Is Roe v. Wade In Jeopardy?

The confirmation of two conservative judges to the Supreme Court has reignited the abortion controversy. Abortion proponents are concerned that the new conservative majority will attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Roe v. Wade was a 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortions early during a pregnancy based upon the Fourteen Amendment, which speaks to the right of privacy. SCOTUS amended the law in 1992. It now states that restrictions on abortion are unconstitutional if they place undue burden on a woman seeking abortion before the fetus is viable. The federal law has been attacked from every perspective in actions by individual states.

Proponents and opponents of abortion have greatly contributed to the extraordinary anxiety and agitation affiliated to this social issue. The status of the unborn fetus is a critical national consideration. Is a fetus a human being or does it become a person sometime during the nine-month gestation period?

There is wisdom and logic on both sides. For years Americans have fought over the rights of the fetus and the rights of the woman. One thing is for sure. The solution to this dilemma is not at the beginning or the end of the fetus’ cycle.

Let’s break down the issues. First, A woman’s rights. A very strong case can be made that a woman should be the master of her own body. After impregnation she cares for the fetus from conception to birth and thereafter. Her diligence and love will have a great impact on the health of the child should the fetus go full term. But is the woman an island?

The creation of a fetus is not possible without a contribution from a male. The child that will eventually be born is half his or her mother and half the father. It’s a reasonable question whether sperm donors should have a say in the ultimate decision to abort. This argument carries little weight in the current controversy.

What rights does a fetus have? Is it a person with “unalienable rights,” including the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?” In other words is the federal government responsible for protecting the rights of the fetus as it does any citizen? It’s a good question and offsets, to a degree, the issue of a woman’s right to privacy. Should the pregnant woman be the sole judge of whether the fetus survives?

In Roe v. Wade the decision was made that the woman does in fact have virtually all of the power to decide whether her fetus should survive and become a living American.

On the other side of the coin are the opponents of abortion. Their perspectives are greatly impacted by religious dogma. It’s convenient if not totally accurate for them to say a fetus is a living entity. It’s a person from the moment of conception, should be protected by the federal government and to abort the fetus is murder.

Once again the issue of privacy of the woman is front and center. Should the government have a say in the survival of the fetus? The counter argument is that a fetus cannot survive outside of the womb until a certain number of days pass. So does the fetus mystically transform from a non-living entity to a living entity on a date certain? Do all the benefits of being an American kick in on a random date?

It’s important for everyone to realize that Roe v. Wade established a precedent that the ultimate compromise can be a negotiated time during gestation when the fetus can survive outside of the womb. This precedent is protected by stare decisis, or SCOTUS’ tradition of respecting decisions of previous courts. This could mean that all the turmoil about the new conservative court overturning Roe is moot. And not withstanding the current justices’ bias against abortion, tradition and precedent will win out and continue to support a woman’s right to choose.

But this is not the end of the story. The bid and ask for the competing sides is great and very debatable. Proponents of abortion believe that a woman’s right should have no limits. They believe a woman should be able to terminate from conception until birth.

Likely, SCOTUS will eventually lock in a date. But will compromise result in acceptance by all? Will an opponent who thinks that life begins at conception ever accept that a woman can decide before the end of the second trimester to have an abortion? Will a proponent ever give up the crusade for a woman’s total control of a decision to abort?

And then there are all the side battles taking place across the country in liberal and conservative states. Opponents are tying to make it difficult for women to legally obtain an abortion by assigning restrictions and requirements. These include mandatory counseling, waiting periods, limitation on the number of clinics that do abortions, capping health care aid, etc. All these indirect roadblocks must end. Individual states must eventually yield to a national policy that gives the woman the right to choose.

On the other hand the radical proponents are pushing for more latitude that include late term abortions. This most radical perspective would allow the abortion of a fetus very close to the birth date. The vast majority of Americans, including many proponents, are against this procedure unless the health of the woman and/or the child is at stake.

It may be a naïve perspective but it appears that the right of a woman to choose is locked in. Nuisance efforts to change this will ultimately fail because Roe is part of our culture. However it is important that neither side push to make changes that cause the other side to respond in kind, Let’s lock up an abortion law once and for all.I

Leave a Reply