I have noticed that very few people who argue strongly in favor of, or against, Roe vs. Wade have actually read the ruling. As such, people typically do not know what they are fighting for or fighting against.
The Right Wing spins the issue in favor of the rights of the unborn child. The Left Wing spins the issue in favor of the rights of the mother. For both parties, it makes a convenient “Wedge Issue” with which to obtain enough votes to win elections.
The Supreme Court, however, rather than spin the issue, opted to protect the inalienable rights of both the unborn child and the mother. They achieved this by setting an extremely important legal precedent.
That legal precedent is known as “Roe vs. Wade”.
The ruling took into careful consideration not only the role of the State but also the basic purpose of practicing medicine: to “help or do no harm,” to “not cause suffering”, and to “not make public” a patient’s medical condition, as expressed in both the 18th century and modern versions of the Hippocratic Oath.
More specifically, the court case sought to address the grievances of 21-year-old Norma McCorvey, who claimed she had been raped and sought to abort her alleged rapists’ unborn child. Although Norma McCorvey’s accusations were proven to be false, her lawsuit against the State of Texas for denying her an abortion before she admitted to lying, accidentally introduced an extremely serious moral and legal dilemma:
What happens when a woman really has been raped and seeks to abort her rapists’ offspring? Does she, indeed, have a right to an abortion under those circumstances?
The question at hand presented two equally important, and competing, moral positions: the responsibility of the State of Texas to defend the rights of the unborn and the responsibility of the Medical Board of Texas to either “help or do no harm”. In the case of a woman having been raped, the practice of “doing no harm” would be severely compromised if the woman were forced to carry the child to term, incurring what is referred to as a “double-injury”. Simply put, Texas law at the time basically guaranteed that a woman must carry her rapist’s offspring to term and deliver it at great financial and mortal expense. This, in addition to having been raped. Hence the term “double-injury”.
While Texas law did address some of the rights of the mother (granting exceptions to abortions when the mother’s life was in danger) it did not address the harm, the double-injury, incurred from having to carry the child and give birth against her will. Even with the best of intentions, it exacted a physical, financial, and psychological cost to the mother. This placed medical practitioners in the difficult position having to violate their pledge to “do no harm” under the Hippocratic Oath.
Once The Supreme Court recognized this inherent contradiction – pitting State’s responsibilities against Medical responsibilities – they realized there were dozens of other scenarios in which State intervention might delay health care for, or even force great harm upon, the mother.
And, just as alarming, they realized that such a dynamic might inflict great harm upon the unborn child as well.
Again, Texas Law sought to protect the unborn from harm. One of the possible scenarios cited by The Supreme Court, however, consisted of unborn children with severe deformities or illnesses being forced to endure immense suffering, with zero life expectancy, due to denial of abortion. Meanwhile, such unborn children were still under the responsibility of doctors who had sworn to “do no harm” and “cause no suffering”. The application of the law under those circumstances ceased to make sense.
While the minority of abortion cases consist of instances where the life of a mother is directly in danger due to pregnancy, there are a vast number of sick or deformed fetuses which may not induce miscarriage yet simply cannot be carried to term humanely. In those instances, according to the best judgment of a doctor, they must be aborted.
Because these glaring contradictions had not yet been addressed under Texas law (or any State law for that matter), and because the matter was too morally important to leave unanswered, The Supreme Court had no choice but to provide a precise definition as to when the rights of an unborn child outweighed those of the mother and, conversely, when the rights of a mother outweighed those of an unborn child. Additionally, they had to determine when the benefit to the child outweighed the suffering incurred by the child to keep it alive. This would be the dividing line where an abortion would truly be considered “illegal” or where a mother would truly be considered “forced into harm”.
Roe vs. Wade defined that specific point with these words:
“(c) For the stage subsequent to viability the State, in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother. Pp. 163-164; 164-165.”
Thus, the dividing line between “legal” and “illegal” (and, arguably, “moral” and “immoral”) existed at the point of “viability”. This is the point at which a fetus is able to survive (with limited medical intervention) outside of a mother’s womb. If the fetus is not considered viable, it is either: too sick and suffering to survive OR too early along in its development to survive. Additionally, viability takes into account whether or not a fetus is too early in its development to experience consciousness or suffering – should the mother request abortion in cases of “double-injury”.
This latter criteria (“too early in its development”) consists of determining whether or not the fetus’ brain, or nervous system, is developed enough to be conscious or to experience pain. Overall, the determination as to whether or not a fetus is viable falls squarely upon a single decision-maker: the patient’s doctor.
Given that a doctor is the sole, trained expert in determining viability, they are deemed, by law, the person best equipped to “do no harm”.
They are also tasked with upholding the other vital portion of the Hippocratic Oath: the promise to “not make public” a person’s medical history (covered by the 14th Amendment). Without Roe v. Wad, if a State review board wished to examine a patient PRIOR TO requesting an abortion in order to act as the decision-maker, they would have to violate that patient’s right to privacy and interfere with their doctor’s medical practice. Roe v. Wade eliminated this contradiction.
With these competing responsibilities resolved, The Supreme Court and the State of Texas were able to move forward and uphold this new legal precedent.
Thus, under Roe vs. Wade, the rights of the unborn had actually been granted full protection under the law.
This truth is reflected in the fact that a woman attempting to have an abortion after the point of viability, and/or the physician allowing it, may be subject to punishment by law if discovered by agencies responsible for hospital oversight and accreditation – such as The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations (JCAHCO). JCAHO and other non-profit agencies are mandated, by law, to report any criminal acts uncovered during their quarterly auditing process. Such audits are frequently conducted unannounced to assure increased quality control in hospitals. In the case of the abortion of a viable fetus (arguably infanticide in utero for late-term abortions), a woman’s medical records may become subject to subpoena once the alleged violation is reported to the Medical Review Board, a State regulatory agency, or to Law Enforcement.
In spite of these facts, many “Pro-Life” organizations continue to march, lobby, and protest to overturn Roe vs. Wade without basic knowledge of the law and how it protects the rights of the unborn. This dynamic is due in large part to the utilization of abortion as a wedge issue by politicians, and not due to real-world, documented facts.
Mostly, “Pro-Life” criticism of Roe v. Wade is directed at the law’s reliance upon the medical definition of “viability,” contending that some form of consciousness develops as early as four weeks, and that pain can be felt as early as the blastocyst stage of pregnancy (when an egg has divided into two cells). This is their primary rebuttal to the notion that “no harm” is done when aborting a fetus at an early stage, a rebuttal made regardless of medical science, or whether the abortion is in response to a pregnancy by rape, or in response to a fetus’ suffering and/or terminal illness.
Although many of their arguments have specious scientific backing, they are moral arguments, coming from a good place. As such, they certainly have some merit. The problem with their cause, however, is that their claims are not rooted in scientific fact, and their criticism of later-term abortions only addresses a very small percentage of abortions (1.3%) and fails to address the issue in its entirety. As good as their intentions are, their aims are misguided, seeking to undo an important, badly-needed law.
Meanwhile, The Left Wing claims “Roe vs. Wade is to protect the rights of the mother” in the effort to counter The Right Wing’s claim that “overturning Roe vs. Wade is to protect the rights of the unborn”. Neither mantra encompasses the true evolution and purpose of the law. Again, the law exists to protect both the mother and the unborn child.
So, when the Republican Party tells you that they’re attempting to “protect the lives of the unborn,” they are not only ignoring the cases in which a woman’s health and wellbeing are compromised, but they are also ignoring the thousands of cases of unborn children who are suffering needlessly, with no chance of recovery or survival, who need to be aborted. As difficult as it may be for Republicans to accept, and as devastating as it may be, there are many instances in which abortion is simply the only humane option for both the mother and the child.
If The Republican Party really, truly wants to make a difference in the lives of the unborn, it is best to march and protest the practices and policies of individual states, their medical boards, their regulatory agencies, and individual clinics. Sadly, there are indeed cases of infanticide throughout the United States. Those cases, however, exist in spite of, independent of, and not because of the ruling on Roe vs. Wade. To seek to dismantle the entire legal structure in response to a few bad actors makes no sense.
So, as you can see, marching to overturn Roe vs. Wade is a dangerous, harmful endeavor, one in which the rollback of the decision would inevitably cause terrible suffering to mothers and unborn children alike.
You don’t believe me? Ask every Christian, Conservative member of the Supreme Court as to why they have refused to overturn the case for the past fifty years.
They’ll tell you the exact same things I did.
And The Left Wing is best to focus on the fact that many unborn children, terminally ill and suffering, have benefited from this law as well. Because there is, legally, a limit to a woman’s “Right to Choose,” just like there are limits to the right to Freedom of Speech, the right to Bear Arms and all other human rights.
Remember: our human rights are inalienable but they are not unlimited. They are limited in order to accommodate one another and maximize their good in the interest of preserving life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Just read Roe vs. Wade.