The recent debate over health care demonstrates how deeply divided our citizens remain over legal abortion. This should come as a surprise to no one, as it was not a grassroots women’s movement that led to abortion-on-demand, but rather a court decision by seven old men, appointed to lifetime posts, and accountable to no one. Fifty million unborn American babies have died since Roe v. Wade, and it is long past time for the Supreme Court to overturn this disaster and restore the protection of law to the most defenseless Americans.
Justice Blackmun, writing for the majority in 1973, claimed, “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins,” but that has always been at the very center of the abortion debate. If the unborn is nothing more than a cellular growth within the mother, then she should be able to remove that tumor without restriction. If the unborn is a human being, then he or she cannot be put to death, based solely on the discretion of another. Blackmun disingenuously wrote that, “… those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus as to when life begins.” But that was not true in 1973 and is even less true today.
By what criteria do we judge that life is present? Genetically we know that the unborn is a unique individual from conception, with all human chromosomes present. From the start, this tiny human’s cells will carry out all the life functions that you and I studied in high school biology. By 22 days after conception, the heart begins to beat with the child’s own blood, often a different type than the mother’s. In the sixth week, brain waves are detectable. By all accepted scientific standards, a living human being is certainly present.
Clearly, this human’s existence is dependent on his or her mother, but how can a compassionate society allow a condition of dependency to dictate whether one may live or die? While all but a tiny fraction of women report that they sought pregnancy termination for “social reasons,” it is also true that some pregnancies occur under tragic circumstances, including rape and incest. If Roe v. Wade were to be overturned, I believe even the most conservative states would retain legal abortion in those instances, out of compassion for the victim. Sadly, an abortion does not return a woman to an un-violated state, but punishes the second innocent victim of the crime. In the case of incest or statutory rape, it often just covers up a crime.
Legal abortion reveals one of the great hypocrisies of liberalism. The same activists who fight to keep abortion-on-demand until birth, and to deny legal protection even to infants who survive abortion, will protest the execution of serial killers. Still, there is hope. This generation of women has witnessed the undeniable humanity of their own children on ultrasound screens, and their consciences will not allow this tragedy to continue.
Virginia Seuffert moved from her native New York to Oak Park in 1988. Mother of 12 and grandmother of 14, she lectures on and writes about conservative issues, including Catholic family life and home schooling.