The Social Reformer's Definition of Life: Demeaning the 'Sanctity of Life' for an Enhanced 'Quality of Life' (Roe v. Wade, revisited)
"One day, I walked into an operating room, to just be an observant, which we would do generally, as a medical resident. It was the 1960's and abortion was still legal. They were performing this hysterectomy, which was a caesarean section. And they lifted out a fetus that weighted approximately 2 pounds, and it was breathing and crying and struggling to breathe. And it was put in a bucket and set in the corner of the room, and everybody in the room just pretended that they didn't hear it. Soon the crying stopped. And the baby died. And I walked out of that room a different person. That same day in the OB suite, an early delivery occurred and the infant boy was only slightly larger than the one that was just aborted. But in this room everybody did everything conceivable to save this child's life. My conclusion that day was that we were overstepping the bounds of morality by picking and choosing who should live and who should die. There was no consistent moral basis to the value of life under these circumstances. Some people believe that being pro-choice is being on the side of freedom. I've never understood how killing a human being, albeit a small one in a special place, is portrayed as a precious right." (Ron Paul, Liberty Defined, pg. 1 and the Natural Right Convention 2007)
On Monday, January 23, thousands of pro-life supporters marched on Washington DC in the freezing rain to show their lend their voice to those who have no voice of their own - the unborn. In the struggle for rights and recognition, those most fragile and innocent among us look to those with a conscience and a heart to speak for them. Doctors and lawyers have let them down. Politicians have let them down. And in too many cases, their very mothers have let them down. But in the end, in the tribunal that mattered most (except in the kingdom of heaven, of course), the exalted Justices of the Supreme Court let them down. They minimized them, just as the others have. Next year, January 22, 2013, will mark the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, which held that abortion is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution under an implied right to privacy and thus established the notion of abortion-on-demand. The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court announced nationalized abortion law, prohibiting states from deciding on the matter, and leaving the unborn defenseless.
For almost 40 years, nine unelected men and women on the Supreme Court have allowed themselves to play God with innocent human life. As Rand Paul puts it, "They have invented laws that have condemned 56 million babies to painful deaths without trial for the crime of being "inconvenient." Yet President Obama, who is staunchly pro-abortion, proudly announces that "America doesn't torture."
The Roe v. Wade decision has been hailed as a great decision for the empowerment of women and the right of women to decide matters involving her body and fertility, yet while they celebrate the enhanced 'quality of life' for women, they demean the 'sanctity of life.' The truth of the matter is, the high court's decision wasn't so much about respecting "Life and Liberty" as it was about serving the social goals of the women's rights movement and the increase in unwanted pregnancy and uncontrolled population growth. Ron Paul has said: "As an obstetrician, I know that partial birth abortion is never a necessary medical procedure. It is a gruesome, uncivilized solution to a social problem."
Currently, about 90% of abortions are done in the first trimester of pregnancy. But abortions in the third trimester and even moments before delivery are currently legal as well. Consider what would happen to that same woman if, one minute after birth, she should dispose of that newborn in a dumpster. She would rightfully be charged with murder, right? Note the inconsistency.
Conservatives believe that a fetus has a right to life because it is a person from the very moment of conception, or because it is a 'potential' person. Liberals deny that a fetus has a right to life because it is not a person. Moderates believe that although a fetus is not a living being from the moment of conception and therefore doesn't immediately have a right to life, it does acquire that right at some point in its development (usually sometime in the second trimester). The law, established by Roe v. Wade, says that even if the fetus acquires a right to life because it has become a "person," such a right is trumped by a woman's right to do what she wants with her body.
The term "abortion," as offered in the Roe decision states: "the life of the fetus or embryo shall be destroyed in the woman's womb." Note that the very definition of 'abortion' verifies that life is destroyed. And that brings us to the question: "What is Life?" Lawmakers and judges struggle to define it, but perhaps it should not be in their domain, because as they try to define it, they often manipulate its definition and meaning and then proceed to devalue it.
Tim Radford wrote this in his article What is Life: "Living things do not die: they begin again, from a tiny cell, and scavenge the dust, the air and water, to find the elements necessary to fashion an aspidistra, an elephant, or an attorney-general, using only the raw materials at hand and energy from a thermonuclear reactor 93 million miles away (the sun). The freshly-minted, self-replicating organism then grows up, grows old and melts away, but not before imparting a fragment of itself to generate yet another copy, but not an identical copy. The process is visible and transparent, everywhere on the planet, but it is ultimately mysterious.... Life looks after itself."
I think that is what Jesus teaches us - to respect life. And to do so with love and compassion.
But as our government effectively uses the "wall of separation" concept to squash 'religion' in favor of 'no religion,' and powerful atheist elements of our country use the no-religion environment established by our government to push a liberal, free-for-all human existence, 'quality-of-life' supersedes the 'sanctity of life.' Our own president, Barack Obama, praised the Roe v. Wade decision as recognizing the "fundamental constitutional right" to abortion and to "continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams." On this year's anniversary of the decision, Obama chose these words: "As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman's health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. And as we remember this historic anniversary, we must also continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams. And I remain committed to protecting a woman's right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right."
While serving in the Illinois State Legislature and now as president of the United States, Obama has consistently taken a hard line on abortion rights. As a legislator in Illinois, he voted four times AGAINST legislation to protect the life of a baby that survived a botched abortion, in 2001, 2002 and 2003.
As President, Obama has emphatically stated that America doesn't torture. It won't tolerate the torture or mistreatment of terrorists. But the physical trauma that an unborn undergoes in order to be aborted and then killed is beyond anything that we can comprehend.
If the intentional killing of a baby born live isn't the very definition of murder, and first-degree murder at that, I don't know what else can be. And by a physician no less. The Hippocratic Oath stands for the simple premise to "do no harm." The modern version of the Oath states: "Above all, I must not play God." As Doctor Paul (aka, Rep. Ron Paul) frequently explains:"I was taught that for each pregnancy I had two patients."
'Playing God' occurs when one person believes he has the power or authority to decide who lives and who dies, often without the force of law, such as making a decision to take someone off life support or targeting someone for a thrill kill.
The abortion issue shows no signs of going away. The controversy has become firmly engrained in our culture and is becoming sharper than ever as we continue to celebrate the enormous civil rights advances for all minority groups except those growing inside another's womb. Pro-life supporters hope that the Roe v. Wade decision will not survive to celebrate its 40th anniversary but those who understand that society cannot be burdened with more unwanted, unplanned babies see the decision as the green light to manage population growth. Whether you hate or applaud the decision, the Supreme Court certainly put a lot of time and effort into coming up with the ruling, but not necessarily doing so by strictly interpreting of the US Constitution. To look carefully at how the Court came up with its decision is to understand the angle it took in sorting the issues.
The plaintiffs in the case included Texas residents Norma McCorvey, who used "Jane Roe" as an alias, and Dr. James Hallford, a licensed physician. In 1969, Norma was 21 years old, possessed a 10th-grade education, and was pregnant with her third child. She wanted an abortion but a Texas statute prohibited them except in instances to save the life of the mother. She was too poor to get an illegal abortion in Texas or a legal one in California. Her friends advised her to assert, falsely, that she had been raped because then she could obtain a legal abortion. (There was such a provision in the Texas statute). But the plan failed because there was no police report documenting the alleged rape. She nonetheless attempted to obtain an illegal abortion, but found that the facility was shut down by police. Dr. Hallford was a licensed physician whose practice was suffering because he could not perform legal abortions and who had two pending state abortion prosecutions pending against him. In March, 1970, McCorvey filed a lawsuit on behalf of herself and "all other women similarly situated," along with Dr. Hallford (and others). By the time the case was finally heard, McCorvey had given birth and so the case was dismissed for lack of standing and the Texas abortion law was reaffirmed.
Although McCorvey had given birth (and put the child up for adoption), she nonetheless appealed her case to the Supreme Court. As we all know, the question before the Court was whether the Constitution embraces a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy by abortion. Now, before reading any further, dwell on that last sentence. What would your gut feeling tell you? An abortion... a violent act, a traumatic act to a living human being growing and developing inside its mother. Would you think the Constitution embraces that right?
The Supreme Court held that it does. In a 7-2 decision, the Court held that while there is no express right of a woman to have an abortion, the right falls within the right to privacy. The thing is, there is no express right of "privacy" in the Constitution. But the Court had already gotten around that in 1965, in Griswold v. Connecticut, by reasoning that many of the rights expressly granted and protected by the Bill of Rights are grounded in a fundamental right to privacy. In Griswold, the Court was asked whether married couples have the right to use contraceptives, and in reaching the decision that it does, the Court reasoned that it must fall within the "penumbra" of privacy rights. "Penumbra" refers to those rights guaranteed by implication in a constitution. (Activist judges will use it to refer to the 'implied' powers of the federal government or its laws). The Supreme Court was able to hold that the right to privacy is an implied basic human right because privacy underlies many of the express fundamental rights in our Bill of Rights.
Appellants (challengers) Estelle Griswold, executive director of the Planned Parenthood League of Connecticut, and Dr. C. Lee Buxton, director of the PPL's office in New Haven and also a professor of Medicine at Yale Medical School, were convicted for prescribing contraceptive devices and giving contraceptive advice to married persons in violation of a Connecticut statute which prohibited contraception. The statute read: (i) "Any person who uses any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception shall be fined not less than fifty dollars or imprisoned not less than sixty days nor more than one year or be both fined and imprisoned. (ii) Any person who assists, abets, counsels, causes, hires or commands another to commit any offense may be prosecuted and punished as if he were the principal offender." Griswold and Buxton challenged the constitutionality of the statute on behalf of the married persons with whom they had a professional relationship. The Supreme Court held that the right of married persons to use contraception is a matter of privacy. (Marital privacy). Writing for the Court, Justice Douglas stated that the specific guarantees of the Bill of Rights have penumbras "formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance," and that the right to privacy exists within this area. The Supreme Court struck down the statute, holding that the Constitution created substantive rights, including privacy, which are so "fundamental to the principles of liberty" that they could not be restricted by government.
To be more specific, according to the Supreme Court, this right of privacy is grounded in the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Ninth amendments. ("The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people"). Griswold was the first case that created a right relating to reproduction without naming a specific clause in the Constitution, because, of course, there is no such provision.
In Roe v. Wade, the Court held that a right to privacy under the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment extends to a woman's decision to have an abortion, but that right is not absolute. That right must be balanced against the state's legitimate interests in: (1) regulating abortions; (2) protecting prenatal life; and (3) protecting the mother's health. According to the decision, a woman's right to control matters involving her fertility and reproduction is strongest in the early months of pregnancy and the state's interests become stronger as the pregnancy goes on. The judges therefore used a balancing test and came up with a trimester approach to determine which party's interests are most important at which time during the pregnancy. The case was addressed methodically, first looking at the history of abortion, then the problems presented by abortion services not being regulated ('back-alley abortions"), and finally the general and historical view of when life begins. According to the Supreme Court's historical analysis, at common law, abortions were performed before "quickening" -- the first recognizable movement of the fetus in-utero which appears usually between 16th to the 18th week of pregnancy. That was the time that a "person" was understood to come into being - to become sufficiently 'formed" or recognizably human. It was also the time at which the fetus was believed to be infused with a "soul" or "animated." At common law, abortion was not an indictable offense. The so-called authorities on which this early definition was based, and on which the Supreme Court relied, included philosophers, theologists, and civil rights laws. The Court also claimed that the definition coincides with the canons of the Christian church. Where was the medical evidence? "Although Christian theology and the canon law came to fix the point of animation at 40 days for a male and 80 days for a female, a view that persisted until the 19th century, there was otherwise little agreement about the precise time of formation or animation. There was agreement, however, that, prior to this point, the fetus was to be regarded as part of the mother, and its destruction, therefore, was not homicide. The significance of quickening was echoed by later common law scholars, and found its way into the received common law in this country." [Roe, pg. 134]
By 1840, when Texas had received the common law, only eight American states had statutes dealing with abortion. It was not until after the Civil War that legislation began generally to replace the common law. Most of these initial statutes dealt severely with abortion after quickening, but were lenient with it before quickening. While many statutes included the exception for an abortion thought by one or more physicians to be necessary to save the mother's life, that provision soon disappeared, and the typical law required that the procedure actually be necessary for that purpose. Gradually, in the middle and late 19th century, the quickening distinction disappeared from the statutory law of most States and the degree of the offense and the penalties were increased. By the end of the 1950's, a large majority of the states banned abortion in general, except and unless it was necessary to save or preserve the life of the mother. In 1967, Colorado became the first state to legalize abortion in cases of rape, incest, or in which pregnancy would lead to permanent physical disability of the woman. Similar laws were passed in California, Oregon, and North Carolina. In 1970, New York repealed its 1830 law and allowed abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy. Similar laws were soon passed in Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington. A law in Washington, DC, which allowed abortion to protect the life or health of the woman, was challenged in the Supreme Court in 1971 in United States v. Vuitch. The court upheld the law, deeming that "health" meant "psychological and physical well-being," essentially allowing abortion in Washington, DC. By the end of 1972, 13 states had a law similar to that of Colorado, while Mississippi allowed abortion in cases of rape or incest only and Alabama and Massachusetts allowed abortions only in cases where a woman's physical health was endangered.
Therefore, the Court claimed, at common law and at the time of the adoption of our Constitution, abortion was viewed with less disfavor than it was after the Civil War and then in the 20th century. The Court never once entertained the possibility that the medical field understands fetal development better or that medical advances care for pregnancies better now than in earlier times, therefore preserving the health of the mother and not necessitating abortions for those pregnancies that pose a potential risk to her. Furthermore, in the Court's opinion, "risk of harm" to the mother which would necessarily justify an abortion (in almost all cases) would include stress and emotional and psychological harm. "Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved." All these are factors that might justify a decision to terminate a pregnancy, according to the Court. [Roe, pg. 153]
Along this line of thinking, then, couldn't a child who is born, or even a difficult relative, also interfere with this definition of "liberty"? Does a person have the right to kill an aged parent because of "the stress" and "taxing" of elder care and the problem of trying to provide care when he/she is unable, mentally, psychologically, and physically able to do so? Does a parent have the right, under this thinking, to kill his/her child who might be born with a disability that makes care so burdensome and stressful as to cause psychological harm?
The Court then went into a discussion of the need to make sure that women get reputable medical care when they go for abortions. They didn't want them to have to seek back-alley abortions or have to travel from a state where abortion was illegal to a state where it was legal. And finally, they looked to the Constitution to see if there is even a fundamental right to an abortion such that a woman cannot be denied the ability and opportunity to have one. That is when they made their famous pronouncement that such a right indeed exists, within another right that is not expressly protected on its own - privacy. As Justice Blackmun announced in the majority opinion of the Court: "This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment's concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment's reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy."
The Court, however, never looked far enough into the Bill of Rights or in any penumbra of rights to find protection for the unborn. It never showed the degree of concern for them that it showed for women's rights. Not even close.
A central issue in the Roe case (and in the wider abortion debate in general) was the question of when human life begins. Does it begin at conception, birth, or at some point in between? The Court declined to resolve that issue, noting that: "We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer." Instead, the Court chose to point out that historically, under English and American common law and statutes, "the unborn have never been recognized as persons in the whole sense" and therefore, they are not legally entitled to the protection afforded by the right to life specifically enumerated in the Fourteenth Amendment. ("All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizen of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.") So rather than assert that human life begins at any specific point, the court simply declared that the State has a "compelling interest" in protecting "potential life" at the point of viability (which in reality has amounted to 'little interest').
In other words, because an unborn child doesn't fit within the definition of the 14th Amendment, it is not entitled to any rights afforded under the US Constitution. The Supreme Court reached a very similar decision in the Dred Scott case when it decided that blacks could never qualify as 'citizens' of this country and therefore have no rights recognized under the US Constitution.
But the High Court made a key admission, which it conveniently swept under the carpet in reaching its ultimate decision: "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case (Norma McCorvey; aka, Roe, who sought an abortion), of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the 14th Amendment." ["... 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 law."]