The 40 year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court abortion decision Roe v. Wade brings us to a biblical number fraught with symbolic importance. Psalm 95 laments: "Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and I said, 'It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways.'"
Those laboring in the "pro-life vineyard" may certainly be justified in looking on these past years as a time of wandering in the desert with relatively few tangible results. But the remarkable achievements of literally thousands of pro-life counseling centers that have saved so many lives from abortion must be acknowledged. It remains true, however, that progress towards making abortion not only illegal but unthinkable remains painfully slow.
We can also see these four decades as a period of purification and preparation. It is up to us now to conquer the promised land of a civilization that is rooted in love and respect for all our brothers and sisters. Today selfishness and the convenience of the stronger are enshrined as "rights."
The deadliest poison of the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling was the finding of a constitutional "right to privacy" identified with virtually abortion-on-demand. We should remember, however, that the stepping stone for Roe's "right to privacy" in U.S. constitutional law was the Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision of 1965 that invoked this same "right" to invalidate a state law banning birth control. It serves to confirm Blessed John Paul II's insight that contraception and abortion are "fruits of the same tree."
(Photo from USAID-funded abortion project in South Africa)
Up until Roe v. Wade, countries as varied as Nazi Germany, communist Russia and democratic Britain agreed on one thing at least when they legalized killing in the womb: They saw abortion as an evil to be tolerated in certain circumstances or to be inflicted on enemies. The general legislative pattern was depenalization, in other words, abortion remains a crime but is not punished by legal sanctions if performed under certain specific circumstances or conditions. Of course, many countries simply ban the practice of abortion. Among the others who permit it, the most common limitations remain a 12th week of pregnancy time limit for abortions and the obligation for the mother to receive pre-abortion counseling with the stated objective of providing alternatives to and reasons not to have an abortion.
U.S.-style "abortion as a constitutional right" was revolutionary. Radical feminists, Planned Parenthood and their minions realized this notion was a goldmine. The terminology of the "right to privacy" was tweaked by academics into the "right" to "reproductive health" or simply "reproductive rights."
The 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo produced a Programme of Action which was the first inter-governmental negotiated document to use these terms. In fact, the Clinton administration and others had made no secret of their plans to use the Cairo ICPD to proclaim an "international right to abortion." Fortunately, John Paul II and a coalition of pro-life nations and organizations thwarted this attempt at a Roe v. Wade for the world. Nevertheless, the battle to impose a "right" to abortion globally was on.
Taking their cue from the U.S. experience, feminist lawyers created The Center for Reproductive Rights whose mission is to use "the law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that all governments are legally obligated to protect, respect, and fulfill." They have so far involved themselves in lawsuits and other legal actions in 50 countries. Declaring never before recognized "rights" and coercing others into implementing and footing the bill for them is a favorite liberal tactic.
The U.S. Constitution nowhere includes the phrase "right to privacy." The U.S. Supreme Court's formulation of the discovery of a constitutional "right to privacy" simply takes one's breath away. "The foregoing cases suggest that specific guarantees in the Bill of Rights have penumbras formed by emanations from those guarantees that help give them life and substance." A penumbra is the lighter part of a shadow, and this argument is embarrassingly intellectually lightweight as even many pro-abortion academics reluctantly admit.
Similarly, no international reproductive right to abortion has been recognized, but that has not deterred the apostles of abortion. They take comfort in the fact that Roe v. Wade has yet to be reversed and thrown onto the ash-heap of history. Rather it is treated as something of a "sacred cow" of American jurisprudence. Witness the reverential tone with which liberal senators refer to the "right to privacy" in Supreme Court justice confirmation hearings.
As hundreds of thousands of pro-life protestors join the March for Life in Washington, D.C. this year we should remember that getting rid of Roe v. Wade is an urgent need for the world and not just the United States. The "right to abortion" must be buried as definitively as the "right to own slaves" and other similar legal travesties.
Joseph Meany is the international cooperation director of Human Life International. See link here.