Getting the Facts Straight on Abortion and Public Morals
Washington, DC - January 22, 2008 marked the thirty-fifth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade abortion decision. Although debating abortion today seems downright pedestrian when compared to the more “cutting edge” issue of embryo-destructive stem-cell research, the underlying issues are the same: “who is a person?”, “when does a new human life begin?”, and “can we impose morality?”(emphasis added)
First, let us be clear on what Roe actually allows: 1) completely unregulated abortion for the first three months of pregnancy (a “trimester”); 2) government regulation during the second trimester only as concerns maternal health; 3) the potential proscription of abortion during the third trimester (defined as following 26 weeks gestation) with mandatory exceptions for the mother’s health. However, the court’s definition of "health" was so broad as to negate any real possibility of outlawing late term abortions. In short, Roe allows abortion for any reason up until the day of birth.
Now, the most fundamental issue in Roe is whether the unborn are persons because the 14th Amendment to the Constitution guarantees that no state can “deprive any person of life ... without due process of law....” Even the attorney for the appellant (Jane Roe) conceded during oral arguments that if the unborn were persons, they would be guaranteed the right to life under that Amendment.
But Roe’s central issue also is Roe’s central problem. Despite his admission that "The Constitution does not define ‘person’ in so many words," Justice Harry Blackmun, Roe’s chief author, concludes with little argument that the unborn are not persons, though he concedes that the Constitution does not rule out the possibility that the unborn are persons...