On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe versus Wade in a 5-4 decision. The controversial 1973 case that made abortion legal in all 50 states was no more.
Pro-life supporters celebrated this announcement and declared it a landmark ruling. Pro-choice activists have protested this decision in many U.S. cities. Tensions remain high and emotions are bubbling furiously on the surface.
The Court made the right decision.
Roe was “egregiously wrong and on a collision course with the Constitution from the day it was decided,” according to the syllabus of Dobbs versus Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “Without any grounding in the constitutional text, history, or precedent, Roe imposed on the entire country a detailed set of rules for pregnancy divided into trimesters much like those that one might expect to find in a statute or regulation.”
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Moreover, the “arbitrary viability line,” which Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. versus Casey “termed Roe’s central rule, has not found much support among philosophers and ethicists who have attempted to justify a right to abortion.”
“The most obvious problem with any such argument is that viability has changed over time and is heavily dependent on factors – such as medical advances and the availability of quality medical care – that have nothing to do with the characteristics of a fetus.”
I’ve leaned pro-life for about 15 years. It was a gradual and, at times, difficult shift. Growing frustration with the pro-choice movement’s leaders and tactics led me on an unexpected intellectual odyssey. I consumed technical papers, studies and books and spoke with religious groups and pro-life organizations. My views on life, death and conception began to transform.
My son’s birth was the final push I needed. I haven’t looked back.
While I oppose abortion from a moral and ethical standpoint, I don’t believe in banning it. The state shouldn’t interfere in the daily lives of its citizens. If people want to pay (with private money) for this controversial procedure, and live with the consequences of their actions, that’s their choice.
This brings us to individual freedom and personal liberty. Does a women’s right to choose supersede all other constitutional, personal and moral positions? Can the state ‘control’ a woman’s body and/or pass legislation to this effect? How do we prevent a political and judicial impasse in a free society?
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s intelligent, well-reasoned analysis for the majority opinion, which is the anchor for the syllabus, can’t be summarized in a short column. Several passages related to his discussion of liberty deserve to be highlighted.
“Casey’s bold assertion,” Alito wrote, is “the abortion right is an aspect of the ‘liberty’ protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” In his assessment, “‘Liberty’ is a capacious term. As Lincoln once said: ‘We all declare for Liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.’ In a well-known essay, Isaiah Berlin reported that ‘[h]istorians of ideas’ had catalogued more than 200 different senses in which the term had been used.”
Here’s where it gets fascinating.
“In interpreting what is meant by the Fourteenth Amendment’s reference to ‘liberty,’” Alito noted, “we must guard against the natural human tendency to confuse what that Amendment protects with our own ardent views about the liberty that Americans should enjoy. That is why the Court has long been ‘reluctant’ to recognize rights that are not mentioned in the Constitution.”
Alito believes the Supreme Court should be “guided by the history and tradition that map the essential components of our Nation’s concept of ordered liberty, we must ask what the Fourteenth Amendment means by the term ‘liberty.’ When we engage in that inquiry in the present case, the clear answer is that the Fourteenth Amendment does not protect the right to an abortion.”
This superb assessment shows why each state should have the liberty, freedom and democratic right to support or ban abortion.
Consider it from a modern context. The majority of people in Democratic-controlled states like New York and California would never think about abortion in the same way as the majority of people in Republican-controlled states like Alabama and Oklahoma. Each state can now make its own laws about abortion. Some will legalize it, and some will ban it. Others may take a middle-of-the-road position based on second-trimester procedures and whether abortions should be permitted in cases involving incest, rape or the woman’s health.
And if voters disagree with their state’s abortion laws, they can democratically vote the lawmakers out and start fresh in a new election cycle.
For nearly 50 years, Roe versus Wade attempted to encapsulate American opinion about abortion through one narrow lens. That was impossible to achieve and undemocratic in nature. Now that it’s been overruled, a return to democracy and states’ rights in the United States can be properly achieved.
Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former prime minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.
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