Who Are the Abortion Extremists?

The protests – and outright threats – against the six “extremist Catholic” justices of the Supreme Court now considering revoking Roe, including noisy demonstrations at their homes (one lives two streets over from me), were only to be expected. And that’s precisely the problem.

Intimidating members of the judiciary, who are supposed to be protected from the pressures of partisan politics, is the kind of thing you expect – and condemn – when you see it in the news, usually in some banana republic – or a Mafia trial. That these kinds of pressure tactics have invaded every nook and cranny of our public space – mobs outside the homes of mayors, police chiefs, judges, and now even Supreme Court justices – is not good for our constitutional order. Or American life in general.

Who would have believed even a decade ago that a Democrat leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer, could say (in words that cannot be repeated enough), “I want to tell you Gorsuch, I want to tell you Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won’t know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions.”

That was 2020, and Schumer quickly backed off: “I should not have used the words I used yesterday, they did not come out the way I intended to.” But he meant what he said, and later tried to sidestep the outrage from many quarters, even the American Bar Association. It’s no surprise that many who agree with him have now chosen to be that whirlwind.

Americans have the right to protest in front of government buildings such as the Supreme Court. But there are federal laws (click here to view one), for good reason, against confronting judges in their homes or neighborhoods. I live in Virginia, and our governor, Glenn Youngkin, has taken the initiative to have state police ready to protect the three justices – Barrett, Gorsuch, and Thomas – who live here.

That’s what a leader does who believes in a system of laws, not mobs. We need many more such leaders today who understand what’s at stake and the need to act.

But there’s more going on here than the politics of intimidation. Open anti-Catholicism emerged the minute the Dobbs draft leaked. The protests by radical groups at Catholic churches over the weekend – with much more doubtless to come – displayed hatred of the Faith, the real Faith, not the partisan-inflected Catholicism of Biden and Pelosi, who seem to think women’s “right to choose” is the whole law and the prophets.

And where is our moderate “Catholic” president as our judiciary and his own Church are being intimidated? Silent – except to recommend “peaceful” intimidation and to repeat his support for one of the most radical abortion regimes in the world. [Note: Later yesterday, after this was written, the White House finally expressed opposition to “intimidation,” a welcome change – of language – but what else are the protests for?]


Some pro-life Catholics are urging that we try to understand why the protesters hate us; we’re allegedly at fault for not adequately supporting poor pregnant women. This is, of course, a very old and very red herring. The Church supports more people, pregnant women among them, than any other institution. They hate us for the same reason people hated Jesus; He reminded them of what God wants. And they don’t.

Most abortion supporters – especially young people – know not what they do. They’ve been catechized, sometimes by clueless religious bodies, to regard the bloody mangling of children in the womb as just “healthcare” advancing equality for women. If the Church is at fault in these matters, it’s for not doing even more in making clear why we oppose the most murderous impulses in our time – the combination of reckless sexual activity with delusions that abortion is merely a minor elective surgery.

In a sense, the hysteria that has now arisen shows how blind the pro-abortion cause has become. The Alito draft voiding both Roe and Casey does not ban abortion (though the president has falsely claimed that). Alito made a point of specifying that the Constitution says nothing either for or against abortion. And, therefore, the Court had been wrong earlier to invalidate differing state laws in Roe. The states, not the federal government, have legal jurisdiction to permit, qualify, or disallow abortion.

This is hardly an “extremist Catholic” approach. If Alito and the Justices joining him wanted that, they could have declared Constitutional protections for life in the womb. Most pro-lifers would have preferred that as consistent with both our best legal and moral principles. But for now, we have (if the draft’s conclusions hold up) at least a recognition that abortion is not just “healthcare.” The moral questions may be debated and decided in the states, without federal interference.

This halfway house stings the pro-abortion side because they want to stamp out the very notion that there’s something to debate. That’s why the more extreme pro-aborts protested at Catholic Churches on Mother’s Day. It’s a backhanded compliment, in a way. They recognize the Church has been making the most consistent and powerful arguments for why children in the womb deserve protection.

Anti-Catholic protests at our very churches are something we thought ended long ago in an America that professes religious pluralism. You only see these sorts of threats to religious institutions these days in outright tyrannies like China, Middle Eastern and African countries where militant Islam has a free hand, or countries like the pope’s homeland, Argentina, where real extremists – radical feminist groups – firebomb Catholic churches, which have to be protected by Catholic laymen, since police forces are insufficient to do the job.

So who are the real “extremists” in all this? Those who, however imperfectly, try to follow the words of their Lord to love their enemies – who often know not what they do?

Or those who throw public tantrums and, in order to get their way, try to intimidate those legitimately appointed by legal means to positions of authority?

We should resist their intimidation, with all our strength. But also pray for them – and for our dear, ailing America.


*Image: Madonna del Parto by Piero della Francesca, after 1457 [Francesca Musei Civici Madonna del Parto, Monterchi, Italy]. As the museum explains, this is “a very young pregnant woman, as any other, waiting for her baby who is about to change her life; though, at the same time, she is also the one God has chosen to give redemption to mankind.”

You may also enjoy:

Michael Pakaluk’s Abortion is the Crux

David Carlin’s Pro-abortion Snobbery

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent books are Columbus and the Crisis of the West and A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century.