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FAITHFUL, WATCHFUL CITIZENS: Learning from Roe v. Wade

 One critical lesson we can all learn from the overturning of Roe v. Wade was that the so-called right to abortion was never treated as “settled law” in the United States. From the moment Roe v. Wade was decided, dissident voices rose up to call out the injustice of Roe. This revolt occurred for the nearly 50 years leading to Roe’s demise in the recent Dobbs case. As the proverbial phrasing goes, we should take a page out of this playbook.

As usual, you’re probably asking yourself: What on earth are you talking about, Tom? Stay with me, and I think it’ll be apparent by the end.

Very recently, two problematic policies have been making their way through the federal political process. These two policies are the misnamed “Respect for Marriage Act” and the United States Department of Agriculture’s misguided school lunch rules.

A few weeks ago, the U.S. House of Representatives introduced and swiftly passed legislation that would do several problematic things related to marriage. First, it would require the federal government to recognize as valid any marriage recognized as valid at the state level, and this could include not only same-sex marriage but also polygamy. Second, it could result in frivolous and harassing lawsuits and legal liability for religious individuals and organizations who decline to recognize the validity of such problematic marriages. Third, it could lead to the tax-exempt status of religious nonprofit organizations being stripped because they decline to affirm same-sex marriage.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 267-157 to support this Disrespect for Marriage Act. Included among the 267 supporting votes were 47 Republican members of Congress. While we are very thankful that Reps. Adrian Smith and Mike Flood voted against this egregious act (please email or call them and express your gratitude), it is deeply unfortunate that Rep. Don Bacon voted in support of this legislation (please email or call Rep. Bacon and express your extreme disappointment).

The bill’s fate now rests with the U.S. Senate. Please also contact Sen. Deb Fischer and Sen. Ben Sasse and urge them to oppose the so-called Respect for Marriage Act.

Recently as well, the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided it was going to impose transgender ideology onto all schools across the nation which participate in the hot lunch program that provides school lunches to low-income children. The policy would require schools to not discriminate against students based on sex, which the Department (wrongly) interprets to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Governor Ricketts rightly lambasted this policy decision by the Biden Administration. The Governor notes that this rule “ensures that a far-left ideology on gender will be taught in schools nationwide.” He also underscored that this policy would have a negative impact on girls and women by, among other things, “eliminat[ing] fairness in girls’ sports.” To echo the Governor: “Bad ideas have consequences. Bad policies have victims.”

Instead of focusing on proper nutrition for students, especially the poorest among us, the Biden Administration would rather blackmail schools across the country – including Catholic schools – into adopting the radical ideology of gender identity.

So, what is the page that we should be taking from the overturning of the Roe playbook?

Immediately and for nearly 50 years Roe was always treated for what it really was: an unjust law that took the lives of millions of unborn children and did severe physical, psychological and spiritual harm to as many mothers, fathers and family members. Catholics, among others, never took their foot off the gas pedal of pushing against Roe v. Wade. Every step of the way, we objected to the injustice.

The same needs to be true when it comes to the fundamental attacks on marriage and human sexuality we have experienced in this country over the last 5-7 years with the Obergefell same-sex marriage case and the Bostock transgender case. We have a basic obligation to speak the truth about marriage and human sexuality at a time when the culture would like us to believe that the “anything goes” approach to marriage and human sexuality is the true, good and beautiful way to live.

As Pope Francis has stated: “It is one thing to be understanding of human weakness and the complexities of life, and another to accept ideologies that attempt to sunder what are inseparable aspects of reality.”

Let us live in the truth with charity as we push back on what many (including numerous government officials) are trying to make us consider is “settled law” in the area of marriage and human sexuality. If we do not push back today, tomorrow will be too late.

Tom Venzor is executive director of the Nebraska Catholic Conference. Email him at

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