Preparing for possible overturn of Roe v. Wade

Lindsay Steele
Pro-life supporters pray outside Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City in February 2021.

By Lindsay Steele and Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

Sheryl Schwager was at home when her daughter called to tell her about a leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that suggests overturning Roe v. Wade.

“While I was shocked that some­one had compromised the in­teg­rity and confidentiality of the Su­preme Court, I was encouraged to learn that five justices appeared to support overturning Roe v. Wade,” said Schwager, exec­utive director of Johnson County Right to Life.

A draft of a Supreme Court opinion obtained by Politico and published online earlier this month offers hope to Schwager and other pro-life advocates. “All signs do point to the Supreme Court making a historic decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June or July,” said Linda Rubey, executive director of Women’s Choice Center, a pro-life center located in Bettendorf.


Vern Vondera, a member of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport and state life director of the Iowa Knights of Columbus, said the KofCs have been praying for, working toward and planning for an overturn of Roe v. Wade. “The Knights of Columbus are strong advocates for the unborn.”

The 98-page draft, which includes a 31-page appendix of historical state abortion laws, is an opinion in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case involves the constitutionality of Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Many pro-life advocates anticipated that a ruling in favor of the Mississippi ban would result in the overturn of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion nearly 50 years in the United States.

Four of eight justices on the nation’s highest court appeared to side with Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion that “Roe and Casey must be overruled.” Casey v. Planned Parenthood is the 1992 decision that affirmed Roe. A May 3 statement by the Supreme Court verified that the leaked draft opinion “is authentic” but “does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”

Overturning Roe v. Wade would not ban abortions in the United States. Instead, it would give states the ability to create their own laws regarding abortion. In Iowa, abortion would still be legal until 20 weeks of pregnancy. If Roe v. Wade is overturned, “we will use this as encouragement to work harder at the state level to provide better laws protecting the unborn in Iowa,” Vondera said. The Iowa Catholic Conference supports a constitutional amendment to clarify that the Iowa Constitution does not grant a right to abortion.

“We have the opportunity to educate and encourage Iowans to get involved in the democratic process and vote for state legislators and governors who will protect human life from fertilization to natural death and increase the availability of resources for women and families at the local level,” Schwager said.
Rubey said Women’s Choice Center staff and volunteers are prepared for an influx of phone calls and in-person appointments if state law changes.

Women may reach out “in fear and desperation” and may consider traveling out of state for an abortion. Women’s Choice Center offers ultrasounds on site and through its mobile medical unit and walks alongside women in providing or referring for needed resources throughout pregnancy and after. The center also offers healthy relationship education to schools and small groups and does not refer clients to abortion providers, Rubey said.

Barb Arland-Fye
Bishop Thomas Zinkula blesses a new 4D ultrasound machine at Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf as Paul Lee, (now former) Iowa Knights of Columbus State Deputy, looks on in this 2021 photo.

Vondera said changes to Iowa legislation could “take a while,” making it essential to continue supporting organizations such as the Women’s Choice Center. The KofCs believe that one of their most successful pro-life endeavors is the Supreme Council Ultrasound Initiative. Through this program, the Supreme Council offers matching donations for the purchase of medical equipment at qualifying pro-life centers.

“An ultrasound machine offers a woman a ‘window into the womb’ that gives her the ability to see her unborn child, to hear his or her heart beating and to recognize the miracle of the life within her. Parents who see and hear their child are far less likely to choose abortion,” Vondera said.

KofCs have placed 27 ultrasound machines in Iowa so far, including at the Women’s Choice Center. “Nationally about 70% of women choose life after visiting a center like ours,” Rubey said. At Women’s Choice Center, 80% of mothers choose to raise their child or adopt.

Vondera said the KofCs are committed to offering assistance to women and families after the baby is born, a need that likely will increase if Roe v. Wade is overturned and if abortion were to become illegal in Iowa.

Since the leak of the document, pro-choice advocates have increased their presence outside Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City, which provides abortions. “We have witnessed more protesting and attempts to block us from offering resources to women outside the abortion center,” Schwager said.

Although the Women’s Choice Center has not experienced pro-choice protesting, the center is prepared for the possibility. “We are following common sense guidelines by taking extra safety precautions” to ensure everyone, clients included, feel safe, Rubey said.

Meanwhile, the KofCs are praying for everyone who will be impacted by the final Supreme Court ruling. “Whether Roe v. Wade is overturned, or not, the Knights of Columbus in Iowa will continue to advocate for the unborn,” Vondera said.

(Catholic News Service contributed to this article.)

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