The pivotal point of the American debate over life for the past 36 years has been the 1973 Supreme Court decision in the Roe vs. Wade case. Perhaps no other issue has polarized American life like abortion. The next supreme court nominees, like the last ones, will not be asked first about the Constitution itself, but rather about abortion, and specifically, Roe v Wade. What is the story behind this decision?
First, we need to realize what Roe vs. Wade did. Most people think it legalized abortion. In the broadest of terms, that is almost right. However, many US states had already legalized abortion. Like many other issues, abortion was a state matter, an assumed right of the reserve clause of the Bill of Rights, that all powers not given to congress were reserved for the states. In that way, each state made its own decision about abortion.
In 1973, most abortion activists knew that there was no way to push further legalization of abortion through popular elections: most Americans were firmly against abortion. Like many unpopular causes, the Left turned to the courts and a tiny majority to get their way on this issue. Norma McCorvey was a pregnant unwed mother. She didn't have any big feelings about things one way or another. A coalition of special interest groups took a "special interest" in her case, and used her as a tool, under the pseudonym "Jane Roe" to present their case to the most willing of lower courts. In what must have been a very carefully orchestrated plan, years in the making, the road was paved to the Supreme Court. But even paved roads in the court system are slow. By the time the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 to strike down Texas' abortion laws, McCorvey's "fetus" was a toddler, and she never had an abortion. Today, both McCorvey and her daughter are active in the pro-life movement. McCorvey herself says she was used -- abused -- as a tool to push through an agenda that she did not favor. Her daughter has a stronger agenda, however. She was given a death sentence by the same Supreme Court that had overruled death sentences for convicted murderers a year earlier.
What are the problems with this ruling? First, there continues to be the deception of those who support the ruling. They often say that if Roe v Wade were overturned, abortion would be illegal in this country. That is a lie. It would only return the issue to the states, where it belongs, and where it resided for 184 years.
What is the basis for the ruling? The Supreme Court ruled that there was an implied "right to privacy" in the US Constitution, and based their ruling on a convoluted misinterpretation of the third amendment, which prohibits the quartering of troops, and more importantly, the fourth amendment, which prohibits illegal search and seizure. The latter is the more ridiculous of interpretations, as it is a prohibition against allowing someone to enter a location not their own, and forcibly remove something from that domicile. Interestingly, that is exactly what an abortion is.
Even more interesting is that the justices found a "right to privacy," even though one is not mentioned in the Constitution, but could not find a "right to life," saying that the 14th amendment's guarantee of protection as a citizen could not be extended to the unborn in this case. The ruling was made assuming that we could not know the forefathers' intentions when they wrote the Constitution. Of course, many of those same men who were instrumental in developing the Constition had, thirteen years earlier, penned the Declaration of Independence, which stated that people are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." There, not implied, but stated boldly, is the "right to life."
The decision to take or spare that life was left to the interpretation of each state -- until 1973. Why, you may ask, didn't they work with the various state legislatures to push their agenda? The answer, of course, is obvious: most states found the killing of the unborn repugnant, cruel, and against nature itself.
So why not leave things as they were? Any American who wanted an abortion could move to a state where it was legal. Why go to the trouble of overruling 50 sovereign states? By the way, Roe v. Wade not only overruled the "pro-life" states, but also the "pro-abortion" states, rewriting their own rules and restrictions in this issue.
The basic answer is "finances." Abortions were not economically feasible. The process was costly, and most people could not afford it. States could not pay for the abortions they provided, and the abortion industry could not flourish. By mandating a blanket abortion law across all 50 states, the issue was put into federal control. Federal funding was on the way, and today most clinics make their money from federal (read "taxpayer") funds. Before 1973, those who lived in a pro-life state did not have to subsidize abortion.
Had Roe not passed, abortion might have died. Most abortions are requested by women who cannot afford the procedure, and that same lack of funds extends to other necessities of life. If those seeking abortions had moved to states providing them, those states would not have been able to support the financial substructure necessary to support the people who needed the procedure. By mandating that all citizens in all states support the procedure, abortions soon became the profitable business they are today.
Were abortion to actually be outlawed today (and that would take more than just overturning "Roe"), our nation would suffer a gigantic economic crisis because of the jobs, research, and raw materials generated by the harvesting of the unborn.
Roe v Wade also ensured that abortion could be forced. Catholic hospitals are faced with a conscience crisis when they must choose between being eligible for Medicare and Medicaid money or refusing to do abortions. Pharmacists of principle have lost their jobs for refusing to distribute RU-486, the "morning after pill," to teenagers. Some have lost their jobs over this issue when all a customer would have had to do is walk across the street to another pharmacy. The Roe decision was wrong then, and it is wrong now.
McCorvey claimed that she had been raped, or at least was coached to say this. She says today that she never imagined that women would use the decision that bears her pseudonym to use elective abortion, not once, but repeatedly.
No one will ever know how many scientists, researchers, teachers, statesmen and women, public servants, artists, and philanthropists have been exterminated in the womb since 1973. But the decision was made in ignorance by justices with a prejudice. The woman who was forcefully used to push the case through was a victim, not a plaintiff.
As we celebrate this week: the 19th, the memory of a great man, Martin Luther King, the 20, the historic inauguration of our 44th president, let us not forget the 22nd, not as a celebration, but as a mark on our nation as despicable and shameful as September 11th. And let us push for a reversal of Roe v Wade. Let's take Washington's hands off the unborn, and return this decision to the states, as the Reserve Clause would dictate.