I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live. Dt:30:19
Today, we mark the 40th anniversary of the tragic Roe v. Wade abortion ruling . It was on this date in 1973 that the U.S. Supreme Court, in stark defiance of the Constitution’s limits on federal power, imposed abortion as a nationwide “right.”
Millions of babies’ lives have been snuffed out since then, destroying vast amounts of human potential and scarring our national conscience.
Nothing in the Constitution authorized the court to seize from the states the authority to regulate abortion, much less to institute that grisly procedure as some kind of right. Ironically, unborn humans today often enjoy less legal protection than even the eggs of some endangered bird species.
Since 1973 when two women, prompted (some might say, used) by their activist radical women’s rights attorneys, challenged laws prohibiting abortions and won(i), nearly 55 million unborn and nearly born babies have been killed. That is nearly 16% of the current population of the United States. Fifty five million babies who had no choice were sacrificed on the Altar of Choice—proving that when activist attorneys with no moral grounding argue cases before activist judges with no moral grounding, bad things happen. Ironically, the two women whose cases—and one might say bodies—were used by lawyers intent on advancing a pro-choice agenda ended up repudiating the very outcome of their cases and became pro-lifers. As a result of these rulings, millions of children died, countless women have suffered, and babies with all the potential of life were left with no legal right to live. Whether they are ripped from the womb is left entirely to the whim of the mother and The Law does not protect them. The culture of death prevails in the United States and the law will not aid the most defenseless among us.
Because of our abortion laws, millions of children will never grow up. Their families will never know them. They will never sit at the dinner table, be educated, grow up, marry, or work at a job. They will never become presidents, explorers, doctors, inventors, the person who discovers a cure for AIDS or a cure for human hunger. They will remain just a statistic—one more faceless, nameless potential life that never was. They could have been someone; they could have been a treasure to their parents, a father or mother or sibling or grandparent some day. They could have led exemplary lives. They could have soared like eagles. But the Justices of the Supreme Court—ruled by man’s law and not by God’s—disregarded the obvious religious prohibition against harming the little children, and declared that the mother and her doctor may decide which babies live or die. The baby, in short, has no vote and The Law will not protect it.
Which reminds me of eagles. The bald eagle and the golden eagle have now been removed from the endangered or threatened species list by the federal government. This is, of course, wonderful news. I am all in favor of saving the eagles and all other species (including our own) from extinction. In fact, our laws(ii) are so intent on protecting the eagle that simply injuring, molesting or destroying an eagle egg could cost you a serious criminal penalty, civil fines, and a year in the slammer. All for disturbing an egg. The law takes this seriously. Whatever else you do, don’t disturb an eagle egg. We go to great lengths to protect unborn baby eagles while they are vulnerable and in the first few weeks of their embryonic life. In fact, the laws do more than that–they protect unborn eagles from conception to the end of life. That is how much we value eagle life. So too, the plover. Recently, I discussed the Missouri River with a United States Park Ranger who managed a stretch of the river near Yankton, South Dakota—my home state. I asked him why the government was holding back so much water at the Lewis and Clark Dam near Yankton. “To protect the baby plover,” he replied. “If we let out too much water right now, the baby plover will drown and they won’t have a chance to fledge, because their parents build their nests next to the water.” A noble goal I thought—protecting the baby plover. Imagine that…one of the largest rivers in America dammed up and held back for months because the federal government wants to protect baby birds. What lengths will we not go to in order to protect baby birds. We criminalize anyone who disturbs them and we hold back mighty waters so they do not drown.
The esteem in which we hold unborn baby eagles is remarkable. The protection which the law affords them is noble and inspiring. If only unborn human babies had feathers…perhaps we would not kill them.
i Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973); Doe v. Bolton, 410 U.S. 179 (1973)
ii Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, 16 U.S.C.S. Section 668 et seq.; Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 16 U.S.C.S. Section 703 et seq.
Roe v. Wade
How will future generations judge us on abortion?
Just two days after the inauguration, another crowd filled Washington’s streets: pro-lifers who gather each year for the March for Life. January 22 marked the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and, after so many years with little change or improvement in abortion law, the nation has grown a bit blasé about this annual demonstration. We still say abortion is a hot issue—but it’s not as hot as it used to be. The abortion controversy used to command cover space on magazines, while TV networks hosted hour-long debates. You don’t see that any more.
Maybe people just got tired of hearing about it. Year after year, the two sides said mostly the same thing—and nothing much changed. Eventually, public attention was bound to sidle off to some new, more exciting topic (gay marriage, anyone?). When attention drifted, it was the pro-choice side that had command of the status quo.
And you could say that settles that; from now on there will be less and less talk about abortion, and we’ll just get used to things the way they are.
But I can imagine things going a different way. Not soon—maybe not till the baby boomers have passed from the scene—but it’s possible that a younger generation will see abortion differently. With abortions now running around 1.2 million per year, the total number of abortions since Roe v. Wade is about 49 million. That’s a big number—about a sixth of the U.S. population. It’s an especially big number if you’re not absolutely sure that it’s not a real loss of human life.
After all, if you see a little girl hit by a car, you’re going to yell, “Get an ambulance!” not “Get a shovel!” It’s in the very fabric of humanity to be on the side of life if there’s the faintest hope that life exists. We don’t throw children away when we’re not sure whether they’re alive or not. And, as the pro-choice side never stops saying, it’s not that they’re positive a fetus is not alive—it’s that they’re not sure. As the cliché goes, “Nobody knows when life begins.”
When I was a young, fire-breathing college feminist in the early 1970s, we didn’t see abortion as a melancholy private decision—it was an act of liberation. By choosing abortion, a woman could show that she was the only person in charge of her life and bowed to no one else’s control. But this formulation soured as the grief felt by post-abortion women began to accumulate. The flip side of autonomy is loneliness, and, for many women, their abortion decision was linked to emotional abandonment.
And then there was the advent of ultrasound technology, enabling us to see live images of the baby moving in the womb. In 1989, word went round the pro-life movement to order the tape of pollster Harrison Hickman’s presentation at that year’s NARAL convention. On it he said, “Nothing has been as damaging to our cause as the advances in technology which have allowed pictures of the developing fetus, because people now talk about that fetus in much different terms than they did 15 years ago. They talk about it as a human being, which is not something that I have an easy answer how to cure.”
So there are some reasons to think that the abortion question has not been settled, but has merely gone underground. That might be a necessary step. It has to go away so that it can be rediscovered and seen in a fresh light.
I don’t expect that reconsideration soon: My boomer generation will never see abortion as anything other than the wise and benevolent gift we bestowed on all future generations. We still control the media, the universities, and so forth, and it will take time for all of us to topple off the end of the conveyor belt.
But the time is coming when a younger generation will be in charge, and they may well see abortion differently. They could see it not as “a woman’s choice” but as a form of state-sanctioned violence inflicted on their generation. It was their brothers and sisters who died; anyone under the age of 36 could have been aborted, and somewhere around a fourth or a fifth of all babies are. A younger generation might feel a strange kinship with the brothers and sisters, classmates and coworkers, who are missing.
And I’m afraid that if they do see things that way, they aren’t going to go easy on my generation. Our acceptance of abortion is not going to look like an understandable goof. The next generation can fairly say, “It’s not like they didn’t know.” They’ll say, “After all, they had sonograms.”
Even in my generation, people who think of themselves as defenders of the weak and the oppressed may occasionally have a quiet moment when they wonder, “How, on this one issue, did I wind up on the side that’s defending death?” There’s a lot of ambivalence out there, and a lot of unspoken grief too, I think. Our pro-choice generation may have won the day—but sooner or later, that day will end. No generation can rule from the grave. When that time comes, another generation will sit in judgment on ours. And they may judge us to be monsters.
One of the major arguments that feminists use to impose abortion upon our country is that women, especially poor women, are going to get abortions anyway. By providing “safe” facilities to these poor women, we can prevent them from resorting to shady back alley abortion doctors, persons lacking the necessary skills, or environments lacking minimal medical standards. Such operations, they claim, were often botched and lead to the death, not only of the babies, but countless women.
It may be true that legal abortion may have managed to diminish the wildly inflated incidence of back alley abortion in America. However, this fact has exposed women, especially poor women, to a much more grave danger: the front alley abortion.
As bad as the back alley abortion is, the front alley abortion is much worse.
Front alley abortions are those legal abortion mills that operate normally and are open to the public. They have all the appearances of a legitimate business. They may even have nice sounding names like Woman’s Medical Society or similar misnomers.
These establishments have all the protection of the government since abortion enjoys legal protection under law. They also have the slavish support of liberals and media who see these mills as essential to “reproductive rights.” Government regulating agencies seem to be more interested in tanning salons than what goes on inside these abortion mills.
The appearance of these clinics in the front part of the alley, and not the back, gives them all the appearance of respectability.
Protected by the veneer of this respectability and the force of law, some operators have used these fronts as a shield allowing them to commit the most horrible acts with impunity. What goes on behind the closed doors of these front alley clinics can go far beyond anything in the back alley.
Of course, the most obvious case is what is now called Gosset’s House of Horrors, alias Women’s Medical Society, a clinic operated in West Philadelphia by Kermit B. Gosnell, M.D. According to the District Attorney’s report, Gosnell staffed his decrepit and unsanitary clinic entirely with unlicensed personnel, let them practice medicine on unsuspecting patients, unsupervised, and directed them to heavily drug patients in his absence. In addition, he regularly performed abortions beyond the 24-week limit prescribed by law. As a result, when viable babies were born, Gosnell killed them by plunging scissors into their spinal cords. He taught his staff to do the same. Meanwhile, government regulatory agencies turned a blind eye to blatant violations of health codes and practices.
Yet it seems Gosnell’s case is not the only one. Other houses of horror have been found. While most do not reach the point of Gosnell’s “House of Horrors,”the blatant disregard for any kind of standards seems to be a typical or systemic characteristic of front alley abortion mills. Indeed, violations of health regulations rules seem to be a common occurrence – and government failure to enforce the regulations as well. Consent laws are often circumvented by operators who secure abortions for minors. As the recent sting operations against Planned Parenthood have shown, many employees appear to have adopted the policy of failing to report abuse to the authorities. Many abortion doctors seem to have a hard time holding on to their licenses – and some workers never had them in the first place.
Just recently, the Texas Medical Board, for example, received complaints about the medical practices of twelve Texas abortion providers, called the “Dirty Dozen” by a pro-life watchdog group who claim to have documented violation of state and federal abortion laws. These front alley clinics were chosen at random and pro-life activists say that they found mishandling of private patient medical records, violations of consent laws, violations of the 24-hour waiting period required by law, improper disposal of biohazardous medical waste, the counseling of minors on how to flout parental notification laws, and more.
That is to say, behind the shield of the front alley abortion clinic some of the most horrific things still take place. Yet it is not surprising. The nature of the business of abortion is such that it brutalizes human sensibilities. In this sense, every abortion, front or back alley, is a tragic denial of our humanity and will lead to that which is inhuman.