(Photo Credit – Prevent Disease website)
by Diane Rufino, February 22, 2019
On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court handed down one of the most controversial opinions in its history. It issued its opinion regarding the constitutionality of state laws banning and even criminalizing abortion. In striking down those laws, it identified a new fundamental right – the right of a woman to have an abortion, at essentially any time during her pregnancy and for whatever reason. It decided the case of Roe v. Wade.
States are allowed to regulate a wide variety of actions in the interest of protecting the people within its borders. These are the laws that are pursuant to its vast “police powers” – the power to regulate for the health, safety, welfare,, and morality of its citizens. These are the powers reserved to the states under the 10th Amendment, and the powers intended to remain with each state. Aside from these police powers (the 10th Amendment), the Constitution puts certain limits the states’ authority to regulate. One of those limits is when there is an individual liberty right at stake. (And not just any “liberty right” at that; the right at stake must have been a recognized liberty right at the time the 14th Amendment was adopted, which was 1868. For any other asserted liberty right, the Constitution would need to be amended per Article V’s amendment process. See the Appendix at the end of the article). In Roe v. Wade, Norma McCorvey (aka, petitioner Roe) argued that the Constitution protected her liberty to choose to have an abortion, and that that right was paramount to the state’s right to regulate abortion.
Disregarding the Court’s established jurisprudence regarding the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, the Supreme Court agreed with McCorvey.
In a 7-2 opinion written by Justice Harry Blackmun, he Supreme Court declared the right to an abortion is a fundamental liberty right that the state can only limit thru regulation if that regulation furthers a very strong state interest (a “compelling state interest”) and is narrowly-tailored to achieve that interest. That is, it cannot be overbroad. The Court then went on to conclude that a woman’s liberty right in controlling whether or not she is pregnant (hence, her right to choose to have an abortion) is stronger than the state’s interest in banning abortions outright.
Justice Blackmun wrote: “[Although] the Constitution does not explicitly mention any right of privacy … the Court has recognized that a right of personal privacy, or a guarantee of certain areas or zones of privacy, does exist under the Constitution. … This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the 14th Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the 9th Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. … We, therefore, conclude that the right of personal privacy includes the abortion decision, but that this right is not unqualified and must be considered against important state interests in regulation.”
Blackmun also addressed the very controversial issue of whether a fetus is a “person” within the meaning of that word in the 14th Amendment. He continued:
“The Constitution does not define ‘person’ in so many words. … The use of the word is such that it has application only postnatally.… This persuades us that the word ‘person,’ as used in the 14th Amendment, does not include the unborn. … In areas other than criminal abortion, the law has been reluctant to endorse any theory that life, as we recognize it, begins before live birth or to accord legal rights to the unborn except in narrowly defined situations and except when the rights are contingent upon live birth. … In short, the unborn have never been recognized in the law as persons in the whole sense.”
Blackmun then summarized the “balancing of competing interests” at stake in the issue of pregnancy and abortion in what has become known as “the Trimester Test”:
“A state criminal abortion statute of the current Texas type, that excepts from criminality only a life-saving procedure on behalf of the mother without regard to pregnancy stage and without recognition of the other interests involved, is violative of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. a) For the stage prior to approximately the end of the first trimester, the abortion decision and its effectuation must be left to the medical judgment of the pregnant woman’s attending physician. b) For the stage subsequent to approximately the end of the first trimester, the State, in promoting its interest in the health of the mother, may, if it chooses, regulate the abortion procedure in ways that are reasonably related to maternal health. c) For the stage subsequent to viability, the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate and even proscribe, abortion except where it is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”
The opinion would go on to explain that the “health of the mother” does not necessarily only mean physical health. An abortion in the third trimester can be justified for any reason related to physical health, mental health, psychological well-being, age (being too young), familial (meaning the family wants the baby aborted), or even financial well-being. Even if the woman feels stressed from the pregnancy, she would be within her right to abort her later-term baby for “health” reasons. In other words, the opinion basically established the rule that a woman’s right to an abortion always outweighs the right to life for the unborn. Since 1973, Roe v. Wade has stood for the legal principle that a woman can have an abortion at any point in her pregnancy for any reason whatsoever, and neither the federal government nor any state can place any pre-conditions or restrictions on a woman’s right to that abortion. In other words, Roe assures women the right to an abortion on demand.
The infamous Roe decision (and its companion case, Doe v. Bolton) was the opinion of 7 out of 9 members of the court. Two justices dissented – Justice Byron White and Justice William Rehnquist. Justice White believed the Court created a new right not envisioned by the Constitution and both he and Justice Rehnquist believed the question of abortion was a state matter covered by the 10th Amendment.
Justice White wrote, in his dissenting opinion:
At the heart of the controversy in these cases are those recurring pregnancies that pose no danger whatsoever to the life or health of the mother but are, nevertheless, unwanted for any one or more of a variety of reasons — convenience, family planning, economics, dislike of children, the embarrassment of illegitimacy, etc. The common claim before us is that, for any one of such reasons, or for no reason at all, and without asserting or claiming any threat to life or health, any woman is entitled to an abortion at her request if she is able to find a medical advisor willing to undertake the procedure.
The Court, for the most part, sustains this position: During the period prior to the time the fetus becomes viable, the Constitution of the United States values the convenience, whim, or caprice of the putative mother more than the life or potential life of the fetus; the Constitution, therefore, guarantees the right to an abortion as against any state law or policy seeking to protect the fetus from an abortion not prompted by more compelling reasons of the mother.
With all due respect, I dissent. I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes. he Court apparently values the convenience of the pregnant mother more than the continued existence and development of the life or potential life that she carries. Whether or not I might agree with that marshaling of values, I can in no event join the Court’s judgment because I find no constitutional warrant for imposing such an order of priorities on the people and legislatures of the States. I cannot accept the Court’s exercise of its clear power of choice by interposing a constitutional barrier to state efforts to protect human life and by investing mothers and doctors with the constitutionally protected right to exterminate it. This issue, for the most part, should be left with the people and to the political processes the people have devised to govern their affairs.
It is my view, therefore, that the Texas statute is not constitutionally infirm because it denies abortions to those who seek to serve only their convenience, rather than to protect their life or health. Nor is this plaintiff, who claims no threat to her mental or physical health, entitled to assert the possible rights of those women whose pregnancy assertedly implicates their health. This, together with United States v. Vuitch, 402 U.S. 62 (1971), dictates reversal of the judgment of the District Court.
Justice Rehnquist dissented with these views:
I have difficulty in concluding, as the Court does, that the right of “privacy” is involved in this case. Texas, by the statute here challenged, bars the performance of a medical abortion by a licensed physician on a plaintiff such as Roe. A transaction resulting in an operation such as this is not “private” in the ordinary usage of that word. Nor is the “privacy” that the Court finds here even a distant relative of the freedom from searches and seizures protected by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which the Court has referred to as embodying a right to privacy. Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967).
If the Court means by the term “privacy” no more than that the claim of a person to be free from unwanted state regulation of consensual transactions may be a form of “liberty” protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, there is no doubt that similar claims have been upheld in our earlier decisions on the basis of that liberty. I agree with the statement of Mr. Justice Stewart in his concurring opinion that the “liberty,” against deprivation of which without due process the Fourteenth Amendment protects, embraces more than the rights found in the Bill of Rights. But that liberty is not guaranteed absolutely against deprivation, only against deprivation without due process of law. The test traditionally applied in the area of social and economic legislation is whether or not a law such as that challenged has a rational relation to a valid state objective. Williamson v. Lee Optical Co., 348 U.S. 483, 491 (1955). The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment undoubtedly does place a limit, albeit a broad one, on legislative power to enact laws such as this. If the Texas statute were to prohibit an abortion even where the mother’s life is in jeopardy, I have little doubt that such a statute would lack a rational relation to a valid state objective under the test stated in Williamson, supra. But the Court’s sweeping invalidation of any restrictions on abortion during the first trimester is impossible to justify under that standard, and the conscious weighing of competing factors that the Court’s opinion apparently substitutes for the established test is far more appropriate to a legislative judgment than to a judicial one.
The fact that a majority of the States reflecting, after all, the majority sentiment in those States, have had restrictions on abortions for at least a century is a strong indication, it seems to me, that the asserted right to an abortion is not “so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental,” Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U.S. 97, 105 (1934). Even today, when society’s views on abortion are changing, the very existence of the debate is evidence that the “right” to an abortion is not so universally accepted as the appellant would have us believe.
To reach its result, the Court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment. As early as 1821, the first state law dealing directly with abortion was enacted by the Connecticut Legislature. By the time of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, there were at least 36 laws enacted by state or territorial legislatures limiting abortion. While many States have amended or updated their laws, 21 of the laws on the books in 1868 remain in effect today. Indeed, the Texas statute struck down today was, as the majority notes, first enacted in 1857 and “has remained substantially unchanged to the present time.
There apparently was no question concerning the validity of this provision or of any of the other state statutes when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted. The only conclusion possible from this history is that the drafters did not intend to have the Fourteenth Amendment withdraw from the States the power to legislate with respect to this matter.
And, as the 10th Amendment states so clearly, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The power to regulate for the safety, health, welfare, and morality of its people are the so-called “Police Powers” reserved by each state under the 10th Amendment. Because the power to regulate abortions was not prohibited to the States under the Constitution or by the 14th Amendment, the power continues to reside with the state. [We are, of course, referring to abortions that aren’t absolutely medically necessary on account of rape or incest or to preserve the life or physical health of the mother; we are referring to the types of abortions that Roe and Doe filed suit for, and the types of abortions that our sexually-active and adventurous progressive/liberal population, which are merely and essentially for convenience].
The Roe v. Wade decision has resulted in the deaths of over 60 million children since that infamous January date.
Liberals and progressives, fearing that a right-leaning Supreme Court may try to limit a woman’s right to an abortion, have taken to their state legislatures to protect that right. And in many cases, as we are witnessing, they are doing so that would probably even offend the Roe court. States like New York and Virginia and Rhode Island and the District of Columbia are pursuing “late-term” abortion bills that essentially remove any meaningful state interest in the life of the unborn such that a woman can terminate her pregnancy at any point, even killing her living unborn. New York has already passed its law – the mis-named Reproductive Health Act, and the others no doubt will soon follow.
As horrible, as horrific, as heinous, as unconscionable as these laws sound, they are perfectly compliant with the Roe v. Wade opinion. That is the sad reality.
These “late-term abortion” laws show just how broad, and how cruel and insidious the Roe decision was (is).
The truth is that 31 states have relaxed abortion laws. At one time North Carolina had a fairly relaxed abortion law, but over the years, the state has exercised its interest in the life of the unborn. Currently, it is seeking to prevent any abortion after 13 weeks, except when the woman’s attending physician is able to explain why an abortion is needed to prevent risk of death to the mother or other medical emergency. 23 states permit a later-term abortion “for the life and health of the mother,” which essentially means that a woman can terminate her pregnancy at any time for any reason, since the Supreme Court has interpreted “health” to mean any number of things – physical, emotional, psychological, financial, familial, because of stigma, and for age or for stress. These 23 states are: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Compare this relaxed standard to the more strict one, which permits a woman to have a later-term abortion only if is necessary “for life and physical health of the mother.” Sixteen (16) states have this more strict standard – Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming. There are 3 states that allow a full-term baby to be directly killed, but only if the pregnancy poses a direct risk to the mother’s life. Those states are Idaho, Michigan, and Rhode Island.
Now, take special note of these particular states: Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont. They don’t even require the pretense of a “health” reason for women to abort their full-term babies. In those 7 states, there are no bans at all on abortion at any stage. Those states are virtual killing fields. As Laurie Higgins wrote in the Illinois Family Institute: “It’s open season on babies who, through no fault of their own, have the misfortune of being conceived in the wrong womb.”
Just to drive home how barbaric a late-term abortion is – the kind of abortion just legalized in New York and the kind that Virginia expressly wanted to legalize, here is how a former abortionist describes the procedure:
“The baby is injected with a poison directly into his skull or torso. He then suffers a hideously painful death, which he will certainly feel because of his developed nervous system. The mother carries the corpse around in her womb for a day. The next day, there is an ultrasound to check if the baby is dead. If he isn’t….. if, by some miracle he survived and has been writhing and suffering in agony for the past 24 hours clinging onto life, then he will be injected again. The following day, the mother delivers her dead child. Sometimes she delivers him at the clinic, but if she can’t make it on time, the clinic is perfectly happy to recommend that she give birth into her toilet.”
What progressives and liberals don’t want the ordinary person to know is that all states allow late-term abortions that threaten a mother’s “life” – not just her “health.” There is no life-threatening condition that would ever necessitate the direct, intentional, active killing of a baby in the womb. There are relatively rare occasions in which continuing a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life, but ending a pregnancy does not require the direct, intentional, active killing of a baby. The key word here is “baby,” which means that the unborn is fully-developed or near to being fully-developed and capable of being cared for outside the womb by the mother, caregivers, or by special incubators and machines that can provide the care and protection that the mother’s womb can until term.
If there is a life-threatening condition that would necessitate the termination of a woman’s later-term, near full-term, or full-term pregnancy, the best option for doctors and for the woman is to deliver that baby. There are possible instances (such as cancer, a debilitating heart condition, toxemia, exceedingly high blood pressure, etc) when it may be necessary to remove the baby from its mother’s womb, but it is never necessary to kill him before removing him. There is no medical reason, and certainly no reasonable or moral one, to take that extra step of preemptively killing the child. Doctors can induce delivery or perform a C-section to save a woman’s life in a life-threatening or emergency situation without dismembering, crushing, burning, or chemically inducing cardiac arrest in a baby. In some induced deliveries or C-sections, babies will not survive, but that is wholly different from intentionally killing them.
The point is – the FACT is – that a delivery must happen either way. If a mother in the third trimester decides she doesn’t want or can’t have her baby inside her, she is going to have to deliver him one way or another. The only question is whether she will deliver a dead child or a living one. Giving a lethal injection to the child may be the more convenient route, but since when do we as a society put a greater value on convenience than on life itself. It certainly isn’t the necessary route.
Our options should always fall on the side of respecting and preserving life. We are the nation founded on the great truth that we are created and the moment we are created, we are endowed by our Creator with the inalienable rights of Life and Liberty.
God help us if we don’t change our thinking on this subject and don’t put an end to the killing fields.
Now, to be fair, most abortions are performed prior to 21 weeks of pregnancy. Agencies like the Center for Disease Control and abortion doctors themselves like to point out that the overwhelming percentage of abortions are performed up to 21 weeks. But, as I’ll make clear later, 21 weeks (which is very close to medical “viability”) does not mark the start of “life.” The fetus became a new living human being before that – being fully formed (just still very tiny) and exhibiting the functions of life (although some are still weak). Heck, a fetus has a heartbeat at around 6 weeks (although it isn’t heard well on an ultrasound until week 8). The point is that although most abortions are performed during the first half of pregnancy, a good portion of abortions are on the living; they are killing unborn babies.
The New York Reproductive Health Act has ignited a new debate on the abortion rights – specifically on the scope of the right and the fact that the Supreme Court never once considered the growing fetus/baby to be a “life,” let alone a unique life (not a clone of the mother).
You can see from the Roe decision, that by giving women an expansive, unfettered right to terminate her pregnancy (under the guise of “controlling her reproduction”), we have ushered in an era of evil. Since the abortion clinics have opened their doors, a parade of horribles has ensued. It appears that dissenting Justice Byron White summarized the majority’s opinion pretty well when he wrote: “At the heart of the controversy in these cases are those recurring pregnancies that pose no danger whatsoever to the life or health of the mother but are, nevertheless, unwanted for any one or more of a variety of reasons — convenience, family planning, economics, dislike of children, the embarrassment of illegitimacy, etc. The common claim before us is that, for any one of such reasons, or for no reason at all, and without asserting or claiming any threat to life or health, any woman is entitled to an abortion at her request if she is able to find a medical advisor willing to undertake the procedure. And the Court, for the most part, sustains this position: During the period prior to the time the fetus becomes viable, the Constitution of the United States values the convenience, whim, or caprice of the putative mother more than the life or potential life of the fetus…” But he shouldn’t have been so kind to the majority. That last sentence should have read: “During the entire length of a pregnancy, the Constitution of the United States values the convenience, whim, or caprice of the putative mother more than the life or potential life of the fetus.” That is exactly what the Roe decision stands for.
Because of this parade of horribles and the clear intent on the part of Democrats/progressives/liberals to of protecting this absolute right as against all those horribles, I have to believe that the Roe opinion can be re-visited for a more compassionate, moral, scientific outcome, and yes, constitutional decision.
For years, I have spoken and written about the Roe v. Wade decision (Supreme Court, January 22, 1973, announcing a fundamental right, or “liberty right” for women in aborting their unborn). I have held the opinion that the decision was perhaps incorrectly decided because its central premise was wrong. The Supreme Court, including conservative justice Antonin Scalia, made the underlying assumption that a “person” means someone who walks around, who has an independent life outside a woman’s womb. And therefore, the Court looked to the “viability” of the fetus in writing its Trimester Approach to when a woman has most control over her reproduction. The “Trimester Test” was the approach the Court used in summarizing the “balancing of competing interests” at stake in a woman’s pregnancy – the woman’s interest in controlling her reproduction and what happens in her uterus, the state’s interest in the life of the unborn, and the unborn’s right to the life it was intended to have. Sadly, the Court, in fleshing out the competing interests in its opinion, made it clear that any threat to a woman’s health in the third trimester (where typically the interests are greatest for the state and for the unborn) outweighs the interests of the other parties. And it explained that the threat need not be medical in nature. The unborn or the pregnancy itself need not pose any physical harm to her. Other types of harm justifying an abortion up until the moment of birth would include emotional, psychological, and even financial. The mere fact that the pregnancy poses stress on the woman would justify an abortion, according to the high Court. That is why Roe v. Wade stands for the general rule that a woman has a constitutional right to an abortion at any time during her pregnancy, for any reason. She has an unfettered right to abort her fetus or her unborn baby….. she has a right to an abortion on demand.
Anyway, going back to my concern with the Roe v Wade opinion. I believe the Court used the wrong approach in reaching its opinion. Again, it made the general assumption that a “person” means someone who walks around, who has an independent life outside a woman’s womb. And therefore, the Court looked to the “viability” of the fetus. Viability means that the fetus has reached such a stage of development as to be capable of living, under normal conditions, outside the uterus. Today, medical experts believe a fetus is viable at around 24 weeks (which is about halfway in the second trimester). The proper assessment should have been when the fetus becomes a “life.” We know mere conception doesn’t equate to life; it merely sets in motion what would become fetal development resulting in a fully-formed baby that the mother welcomes into the world to continue its growth and development outside the womb. We also know that life does not equate to viability because viability just asks when the baby can likely survive outside the womb. Implicit in that definition is that there is already a “life.” It just looks to see how advanced in development that life is. The unborn cannot live without the protection and life-sustenance from its mother. Similarly, a newborn also cannot live on its own, without the protection and life-sustenance from its parents or other caregiver. A life scientifically comes into being when there is a heartbeat, when the baby has its organs, and when it is nearly completely differentiated so that really all that is needed is more growth and fine-tuning of its life support systems for the outside world. Under this definition, the unborn is a “life” much earlier than viability.
“Life” = “personhood,” and it should be that simple. What kind of society are we when we go out of our way, legally, emotionally, and psychologically to strip certain groups of their personhood and therefore their rights? The most brutal of killers gets our full attention regarding his rights and his place as “a fellow human being.” But the sweetest, most gentle, the purest, and the most helpless are the ones we minimized and disregard. The 8th Amendment is supposedly a testament to our compassion as a civilized society. If that is so, what is the Roe decision and what is New York’s “late-term abortion” law? I would submit that it is a testament to our savagery and to this the most selfish, self-obsessed, and immoral society. We simply can’t justify these polar extremes of our so-called “civility.”
The key is using “life” as the key determinative is that when there is a “life,” our laws provide protection, including observance of its fundamental rights. I look to the Declaration of Independence which professes:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness….
In other words, the minute an individual is created, he or she is endowed with inalienable rights, including the right to Life. Moreover, government is instituted for the primary purpose of secure those rights. It makes no difference whether that individual is 15 years old, 40 years old, 10 years old, 1 month old, or 20 weeks old. The minute it became a living being, it is understood to be entitled to the most essential of all inalienable (those attaching to our very humanity) rights. Technically, according to the words of the Declaration, the minute a new human being is created (joining of reproductive cells at conception; “conception” comes from “conceived” which means a new life, a new human being, has been conceived).
Therefore, a “person,” for purposes of our Rule of Law and our US Constitution (including the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment) includes the unborn. Again, maybe not exactly at conception and for several weeks after that, but certainly, and clearly, towards the end of the first trimester and the beginning of the second trimester. And as such, the unborn “life” has the same fundamental rights as the mother. Once the mother allows the pregnancy to reach the point where life has been created, then she holds no greater interest than the interest the unborn has in continuing its development. In other words, the “competing interests” explanation of a pregnancy shifts greatly. And unlike the Court’s opinion in Roe, where the unborn never was considered a legal “person” in order to take advantage of the rights and liberties enshrined in our Declaration, our Constitution, and our laws and therefore the woman held all the power to decide the unborn’s fate, the approach I believe should have been taken would recognize that the unborn is absolutely a “person” so that a woman does NOT have the unfettered right to abort her unborn, kill it, or otherwise dispose of it.
We can explain the failure of the Supreme Court in Roe using additional legal arguments as well.
The case involved a challenge to a Texas statute that criminalized abortion, which means that Norma McCorvey (aka Roe) filed suit claiming an infringement of an essential (liberty) right protected by the 14th Amendment. Challenges to state law claiming a violation of civil rights or liberty rights recognized by the Bill of Rights are brought under the Due Process Clause of 14th Amendment. Over the years since it was adopted, the Supreme Court has used the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to “incorporate” the liberty rights of the US Bill of Rights as against the states; that is, if the federal government cannot infringe on our religious liberty than neither can the states, if the federal government cannot ban firearms, neither can the states, and so forth and so on.
The 14th Amendment reads:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
As the Court had noted, it first had to determine if the unborn are considered “persons” within the meaning of the 14th Amendment. It concluded that they were not.
If the Court would have exercised proper interpretation authority and followed its own established 14th Amendment jurisprudence (precedent), it would have taken an originalist approach to the analysis, and the outcome would have been quite different (although not ultimately providing for the right of women to have an abortion; the decision would have been left to the states themselves).
Under an “originalist” approach, the Court would have had to determine what the word “persons” was understood to mean when the 14th Amendment was written and ratified. “Originalism” is often equated with “Textualism” (where judges look at the meaning of the words and intent at the time they were written) A honest analysis would have looked not only at the definition of the term “persons” around the time of 1868, but also at society’s view of abortion at that time. In fact, for a claimed right to be covered by the 14th Amendment and hence free from government/state regulation, that right would have had to have been considered an essential liberty right at the time the Amendment was adopted. In other words, the Court should have asked two questions: “What did the term ‘persons’ mean back in 1868?” And, “Was abortion considered a fundamental liberty right back in 1868?” [That is, the Court should have asked: Was the asserted right to an abortion “so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental,” Snyder v. Massachusetts, 291 U.S. 97, 105 (1934)].
If the asserted right was not recognized at the time the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted, that means society was not ready to recognize it as such. To add a new right, one that is clearly defined only by the relaxed moral and sexual societal standards in this progressive/liberal age, the Constitution would need to be amended. And that would require the amendment process outlined in Article V. We update our Constitution, not by the individual wisdom or opinion of a handful of judges but by the collective will of the people.
Josh Craddick, a Harvard Law student recently had a Law Review article published in which he looked into the definition of “persons.” In his article (“Protecting Prenatal Persons: Does the Fourteenth Amendment Prohibit Abortion?”), he noted that layman’s dictionaries at the time of the adoption of the 14th Amendment (adopted on July 28, 1868) treated the concepts of humanity and personhood interchangeably. He also consulted William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, a treatise that had profound influence on legal thinking, was used in American law schools, was relied on by the Supreme Court, and continues to be cited even today in Supreme Court decisions. It is cited at least 10-12 times each year. Blackstone expressly recognized that personhood and the right to life existed before birth. He set forth a simple and clear legal standard: “Where life can be shown to exist, legal personhood exists” (emphasis added). A look back through history shows that there were no laws to specifically protect the unborn prior to “quickening” (when the mother feels the baby begin to kick and move around) and prior to birth, and that makes sense in light of the generally-accepted definition of “personhood.” A pregnant woman was carrying a “life,” and hence she was carrying a new person.
With respect to the second question (“Was abortion considered an essential/fundamental liberty right back in 1868?”), Craddick researched the societal view of abortion back in the day. In his article, he showed that many of the states that voted to ratify the 14th Amendment had laws criminalizing abortion. What does that mean? It seems to confirm that at the time, Americans, state lawmakers, and government officials understood personhood to include the unborn, just as Blackstone defined it. It shows that society in 1868 viewed personhood and life in much the same way that pro-lifers understand.
When the Amendment was adopted in 1868, the states widely recognized children in utero as persons. Nearly every state had criminal laws proscribing abortion, and most of these statutes were classified among ‘offenses against the person.’ There can be no doubt whatsoever that the word ‘person’ referred to the fetus.” Twenty‐three states and six territories referred to the fetus as a ‘child’ in their statutes proscribing abortion. At least twenty‐eight jurisdictions labeled abortion as an ‘offense against the person’ or an equivalent criminal classification. Nine of the ratifying states explicitly valued the lives of the preborn and their pregnant mothers equally by providing the same range of punishment for killing either during the commission of an abortion. The only plausible explanation for this phenomenon is that the legislatures considered the mother and child to be equal in their personhood. Furthermore, ten states (nine of which had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment) considered abortion to be either manslaughter, assault with intent to murder, or murder.
The adoption of strict anti‐abortion measures in the mid‐nineteenth century was the natural development of a long common‐law history proscribing abortion. Beginning in the mid‐thirteenth century, the common law codified abortion as homicide as soon as the child came to life (animation) and appeared recognizably human (formation), which occurred approximately 40 days after fertilization. Lord Coke later cited the “formed and animated standard,” rearticulating it as “quick with childe.”
Craddick went on to point out that even by the mid-nineteenth century, courts and states alike, were increasingly rejecting the “quickening” standard as scientifically obsolete and replacing it with fertilization. Imagine that !!
Sadly, we all know the reasons the justices of the Supreme Court made that colossally-erroneous assumption that “personhood” means “someone who walks around, who has an independent life outside a woman’s womb.” First, the Court knew that society couldn’t be responsible for all the unwanted births; the burden they would impose on society would break our system of welfare and social services. Second, the case moved up through the court system at a time when the Women’s Rights Movement was fighting for equality in the workplace and in the home, with equality resting squarely on her ability to determine when, or if, she would reproduce. A woman could not control her career, her future, or even her burden at home if she were to be held hostage by her uterus and her God-given ability to bring forth new life. The Court, obsessed with social justice and equality, saw the case as one to give the Women’s Rights Movement what it wanted – the ability to finally be equal in the workforce.
Germany wanted a racially-pure German race. It felt it had that right as a sovereign country. After all, the Nazi movement was about nationalism. Germany would never be treated and punished, plundered and broken up like it was after the defeat of the Triple Alliance nations in World War I. For Germany to have the ability to engineer a pure German race (a “master-race”), it needed to accept the genocide of the undesirables.
We have to be careful what ambition causes us to sacrifice or condone.
Abortion has become all-too-often synonymous with “convenience.” It’s a “choice” – a choice to be pregnant or not to be pregnant. Again, most times, a woman or girl has an abortion very early on, before there is life inside her. But many times it’s not a “choice”; it’s a baby.
I think a case can be made that the right needs limitations, and if that can be achieved, then women can be both pro-life and pro-choice, if that makes any sense. If we look at a “Balancing of Rights” approach rather than a “Balancing of Interests” approach – that is, if we balance the rights of the woman to control her reproduction with the big daddy of them all, the right to life, of the unborn child, rather than balance the rights of the woman to terminate her pregnancy with the interest of the state in protecting the pregnancy – then we will come to a point in the pregnancy when the developing fetus becomes a “life.” At that point, society can then legally deny abortions (except for situations such as rape, incest, or risk to the woman’s life). A woman will enjoy a period of time to decide whether she wants to continue the pregnancy (hence, pro-choice), but if she waits too long, then she will not be able to abort the baby and will not be able to take a life (hence, pro-life).
We need to have conversations. We need to find common ground between pro-life supporters and pro-choice advocates. We can’t continue to offend so greatly our national conscience. Roe v. Wade needs to be re-addressed. A woman may very well be entitled to a right to abort her pregnancy, but at least that issue needs to decided by a court that is willing to do a correct and honest analysis – recognizing that the unborn becomes a life well before it is born and therefore it has the same rights that every other human being has. A woman may very well have the right to have an abortion if she chooses, but that right can not be so broad or expansive as to include the taking of another life.
We need to get this issue back into court and in front of reasonable-minded justices.
We need to stop the killing fields.
Roe v. Wade, 410 U,S. 113 (1973), Majority Opinion, written by Justice Harry Blackmun, Cornell Law Library – https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/410/113%26amp#writing-USSC_CR_0410_0113_ZO
Roe v. Wade, 410 U,S. 113 (1973), Dissenting Opinion, written by Justice William Rehnquist, Cornell Law Library – https://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/410/113%26amp#writing-USSC_CR_0410_0113_ZD
Roe v. Wade, Dissenting Opinion, by Justice Byron White – https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade/Dissent_White and
Laurie Higgins, “31 States Permit Full-Term Abortions,” Illinois Family Institute, January 28, 2019. Referenced at: https://illinoisfamily.org/life/31-states-permit-full-term-babies-to-be-killed-in-the-womb-for-virtually-any-or-no-reason/
Joshua J. Craddick, Joshua J. Craddock, “Protecting Prenatal Persons: Does the Fourteenth Amendment Prohibit Abortion?,” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 40, No. 2 (2017). Referenced at: file:///C:/Users/diane/Downloads/SSRN-id2970761.pdf [Abstract: What should the legal status of human beings in utero be under an originalist interpretation of the Constitution? Other legal thinkers have explored whether a national “right to abortion” can be justified on originalist grounds. Assuming that it cannot, and that Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey were wrongly decided, only two other options are available. Should preborn human beings be considered legal “persons” within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, or do states retain authority to make abortion policy?
The late Justice Scalia famously argued for the latter position and pledged he would strike down a federal ban on abortion. But is this view consistent with the original meaning of the term “person”? Using originalist interpretive methods, this paper argues that preborn human beings are legal “persons” within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment.]
Calvin Freiburger, “Article in Harvard Law Journal Concludes: The Preborn Child is a Constitutional Person,” Live Action, June 1, 2017. Referenced at: https://www.liveaction.org/news/landmark-harvard-essay-preborn-child-constitutional-person/
VIDEO: Dr. Anthony Levatino, former abortion doctor, explains that abortion is never medically necessary to save a woman’s life during pregnancy – https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=ysl1tRnk-ig [Let me illustrate with a real-life case that I managed while at the Albany Medical Center. A patient arrived one night at 28 weeks gestation with severe pre-eclampsia or toxemia. Her blood pressure on admission was 220/160. A normal blood pressure is approximately 120/80. This patient’s pregnancy was a threat to her life and the life of her unborn child. She could very well be minutes or hours away from a major stroke. This case was managed successfully by rapidly stabilizing the patient’s blood pressure and “terminating” her pregnancy by Cesarean section. She and her baby did well. This is a typical case in the world of high-risk obstetrics. In most such cases, any attempt to perform an abortion “to save the mother’s life” would entail undue and dangerous delay in providing appropriate, truly life-saving care. During my time at Albany Medical Center I managed hundreds of such cases by “terminating” pregnancies to save mother’s lives. In all those cases, the number of unborn children that I had to deliberately kill was zero.]
CHART: State-by-State Later Term Abortion Policies – https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/state-indicator/later-term-abortions/?currentTimeframe=0&selectedDistributions=state-prohibits-some-abortions-after-a-certain-point-in-pregnancy–threshold-for-later-term-abortions–later-term-abortion-permitted-when-pregnancy-threatens-womans&sortModel=%7B%22colId%22:%22Location%22,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D
State Facts About Abortion: North Carolina (Fact Sheet, May 2018), Guttmacher Institute – https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/state-facts-about-abortion-north-Carolina
Brandon Moseley, “Federal Court Strikes Down an Alabama Abortion Law,” Alabama Reporter, August 23, 2018. Referenced at: https://www.alreporter.com/2018/08/23/federal-court-strikes-down-an-alabama-abortion-law/
GHI Breborowicz,” Early Pregnancy: Limits of Fetal Viability and Its Enhancement,” NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), January 5, 2011; pp. 49-50. Referenced at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11753511 [“Viability” of a fetus, or “fetal viability,” means that the fetus has reached such a stage of development as to be capable of living, under normal conditions, outside the uterus. Viability exists as a function of biomedical and technological capacities, which are different in different parts of the world. Consequently, there is, at the present time, no worldwide, uniform gestational age that defines viability. Viability is not an intrinsic property of the fetus because viability should be understood in terms of both biological and technological factors. It is only in virtue of both factors that a viable fetus can exist ex utero and thus later achieve independent moral status. Moreover, these two factors do not exist as a function of the autonomy of the pregnant woman. When a fetus is viable, that is, when it is of sufficient maturity so that it can survive into the neonatal period and later achieve independent human status given the availability of the requisite technological support, and when it is presented to the physician, the fetus is a patient. In the United States viability presently occurs at approximately 24 weeks of gestational age (Chervenak, L.B. McCullough; Textbook of Perinatal Medicine, 1998)].
“Can a Fetus Feel Pain?,” NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), April 15, 2006; 332 (7546): 909–912. Referenced at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1440624/
“How Your Fetus Grows During Pregnancy,” American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists (ACOG), (April 2018). Referenced at: https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/How-Your-Fetus-Grows-During-Pregnancy?IsMobileSet=false
Traci DeVette Griggs, “New York’s War on Children Hits a New Low on Anniversary of Roe v. Wade,” Family Policy Facts (NC Family Policy Council), January 23, 2019. Referenced at: https://www.ncfamily.org/new-yorks-war-on-children-hits-a-new-low-on-anniversary-of-roe-v-wade/
Roe v. Wade, Texas Bar – https://www.texasbar.com/civics/High%20School%20cases/roe-v-wade.html
Roe v. Wade (1973), as explained by Clarke Forsythe, Senior Counsel for Americans United for Life (AUL) and Melissa Murray, Berkeley Law School professor. [Clarke Forsythe is also the author of the book Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe V. Wade, and Ms. Melissa Murray in addition to being a law school professor, also as the Faculty Director for the Center for Reproductive Rights and Justice]. Referenced at: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-us-government-and-politics/civil-liberties-and-civil-rights/amendments-due-process-and-the-right-to-privacy/v/roe-v-wade [See Appendix below for a transcript of this video]
APPENDIX: (Transcript of the Khan Academy Video, as modified a bit by Diane Rufino)
Question: “Mr. Forsythe, could you set the stage for us a little bit. What was going on during this time period?”
Mr. Clarke: “Well, there were efforts in the 1960s to repeal abortion laws in the individual states and when abortion activists were dissatisfied with those efforts, they decided to go into the courts. And around 1969, they took some cases into the courts and ultimately, there were 20 or more cases challenging state laws in the courts between 1969 and 1973. Roe vs. Wade was the case from Texas.”
Ms. Murray: “Roe was litigated in the early 1970s. It was a period of enormous change in the United States. We were beginning to see beginnings of the women’s rights movements, the beginning of the gay rights movement, and of course, the civil rights movement of the 1960s was moving in a lot of different directions. At the time, the question of abortion was very much on the minds of lots of different state legislatures because there had been moves to liberalize much of the criminal law that dealt with matters of sex and sexuality, including abortion. At the time, four states, New York, Alaska, Hawaii, and I believe Washington, had actually taken steps to repeal their laws criminalizing abortion. And about 13 other states had taken efforts to liberalize their laws criminalizing abortions, but in number of other states, around, at least 20 or more, there remained on the books, laws that absolutely criminalized abortion, except in situations where it would be necessary to preserve the woman’s health or life, or in cases of rape, incest, or fetal anomaly.”
Mr. Clarke: “Abortion rights attorneys sought plaintiffs who could challenge the Texas law and the Georgia law [ie, They were looking for a “test case”]. There were two attorneys from Texas who found Norma McCorvey, who they gave the pseudonym of Jane Roe, for purposes of protecting her privacy.”
Ms. Murray: “And so Norma McCorvey brought this case. She was an unmarried 22 year old woman living in Dallas County, Texas, who found herself pregnant for the third time. She gave birth to her first child, a daughter, and ultimately signed over custody to her mother to raise her since her life wasn’t very stable (she was moving around a lot). She gave her second child up for adoption. When she found herself pregnant for a third time, she wasn’t willing to do either of these things again and so she simply wanted to safely and legally terminate her pregnancy. But this was impossible under the Texas law. Texas had, since the 19th century criminalized abortion in all cases except those instances where it was necessary for the health and safety of the mother. And so she then was faced with the question of what was she going to do. And the only thing she could think to do then (that is, what her lawyers thought, and sought, to do), was to challenge the law as being unconstitutional. So she was put in contact with Sarah Weddington and Linda Coffee, two young women who had recently graduated from law school. Sarah Weddington was only 26 years old at the time she helped Norma McCorvey bring this case. They sued the State of Texas to challenge the constitutionality of Texas’ criminal abortion ban.”
Mr. Clarke: “But as the history shows, there was no trial, there was no evidence, there were no expert witnesses. Jane Roe never testified. As we all know, she never got an abortion. She gave birth and placed her child for adoption.” [In the years after the decision, Norma had a complete change of heart and became a strong opponent of abortion].
Question: “Okay, so Roe was Norma McCorvey. Who was Wade?”
Mr. Clarke: “Henry Wade was the District Attorney for Dallas, Texas, where the case was filed in Federal District Court.”
Questions: “So the case eventually made it to the Supreme Court. How did the Court rule?”
Mr. Clarke: “The Justices declared the Texas and Georgia laws unconstitutional and then rewrote a national law, a national abortion law, in which they said that the states could not regulate or limit abortion in the first trimester. They could regulate more in the second trimester, the second three months of pregnancy, to protect maternal health and they could regulate in the last three months of pregnancy, the last trimester, to protect maternal health or fetal life. The attorneys for the plaintiffs claimed that abortion fell within the right to privacy, even though privacy is not in the text of the Constitution, they said it was derived, or based in the language of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution even though the 14th Amendment doesn’t say anything about abortion, or the unborn child; the 14th Amendment just uses the term liberty. Ultimately the Court said that the right to abortion is part of the right to privacy based on the 14th Amendment.”
Question: “That’s very interesting. I’ve learned through many of these interviews, that this right to privacy is something that is never actually explicitly stated throughout the Bill of Rights, but there’s a penumbra of privacy that you see in a few ways. What was the Court’s reasoning that the right to an abortion could fall under this zone of privacy?”
Mr. Clarke: “If you read the Roe opinion – specifically, on page 152 of the opinion – Justice Blackmun starts out by citing a string of prior Supreme Court cases, beginning about 1910, which elude to a right of privacy which undergirds other rights in the Bill of Rights. Blackmun argued that these cases lead to a general right of privacy, and that this right of privacy is broad enough to encompass a woman’s right to an abortion. But then four pages later, on page 156, Blackmun turns around and says that abortion is inherently different from all those other cases that make up the right of privacy (including the right to use contraception and contraceptive devices to control fertility and reproduction, Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) because it involves the taking of a life.”
Ms. Murray: “The right of privacy doesn’t actually come from Roe vs. Wade. It comes from a case decided about eight years earlier, in 1965, called Griswold vs. Connecticut. The issue in the Griswold case was whether a Connecticut state statute that made it a crime to use contraception or even to counsel patients about contraception violated the Constitution. Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut opened up a birth control clinic in New Haven, Connecticut. They were promptly arrested and the clinic was closed. They challenged the statute, arguing that the right to use contraception was a fundamental individual right. Furthermore, they argued that since individuals have the right to use contraception, doctors also have the right to advise patients about such. Patients are entitled to be informed about their medical choices. The Supreme Court, in an opinion authored by Justice William Douglas, agreed with the clinic. In the Griswold case, the Court articulated for the first time this right of privacy. The opinion explained that while the Constitution does not explicitly protect a general right to privacy, the various guarantees within the Bill of Rights create penumbras, or zones, that establish a right to privacy. Together, the First (the right to conscience created by the right to worship freely), the Third (the right to be free in one’s home from the quartering of troops), the Fourth (the right to be safe and secure in one’s own person, one’s home, and with one’s effects from unreasonable government searches and seizures), and the Ninth Amendments create the right to privacy which encompasses marital relations. Douglas, writing for the majority, indicated that this right had actually ‘been percolating in the Court’s decisions for some time.’”
Question: “Did any of the Justices dissent in the Roe decision and if so, why?”
Mr. Clarke: “Well there were two dissents, one by Justice White and the other by Justice Rehnquist. Justice White said that the Court was engaging in raw judicial power (ie, judicial activism) and that the Justices did not have the right or the authority, on account of the 10th Amendment, to strike down the abortion laws of the individual states: it could only rely on a doctrine called ‘substantive due process.’ The justices were addressing the assertion that a woman’s right to an abortion is a fundamental right and hence, under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, it cannot be violated or burdened. The Due Process Clause says that no person can be deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” However, there are clear limits as to which individual “liberty” rights are imposed on a state (that is, those which it is obligated to respect and refrain from regulating). In in 1934, the Supreme Court held that due process is violated “if a practice or rule offends some principle of justice so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental.” In other words, as explained further by the Court, the right must have been recognized as a liberty right (essential to our sense of ordered liberty) at the time of the adoption of the 14th Amendment to be recognized by its Due Process Clause. Justice Rehnquist said that there is clear historical evidence that many states passed abortion limits and prohibitions precisely at the time of the framing of the 14th Amendment in the 1860s and leading up to 1868, which is when the Amendment was added to the Constitution. In other words, this history was evidentiary history. As such, this history of state limits and prohibitions on abortion actually served to contradict the petitioner’s (the birth control clinic’s) assertion that the 14th Amendment was intended to include a right to abortion.”
Question: “It appears that Roe is not the last word on abortion in the United States. There have been several later cases that were important to this as well, like Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, or Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt. Can you talk a little bit about how those cases have altered the scope of the right to abortion?
Ms. Murray: “As soon as Roe was decided in 1973, there was an effort to sort of roll it back and hem it in a little bit. Frank Church, who’s a Senator from Idaho, announced ‘The Church Amendment,’ which basically says that physicians don’t have to perform abortions if doing so would conflict with their conscience or conscientious beliefs. So we see one way to limit the reach of this right – by limiting the number of providers who are available to offer abortions.”
Mr. Clarke: “In fact, the Court has kind of cut back on Roe vs. Wade in four cases over the years. But then in 2016, it appeared to return to its original position that the state nor federal government would tolerate any impermissible burden to a woman’s right to an abortion:
• Harris vs. McRae [A 1980 case in which the Court acknowledged that federal funding could be limited for abortions. The Court held that states participating in the Medicaid program (established under Title XIX of the Social Security Act) were not obligated to fund medically necessary abortions. Title XIX of the Social Security Act was enacted to provide federal financial assistance to states that chose to reimburse certain costs of medical treatment for needy persons. Beginning in 1976, Congress passed a number of versions of what was known as the “Hyde Amendment” which severely limited the use of federal funds to reimburse the cost of abortions under the Medicaid program. Cora McRae, a pregnant Medicaid recipient, challenged the Hyde Amendment, filing suit against Patricia R. Harris, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Supreme Court found that a woman’s freedom of choice did not carry with it “a constitutional entitlement to the financial resources to avail herself of the full range of protected choices”].
• Planned Parenthood vs. Casey [A 1992 case in which the Supreme Court upheld various restrictions to an immediate abortion (an “abortion on demand”). The Pennsylvania state legislature amended its abortion control law in 1988 and 1989, to required informed consent and a 24 hour waiting period prior to the procedure. A minor seeking an abortion required the consent of one parent (the law allows for a judicial bypass procedure). A married woman seeking an abortion had to indicate that she notified her husband of her intention to abort the fetus. These provisions were challenged by several abortion clinics and physicians. In a bitter, 5-to-4 decision, the Supreme Court again re-affirmed Roe, but it upheld most of the Pennsylvania provisions. For the first time, the Court imposed an articulable standard to determine the validity of laws restricting abortions. The standard asks whether a state abortion regulation has the purpose or effect of imposing an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to an abortion, which is defined as a “substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion before the fetus attains viability.” Under this standard, the only provision to fail the undue-burden test was the husband notification requirement]. Other similar cases involving restrictions on immediate access to an abortion reached the same conclusion.
• Whole Woman’s Health versus Hellerstedt [In 2016, the Supreme Court flipped. In this case, the Supreme Court was asked to rule on the constitutionality of a Texas law that put limits on physicians performing abortions and on the abortion facilities themselves. A group of abortion providers sued the state. In a 5-3 opinion authored by Justice Stephen Breyer (remember, Justice Scalia had passed in February or 2016 and so it was only an 8-member Court at the time) the Supreme Court noted that the provisions that were challenged did not actually offer the medical benefits that they claimed to offer. Hence, as a matter of constitutionality, they were insufficient to justify the burdens on access that each of those provisions imposed.
Question: “What do you see as the future of Roe vs. Wade?”
Mr. Clarke: “Well, the Supreme Court has failed as the national abortion control board. It cannot monitor abortion. It can’t intervene, it can’t regulate or legislate itself, it can’t act as public health administrators, and it can’t investigate. And so I believe it’s absolutely certain that the Court, sooner or later, will have to overturn the Roe decision because of this failure and return the matter to the states.”
Ms. Murray: “Remember, when they were talking about repealing or reforming those abortion laws we referred to earlier, from the 1960s and 70s, it was connected in a big way to the growing women’s rights social movement. Perhaps the most critical question of that movement asked ‘What will be the role of women going forth in a modern society.’ When the question of contraception came before the Court in 1965, one of the questions was whether women should be allowed to control her reproduction and to choose when to have children…. Should she be allowed to control the timing of births in order to accommodate her career. It’s the same issue that came up in the abortion debate. If women were to have equal opportunities in the workforce, they would need to determine when they would become mothers and to determine the timing of their children. They would also need the flexibility to determine if they even wanted a child in the first place.”
Question: “So we’ve learned that the decision to legalize abortion in Roe vs. Wade was based on the right of privacy, which the Supreme Court has inferred from the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment. Since the Roe decision, a number of other cases have set limits on abortion and abortion clinics. Clarke Forsythe argues that the Supreme Court has failed in regulating abortion and that the issue should be returned to the states. Melissa Murray, by contrast, suggests that the decision in Roe is crucial to giving women the freedom to join the workforce and make decisions about when to have children.
To learn more about his case, visit the National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution and Khan Academy’s resources on US Government and Politics.