Roe V. Wade
Roe V. Wade stands out as one of the most infamous cases ever decided in history. On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court granted a young mother the "right of choice" to take the life of the developing child in her womb. She never exercised that right, but there have now been over thirty-six million precious lives sacrificed on this altar of "choice"—a whole generation. Roe V. Wade will be forever remembered as the day when America said that death is the acceptable choice for "unwanted life."
The legalization of abortion only happened after many years of work behind the scenes by activists and physicians. The first step was in the pro-contraceptive movement that swept the nation beginning in 1920 and concluded in the Griswold V. Connecticut decision on June 7, 1965. This case recognized a constitutional right to privacy and legalized the use of contraceptives. Birth control gave women new options and allowed them to take a place outside of the home. It also paved the way for more radical activists who demanded more than prevention of pregnancy (Stevens, 44-48).
These new ideas contributed to a more liberal outlook on the world in the areas of family, marriage, and sexuality (64). Women were becoming more involved in the workplace which affected the family drastically. The "nuclear family" was also being challenged. It was no longer a wife’s responsibility to stay at home and take care of the family. Views on the importance of marriage were changing rapidly and claimed by some to be unnecessary. The changing views on sexuality also contributed to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases, rape, and pre-marital sexual relations (Olasky, 291).
A new generation of women was faced with a decision they could not responsibly handle. For some, abortion seemed to be the simplest solution to their "problem." If a patient was not secure about the final outcome of their choice they were firmly persuaded by those who were. These women were often motivated by doubts about the reality of the personhood of the child within their womb. Often a doctor would begin practicing on the premise that they were just trying to save the life of the mother and then progress to performing abortions on a regular basis. Eventually, abortion was a common practice among some physicians and generally accepted by women as their "right". Although it was still illegal in America, in 1972 there were 586,750 abortions performed. (www.family.org/cforum/research/papers/a0000986.html)
With this cultural shift in values about the nature of family, marriage and sexuality, the pro-abortion movement was poised to effect a change. Seeing an opportunity in what was perceived to be a vague construction of a Texas anti-abortion law, they chose this battleground for a constitutional crisis. The issue they claimed was that the law violated a constitutional right to privacy. Various different groups joined together including the Women’s Liberation Center, ACLU, and Planned Parenthood. Even though these organizations were aligned and ready for a change, it is unnecessary to argue that there was a "vast left-wing conspiracy," but instead a conspiracy of spirit among the legal minds of that era (Stevens, 100).
Those directly involved in Roe V. Wade included Sarah Weddington, Norma McCorvey, and Henry Wade. Weddington was an inexperienced Texas lawyer who was motivated by the "women’s rights" movement. "The fledgling attorney got involved in Roe through a group of female law students that approached her at a garage sale. They asked for her help contesting the Texas statute that prohibited abortion unless it was to save a woman's life" (www.thedaily.washington.edu/archives/00Au/10.18.00/N3.weddington.html). When given the opportunity to advance the pro-abortion agenda, she accepted and began her search for a plaintiff.
Norma McCorvey was a poor, pregnant, and abandoned woman; a perfect test case. When approached by Weddington, McCorvey agreed to meet with her in hopes of acquiring an abortion. Instead, she was asked to be the plaintiff in a challenge against the Texas State law prohibiting abortion. Weddington and colleague, Linda Coffee, convinced McCorvey to sign on to a campaign she little understood. Only later did she learn that her signature would make her an international figure. The irony of it all was that Norma McCorvey, known under the pseudonym Jane Roe, never actually got an abortion (www.roenomore.org/normas_story/index.htm).
Henry Wade was the state appointed prosecutor. He was a well-known Dallas county elected official, who had taken part in the prosecution of Jack Ruby, who had shot Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Wade was a Texas legend, known as "the chief" around the Dallas courthouse, who never lost a case that he personally prosecuted. Jay Floyd and Robert Flowers, two of Wade’s operatives, served as his attorneys and argued the case before the Supreme Court. Weddington was said to have been relieved to find that Wade’s assistants and not Wade himself would argue for the prosecution (Lee, Obituaries). The commitment of this man, who could have taken a strong stand against abortion, was evidenced by his lack of direct involvement in what later became the landmark case in judicial history.
Sarah Weddington argued her case in court on the basis of what she claimed to be a constitutional "right to privacy." Weddington felt that the ninth amendment was an adequate source for the freedom to rest. However, she also stated that the"14th amendment is an equally appropriate place, under the rights of persons to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." During the trial, Weddington was said to have called on not only the ninth and the fourteenth, but also a variety of constitutional amendments. In response, the justice quipped, "And anything else that might obtain (Stevens, 115)?"
Jay Floyd began his argument by declaring that Roe V. Wade had become a moot case when Jane Roe had given birth to her child. He was quickly informed of the fact that the case was a class action and affected any pregnant females at any given time in the state of Texas. He then went on to attempt a defense of the state’s legal concern for the fetus, and explained why the state believed there was life from the moment of conception. When his reasoning was challenged, he responded that there were still unanswerable questions in that field. He then argued that the decision was not for the court, but for the state legislature to decide (Stevens,118-120).
When both attorneys had presented their oral arguments, the court met to vote on the case. Anticipation rose as those involved awaited a final decision. Instead a notice was received months later that announced a re-argument scheduled for the fall of 1972. Some claimed that this was done in order to wait for the newly appointed justices, Rehnquist and Powell, who might vote against Roe. Although, this delay worried the pro-abortion forces, it also triggered support for the movement. That fall, Weddington reargued the case, while Robert Flowers, a more formidable opponent, replaced Floyd. This time the Supreme Court spent most of its duration interrogating both sides about the development of the fetus. When all questions had been answered the Court once again went into conference. The final decision came on January 23, 1973, with a seven-to-two vote in favor of abortion (Stevens 146-147).
The Court’s majority opinion was based on the premise of a "woman’s personal right to privacy and to choice." These, they believed, came indirectly from the freedoms given in the Constitution’s ninth and fourteenth Amendments, reserving rights to the people and giving personal liberties. It was also claimed that a woman should have the power to decide all aspects of future, including the termination of her pregnancy. Through this reasoning the court chose to side step the fundamental responsibility of the mother for her child. What was necessary to sustain their logic was the acceptance of arguments against the personhood of a child. Thus, the "right to life" of the child was entirely subjugated to the "right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness" of the mother. Neither the Constitution, nor the Declaration of Independence, from which these rights were derived, suggest or allow any such "freedom of choice" for one person over another (Stevens, 139-143).
Since then, America, the leader of the free world, has paved the way for nations everywhere in legalization of abortion. Not only does the U.S. government advocate abortion nationally; it has also provided financial aid to third-world countries that promote the practice. In 1973, a federal law was passed to prevent foreign organizations from using U.S. taxpayer money to pay for abortions. However, many have accused these organizations of simply shifting money around in order to fund their abortion efforts. At this writing, the House had just voted to support a policy of President Bush to prohibit $425 million in U.S. aid for "global population assistance" from going to groups that advocate abortion rights (http://my.aol.com/news/news_story.psp?type=1&cat=0100&id=0105161906280649).
Clearly population control is in the strategic plans for many nations. One notable example is communist China. With a population of 1.2 billion people, China sees abortion as a chief means of achieving their population goals. One of the consequences of this utilitarian approach to population control is the practice of forced-abortion for families who exceed the allowance of one child per couple. Even abortion advocates in America have been forced to admit that when the practice of abortion for population control is taken to it’s logical end, women, children, and families suffer (Encarta, "Women’s Rights").
In the 1920s, Margaret Sanger, the great advocate of eugenics, claimed that "undesirables were polluting America’s racial stock." She promoted a progam called the "Negro Project" in the 1930’s, which was intended to reduce the size of black families (http://www.cnsnews.com/Culture/archive/200105/CUL20010515e.html). Since then eugenic supporters have maintained that their sole purpose is to manage the misery of the less fortunate. Recent studies, published by Donahue and Levitt, supposedly show that falling crime rates can be correlated to legalized abortion in America (www.nber.org/papers/w8004). Apart from the obvious problem with arguing for such a "ends justifies the means" social science, Iain Murray points out one of the central flaws in their reasoning. If such research were valid it would prove true across international borders. However, in Britain, where abortion laws are very liberal, crime has dramatically increased during the same time periods (www.worldmag.com/world/issue/08-21-99/opening_3.asp).
Sex selection has also taken it toll on the male-female ratio in China, since pro-abortion attitudes are very common in the nation and the culture favors boys over girls. It is believed that this is a direct result of China’s family planning policy, promoting one-child families. The unfavorable imbalance of females in the country has left millions of young men single and without children. This practice is common in many countries abroad, but sadly in the U.S. as well where this falls under the umbrella of choice (http://www.cnsnews.com/ForeignBureaus/Archive/1998-2000/GLO19990111a.html).
Back in the U.S., political parties and organizations can either be defined as pro-life or pro-choice. Whereas the Republican Party has an official pro-life political plank; the Democratic Party will not allow a pro-life candidate to speak at a national convention. In 1992, the popular Governor Bob Casey, of Pennsylvania, was denied the privilege of addressing the Democratic convention because of his pro-life views (http://www.cnsnews.com/Politics/Archive/200005/POL20000531c.html). Some of this nation’s largest demonstrations have resulted from this strong political polarization. On the first anniversary of Roe V. Wade, six thousand pro-life supporters marched at the nation’s capital. Each year the numbers have increased to where there are now hundreds of thousands, as Americans realize the importance of their own voice (Stevens, 151).
Thomas Jefferson long ago warned about the dangers of Judicial activism when he wrote, "The Constitution is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please (Federer,330)." The constitutional role of the court is to interpret law, not to create law at his bench. Roe V. Wade was a precedent setting case of judicial activism for years to come. Through this case a constitutional "right" that did not exist replaced an already established law (http://www.cnsnews.com/Commentary/Archive/200103/COM20010307b.html).
Abortion providers are involved in a highly profitable and politically protected industry like no other (Jones, 20). The profit motive can be understood when it is realized that abortions can cost from $100- 4,000 depending on the stage of pregnancy. Carol Everett, a former abortionist, says that "As many as three abortions can be done per hour. Compared to other medical practices, the abortion industry is virtually unregulated. For example, these providers hire doctors that have lost their practices due to illegal drug abuse and malpractice (www.cnsnews.com/Culture/Archive/200103/CUL20010305a.html). This unchecked profiteering has now attracted major Mafia infiltration (Jones, 20-23).
As the overflow of retiring citizens continues to imbalance the number of working individuals, our nation becomes increasingly more economically burdened. Government funds cannot completely provide for the needs of the elderly and their children seem unwilling to contribute the requirements of their extended care. Some within the medical world have proposed euthanasia as a "final solution" for this aging generation (http://www.worldmag.com/world/issue/07-31-99/cover_4.asp). This is the logical end of the Supreme Court decision, which stated, "Only ‘viable’ human beings who have the ‘capability of meaningful life’ may, but need not, be protected by the state (http://www.noapathy.org/tracts/crimeofbeingalive.htm." In October 1997, Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide and thus took the first step towards euthanasia in America. The Supreme Court did not declare this act a constitutional right but instead approved this type of "procedure" for experimentation in hospitals (http://www.worldmag.com/world/issue/07-31-99/cover_4.asp).
In 1993, President Clinton signed the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act, lifting the ban on federally funded research involving the transplantation of fetal tissue. This decision had supposedly opened the door for medical researchers, providing an opportunity to find cures for Parkinson’s, AIDS, and cancer. What the public is not informed about is the considerable profit from which these groups benefit. After the legalization of fetal tissue research, AGF, a formerly non-profit organization, had gross revenues of $2 million in comparison to their previous $180,000. Although some positive results have been attributed to this research, bio-ethicists argue that the price is too high to surrender human life for the benefit of medicine (http://www.worldmag.com/world/issue/10-23-99/cover_1.asp).
It is hard to evaluate the entire scope of effects that Roe V. Wade has had on people. However, as stated before, it has been estimated that over thirty-six million lives have been lost for this supposed freedom of choice, resulting in a lost generation. The political rise of "Planned Parenthood" has been defined by planning the end and not the beginning of parenthood. The polarization of the sexes has emerged through the radicalization of feminist agendas. All that seems to matter is the "right to choice" with no concern about it’s effects on women and children. With the rise and ever expanding "culture of death" some question if there might be a connection between abortion, legal killing, with illegal killing. Stan Engle, Pro-life activist has said, "Someone who makes a living taking the lives of the unborn is only one step away from taking the lives of the born (Vincent, 25-27).
When "individual rights" define the choices of prospective parents, it is a wonder that such families exist at all. When a family is comprised of various individuals who demand their rights when challenged to consider the well being of others, one must ask what is meant by the term "family?" Further, what does "love" mean in a family that first chooses to kill a prospective member and only later, when convenient, chooses to allow another member to live? For obvious reasons it would be hard to record a link between child abuse and abortion, however common sense points out that this is a concern within families who attempt to stay together with such a burden for the conscience. Then there is what has been called the "post abortion syndrome." Symptoms include: depression and breast cancer not to mention further complications with pregnancy including miscarriage, infertility, and premature birth. The women and men who suffer from this emotional and physical disorder carry a burden that is often too much for any family to bear (http://www.worldmag.com/world/issue/01-16-99/national_1.asp).
Roe V. Wade was a watershed case in American history. Our nation is now deciding if it will further accelerate down the slippery path that uses death as a "solution" or if it will abandon this choice by once again remembering the constitutional "right to life."
Thomas Jefferson said, "God who gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever." (Federer,323).
King David said, "You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (Psalm 139:13-16)
Jesus said, "See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:10)
Christine Nordgren 11/11/01
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Christine Nordgren, 12/14/01