Life After 40 – Roe v. Wade Reconsidered


This week marks the 40th anniversary of the abortion decision in Roe v. Wade. Forty years ago the Supreme Court decided that taking the life of a preborn infant is a protected right, although found only in the shadows of Constitutional innuendo. Forty years ago this week an unnamed woman was granted the ability to abort the child she had already given birth to in a case she no longer wanted to fight or win.

Forty years later the fight still rages.

The Court decided an issue it had neither the knowledge nor the wisdom to decide. In fact, the Court in Roe argues with itself throughout the opinion on the issue of viability, arguing over which obscure point in pregnancy the State would have the ability to step in to protect the preborn. The Court, finding itself wise enough to grant the ability to end the life of the preborn, still notes that it is without the knowledge to know when life begins. The Court states:

“We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”

fetusWhat about at this point in the development of man’s knowledge? We have had 40 years to learn that a preborn has a heartbeat within the first several weeks of pregnancy. We have had 40 years to learn that a preborn feels pain. The Court in a later opinion states that viability occurs at around the 28th week of pregnancy. We have had 40 years, and in that 40 years, preborn infants as early as 19 weeks gestation have survived birth. Clearly, man’s knowledge is deficient.

What have we done with the knowledge of fetal development that we have acquired in 40 years?

Nothing. Several states have attempted to help the Supreme Court answer the question. Kansas and Georgia have attempted to enact laws curtailing abortion based on the preborn’s ability to feel pain. Just this week in Wyoming, lawmakers pushed a bill that would curtail abortion after the preborn infant has a discernible heartbeat. Yet, despite the constant fight, news sites are reporting that abortion is no longer a key issue. I disagree.

A quote from Ghandi comes to mind, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Though media outlets may attempt to dumb down the issue, or ignore that it still exists while pretending that it’s no longer on the national conscience, abortion issues are still being fought, are still being legislated.

Only a few weeks into the New Year and abortion is already all over the national headlines. An anti-abortion group in Colorado was banned from displaying graphic pictures of aborted preborn infants. The Court found that the pictures might be disturbing. I would argue that a witness of the reality of abortion is not as disturbing as the fact that abortions are performed. In other news so far this year, Planned Parenthood has announced their intention to stop using the term “Pro-Choice” because of its ambiguous nature and negative connotations. The playing field is ever changing. Why, then, are we being told that the fight is over?

There is ground to be gained. There is still headway to be made and fights to be fought. The fight is far from over.

40 years after the decision in Roe v. Wade, I wonder how the 40-year-old daughter of Roe feels, knowing that her mother ultimately chose Life. With all the talk of viability and heartbeats and Constitutional grey areas, let us not forget what lies in the middle of this vast argument: A Life.

Melissa AndersonThe Moral Liberal Contributor, Melissa Anderson is a lawyer in San Antonio, Texas, and a contributing writer at United Families International. She is the mother of seven crazily adorable children and an author of children’s books. In her spare time, Melissa volunteers extensively with Court Appointed Special Advocates educating the community on issues related to child abuse and neglect.

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