Abortion Part II: How did abortion become legal?

eightweeksafterconception1All photos in this article were taken eight weeks after conception, when the baby was just over one inch long. Abortion Part 1 can be read here.

Most of you have heard of the Supreme Court case called Roe v. Wade which legalized abortion. But until recently I never really understood what the case was really all about and how this decision could be made which allowed women to abort a pregnancy.

In this case, a woman (named Norma McCorvey, who chose to be called Jane Roe) sued the state of Texas represented by the district attorney of Dallas County, Henry Wade. The Texas law at the time only allowed abortion as a life-saving procedure on behalf of the mother. Many states had similar laws or banned abortion all together. Ms. Roe stated she had been raped and did not wish to continue the pregnancy, and that her lack of freedom to get an abortion infringed on her right to privacy.

Roe v. Wade is not the only case to shape the abortion debate, however. There was a Georgia case called Doe v. Bolten which “involved a married woman who was also denied an abortion for not meeting the necessary state requirements” (Georgia law allowed for abortion if the life or health of the mother was threatened, if the baby was seriously deformed, or if the pregnancy was a result of rape). A three-judge District Court ruled that Roe did have basis to sue, and declared Texas abortion law void for being “vague” and “overbroad.” The District Court ruling in the Doe case was split. It ruled that there were some unnecessary bureaucratic burdens that might hinder someone from receiving a due abortion, but they still held that the State had a right to restrict abortion according to the principles already in place. Both decisions were appealed, both decisions ended up before the Supreme Court, and both verdicts were handed down on the same day, January 22, 1973.

Legal verdict

Roe ruled (7-2) that though states did have an interest in protecting fetal life, such interest was not “compelling” until the fetus was viable, or able to live on his or her own (placing viability at the start of the third trimester). Thus, all state abortion laws that forbade abortion during the first six months of pregnancy were thereby invalidated. Third trimester abortions, on the other hand, were only legal if the pregnancy threatened the life or health of the mother. The Doe verdict, however, defined “health of the mother” in such broad terms, that any prohibitions to 3rd trimester abortions were essentially eliminated. According to Justice Harry Blackmun’s majority opinion, a woman’s health includes her “physical, emotional, psychological, (and) familial” well-being, and should include considerations about the woman’s age. “All these factors may relate to health,” Blackmun argued, so as to give “the attending physician the room he needs to make his best medical judgment.” In other words, if a woman is upset about her 3rd trimester pregnancy (psychological health), her doctor has the necessary legal basis to abort.” (For more information, visit Abort73.com.)

A change of heart

eightweeksafterconception2Norma McCorvey, the woman who originally pushed for the legalization of abortion, announced on August 10, 1995 that she had become an advocate of the pro-life movement. She wrote in her book, Won By Love, “I was sitting in O.R.’s offices when I noticed a fetal development poster. The progression was so obvious, the eyes were so sweet. It hurt my heart, just looking at them. I ran outside and finally, it dawned on me. ‘Norma,’ I said to myself, ‘They’re right.’ I had worked with pregnant women for years. I had been through three pregnancies and deliveries myself. I should have known. Yet something in that poster made me lose my breath. I kept seeing the picture of that tiny, 10-week-old embryo, and I said to myself, That’s a baby! It’s as if blinders just fell off my eyes and I suddenly understood the truth–that’s a baby! I felt ‘crushed’ under the truth of this realization. I had to face up to the awful reality. Abortion wasn’t about ‘products of conception.’ It wasn’t about ‘missed periods.’ It was about children being killed in their mother’s wombs. All those years I was wrong. Signing that affidavit, I was wrong. Working in an abortion clinic, I was wrong. No more of this first trimester, second trimester, third trimester stuff. Abortion–at any point–was wrong. It was so clear. Painfully clear.”

McCorvey herself had never had an abortion because the courts took longer than her nine-month pregnancy to rule. She gave birth to a baby girl during that time and placed her up for adoption. In 2005, McCorvey petitioned the Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 decision, stating that the case should be heard again due to evidence that the procedure may harm women, but this petition was denied. (To read more about the specifics of this case, you can visit the Wikipedia article about Norma McCorvey.)

Norma McCorvey, or Jane Roe, changed her mind, and her heart. She knew what she had done was sinful, but it was too late to go back. She couldn’t give life back to the babies she’d assisted in murdering, and she couldn’t erase the law she’d helped to put in place. It’s too late for those babies to have a chance at life, but it doesn’t have to be too late for others.

God’s verdict

eightweeksafterconception3Just because something is legal does not always mean it is ethical. There are many laws that as Christians we may not agree with (i.e. legalization of alcohol, cigarettes, federally funded planned parenthood, gay marriage, etc.). So, many people may ask why abortion is such a big issue when there are many things we don’t agree with. Abortion does not involve just one person. There is an innocent life that, whether or not it can survive outside the mother, is a life all the same—one that God created and has a plan for. Psalm 139:13: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” The legalization of abortion also affects not just adults, but teens. It also affects women in many different situations: married women who don’t want more children, unwed women, and victims of sexual crimes. Legally, these people have rights to privacy. Of course privacy is an important right. However, ethically we have an obligation in our obedience to God to protect life.

There are always ongoing legal cases regarding abortion and there always will be as long as there is more than one point of view. As Christians we must remember that just because something may be legal or acceptable in the world, does not make it acceptable or right in the eyes of God. We must be obedient to do what He views as right.

By Sarah J. Ancheta

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