In Defense of Life: Roe v. Wade

Today is the 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States. Since January 22, 1973, over 50,000,000 lives have ended by abortion.

Last year Robert P. George, J.D., D.Phil., McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, founder of the American Principles Project and member of the Drafting Committee of the Manhattan Declaration made these remarks in his speech, Our Struggle for the Soul of Our Nation:

…In the name of a generalized “right to privacy” allegedly implicit in the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment, seven justices created a license to kill the unborn….

They were wrong about the Constitution. As William H. Rehnquist and Byron White, the two dissenting justices in the case, pointed out, it is absurd to claim that a right to feticide follows from the constitutional injunction that “no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” If the Constitution can be read to imply anything about abortion, it is that unborn human beings are, like everyone else, entitled to “the equal protection of the laws.” At a minimum, Roe and Doe were an outrageous usurpation of the constitutional authority of the people of the United States to shape law and policy through the institutions of representative government.

The Roe justices were also wrong to imagine that legal abortion would prove to be enlightened or in the slightest respect humane. On the contrary, the policy imposed by the Court has proven to be an unmitigated disaster. In the thirty-six years since Roe and Doe, abortion has taken the lives of more than fifty million unborn victims—each a distinct, unique, precious human being. It has done immeasurable moral, psychological, and sometimes physical harm to women who are so very often, and in so many respects, truly abortion’s “secondary victims.” It has corrupted physicians and nurses by turning healers into killers. It has undermined the moral authority of the law by its injustice. It has abetted irresponsible—even predatory—male sexual behavior. Far from reducing the rate of out-of-wedlock births, particularly to poor women, illegitimacy has skyrocketed in the age of abortion. Now the abortion license has metastasized into widespread elite support for deadly embryo experimentation and even, in my home state of New Jersey, to the express legalization of the horrific and grisly practice of fetal farming—the creation of human beings by cloning or other processes for the purpose of harvesting their tissues and organs at any point up to birth for experimentation and transplantation.

The justices were wrong, moreover, to suppose that America, as a nation, would learn to live with the abortion license. A notable effect of the Court’s rulings was to energize the grassroots pro-life movement that had come into being a few years earlier to resist legislative efforts to liberalize state abortion laws….

Pro-life groups have proliferated and branched out into many demographic niches over the years as pro-life advocates endeavored through protests, political action, counseling, education, clinics and provision for various needs to help those in a crisis pregnancy choose life, as well as to provide support for women dealing with the bitter aftermath of abortion. Tens of thousands of pro-life advocates will be in Washington, D.C. to March for Life today. The first march in 1974 drew some 20,000, and numbers have increased to 200,000 and more.

Abortion as an issue marks one of the greatest divides between political parties. In 1976, the first Republican National Convention held after Roe had in its platform an endorsement of the “efforts of those who seek a constitutional amendment to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.” The Republican platform has remained pro-life while pro-life Democrats have been increasingly marginalized by their party, and today will be met with increasing skepticism by those in the pro-life movement after Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska’s vote for the Senate health care bill in December, 2009.

The contrast between parties in reflected in a stark contrast between presidents. Prior to the 2008 election, Robert George wrote regarding Obama’s Abortion Extremism, and Life News has compiled his record after the election in President Barack Obama’s Pro-Abortion Record: A Pro-Life Compilation. Jill Stanek, who as a nurse in the Labor & Delivery Department at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois, discovered that babies who had survived abortion were being left to die without medical attention. She has given verbal and written testimony to the U.S. Congress and to several state legislatures. She knew Obama when he was in the Illinois legislature and has detailed Obama’s opposition to the Illinois Born Alive Infant Protection Act at her website.

Compare Obama’s activities with those of another president.

In 1983, President Ronald Reagan wrote Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation. I want to close with this excerpt from his work:

The real question today is not when human life begins, but, What is the value of human life? The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother’s body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being. The real question for him and for all of us is whether that tiny human life has a God-given right to be protected by the law — the same right we have….

The 1981 Senate hearings on the beginning of human life brought out the basic issue more clearly than ever before. The many medical and scientific witnesses who testified disagreed on many things, but not on the scientific evidence that the unborn child is alive, is a distinct individual, or is a member of the human species. They did disagree over the value question, whether to give value to a human life at its early and most vulnerable stages of existence….

I have often said we need to join in prayer to bring protection to the unborn. Prayer and action are needed to uphold the sanctity of human life. I believe it will not be possible to accomplish our work, the work of saving lives, “without being a soul of prayer.” The famous British Member of Parliament, William Wilberforce, prayed with his small group of influential friends, the “Clapham Sect,” for decades to see an end to slavery in the British empire. Wilberforce led that struggle in Parliament, unflaggingly, because he believed in the sanctity of human life. He saw the fulfillment of his impossible dream when Parliament outlawed slavery just before his death.

Let his faith and perseverance be our guide. We will never recognize the true value of our own lives until we affirm the value in the life of others, a value of which Malcolm Muggeridge says:. . . however low it flickers or fiercely burns, it is still a Divine flame which no man dare presume to put out, be his motives ever so humane and enlightened.”

Abraham Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some men could decide that others were not fit to be free and should therefore be slaves. Likewise, we cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion or infanticide. My Administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land, and there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have any meaning.

H/T: American Principles Project, Manhattan Declaration, March For Life, Republican National Coalition for Life, The Witherspoon Institute Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good, Life News, Jill Stanek, National Review.

Crossposted to J’s Cafe Nette and Be John Galt.