Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Roe v. Wade Is 40, Necessary and Welcome

THREE momentous events these last two days.

Yesterday, Barack Hussein Obama was officially sworn in again as the 44th president of the United States of America. The day also ushered in Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the first to ever coincide with a presidential inauguration. Was there ever a fight for this national holiday! Another big fight ushered in the third momentous event this week: Roe v. Wade.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

On 22 Jan. 1973 in a 7-2 decision, the High Court ruled that abortion is a fundamental right under the U.S. Constitution. The Court asserted that an abortion occurring within the first three months of a pregnancy was a matter between a woman and her doctor, not the State.

Most don’t realize or don’t recall that Roe v. Wade had an ignoble beginning. Initially, the Texas plaintiff falsely claimed that she was raped in order to obtain an abortion. In 1969 when Norma McCorvey – who would become Jane Roe – was pregnant, rape and incest were the only two conditions under which a woman could legally have an abortion in Texas. This was also true for much of the country.

Roe would confess her lie and eventually went on to give birth while her case was being litigated. The U.S. District Court in Dallas ruled that Roe’s decision to have an abortion was an individual private one – invoking that part of the Ninth Amendment that was en vogue at the time. However, the court did not overturn the Texas anti-abortion law. This triggered the case's course toward the Supreme Court.

Planned Parenthoods around the country will be marking the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade with various celebrations. Photo from Planned Parenthood.

Over the last 40 years, many lives have been saved because women no longer had to seek out back alleys and other unsafe/unsavory places to have an abortion. Of course, others would argue that many lives have also been lost.

When Justice Harry Blackmun, who wrote the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade, invoked the word “trimester” in upholding a woman’s right to have an abortion he could not have foreseen the firestorm that would be ignited. That one term along flamed a debate that still rages today – when does life begin, at conception or at some later time, including the three-month mark.

That question has cost millions dearly, confused a population and been litigated and debated far and wide, especially in political circles. Still, there is no definitive answer. The National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL, http://www.naral.org/) and National Right to Life Committee (NRLC, http://www.nrlc.org/) as well as others have lined up on either side of these questions as pro-choice and pro-life.

No one would deny that rights under Roe v. Wade have been abused by some women who use abortion as a form of birth control, even terminating pregnancies as late as six months out. It is these behaviors and abuses that have given rise to the not-insignificant curtailments on Roe over the years. They also gave birth to causes such as the March for Life movement (http://www.marchforlife.org/).

An annual event on the March for Life calendar is its Washington protest against Roe v. Wade. Photo from March for Life.

Each year on or around 22 Jan., March for Life descends on the U. S. Supreme Court building to spew invective against Roe v. Wade. This year the march is planned for Friday (25 Jan.), which will culminate a week of activities including a 5K walk/run, summit, youth rally and exhibition.

Those who abuse their rights under Roe are clearly in the minority. Most women who seek abortions are not serial abortionists. They are first-timers who came to a very difficult decision. Anyone who believes otherwise is being disingenuous.

While Roe has been chipped away at, including through significantly limited availability of abortion services, the case is still the law of the line. Most Americans still support it for very common sense reasons that have zero to do with the politics and semantics surrounding it.

Most who are against abortion are well-meaning. However, a new disturbing strain has risen within the anti-abortion movement: those who only give a damn about the lives of these children after they are born to the extent that they become fodder for the various nefarious industrial complexes, particularly the Prison Industrial Complex.

NARAL invites one and all to speak out for choice. Photo from NARAL.

Anecdotal evidence that bodes well for the future of Roe is the findings in a recent poll of high school and college students conducted by American University and GfK Custom Research LLC. Most have a pro-choice stance, though they don’t invoke that keyword in asserting their attitude toward abortion. The Millennial generation (those born between 1980 and 1991) is also raising its voice for choice in the “Choice Out Loud (http://www.choiceoutloud.org; see video at top) initiative.

In the final analysis, Roe v. Wade has done far more good than harm. Women and their families have thrived because of it. It is hoped that it will not ever be overturned. A decision about abortion should remain firmly with a female, her health care professional and any others she chooses to include.

Long live Roe v. Wade!

Google “Roe v. Wade celebrations” to learn more about commemorations around the country.

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