Charles Rulon: Was Roe vs. Wade a Mistake?

By | March 11, 2010

In this set of remarks, my friend Charles Rulon, exposes and refutes several falsehoods that we often hear concerning the landmark court decision on abortion: Roe vs. Wade.

Was Roe v. Wade a Mistake?

1. Claim: Roe v. Wade was liberal judicial activism:
Reply: If the constitutional protection of our individual rights means anything, then the freedom to decide whether or not to endure pregnancy must be deemed a fundamental right. The Roe v. Wade opinion was written by Justice Blackmun, a conservative Republican appointed to the Court by President Richard M. Nixon. Also supporting Roe was Chief Justice Warren Burger (also a conservative and a Nixon appointee) and conservative Justices Potter Stewart and Lewis Powell.

2. Claim: Very few competent experts agreed with Roe:
False. In 1989 a “friend of the court” brief was filed on behalf of 885 American law professors who held that the right of a woman to choose whether or not to bear a child is an essential component of constitutional liberty and privacy. Trying to force women with unwanted pregnancies to be little more than breeding machines — embryo incubators against their will — is a fundamental freedom issue; it’s essentially a female enslavement or bondage issue that has no place in any 21st century scientifically literate, ethically advanced society.

3. Regarding the fact that the “right to abort” does not appear in the U.S. Constitution:
Neither do phrases like “freedom of thought” or “parenthood rights” or “liberty of association” or “freedom of marital choice”. The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates by a vote of 238 to 106 approved a resolution in 1990 expressing the ABA’s recognition that “the fundamental rights of privacy and equality guaranteed by the 8th and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution” encompasses “the decision to terminate a pregnancy.” In fact, when the U.S. Constitution speaks of persons, it is quite obviously referring to just one definition of person, those already born. For example, the 14th Amendment says that all persons born in the United States are citizens, not “all persons conceived”. Our Constitution is a living document with many amendments added over the years, not a stagnant archaic parchment steeped in the ignorance and prejudices of two hundred years ago.

4. Regarding equality under the law:
We have laws that protect us from being forced to use our bodies against our will to keep other people alive (such as being forced to give blood, or bone marrow). These laws are strongly supported by society. Yet, anti-choice activists want to force women with unwanted pregnancies to use their bodies against their will to keep unwanted mindless embryos alive. Thus, laws restricting access to abortion forcefully discriminate against women. They place a real and substantial burden on women’s ability to participate in society as equals.

5. Regarding disrespect for the law:
Restrictive abortion laws have never stopped the large majority of abortions anywhere on earth (including the U.S.) according to a 2007 study from the Guttmacher Institute and the World Health Organization. Instead, such laws have brought about widespread disrespect for the law and have criminalized millions of desperate women each year who’ve attempted to self-abort or sought out dangerous illegal abortions.

6. Regarding the claim that abortion murders pre-born babies:
Embryos are not babies. The vast majority of Americans know this. That’s why they DON’T want women who elect to abort to be sent to prison as accomplices to murder, not even for a day!

Charles L. Rulon, Emeritus, Life & Health Sciences, Long Beach City College

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