convention remained elated, there was a recognition that the fight is not quite over, just shifting. 

Yet a new day has dawned. A new hope is rising. And the pro-life movement is the brightest and strongest it has ever been!

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