Opinion | Which Values Should Guide America’s Laws?

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A new Texas law banning most abortions went into effect last week. The law is notable for how restrictive it is, and for how it will be enforced. Texans are empowered to sue not only abortion providers, but also anyone else who “aids and abets” someone in obtaining an abortion.

At Times Opinion, we’ve published a range of responses to the law. Lauren Kelley, a member of the editorial board, warned that the Supreme Court’s refusal last week to block the law was yet another sign that Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned. Columnist Michelle Goldberg wrote about how the law is part of a broader trend of the Republican Party encouraging vigilantism. Mary Tuma, a journalist in Texas, described the state’s long history of hollowing out women’s health care.

And today, we’re publishing two essays with very different views on a deeper question raised by the legislation: Which set of values should guide our nation’s laws?

Linda Greenhouse, a contributing Opinion writer, laments that Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas — and other politicians whose states have passed laws limiting abortion — invoked God as he voiced his support for the law.

“Who let God into the legislative chamber?” she asks.

Karen Swallow Prior, a research professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, on the other hand, praises the Texas law.

“The highest purpose of human law is the protection of human life, from its beginning to its natural end,” she writes. “As a pro-life Christian, I believe that each of our individual origins are in the moment of conception.”

Though Prior writes that the Texas law is “far from perfect,” she sees in it potential not just to reduce the number of abortions in Texas, but also to encourage people to support women who are considering having abortions.

“As history has shown again and again, we sometimes need the law to teach us to love,” she writes. “Sometimes it takes a law to remind us that fellow human beings are not ours to own, harm, or kill.”

I hope you’ll read each of these essays and consider how they can help us understand how this law came to be, and how it will affect the lives of Texans — and others in America beyond the state’s borders — in the future. Taken together, they represent a core part of our mission at Opinion: to expose readers to many different ways of thinking about the important events of our time.

Eleanor Barkhorn is an editor at large in Opinion. She previously worked as an editor at Vox and The Atlantic.

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