Remembering Roe v. Wade
The Kansas City Star
The Supreme Court’s opinion in Roe v. Wade (1973) is often discussed but seldom read. On the fortieth anniversary of the decision, it is worth another read.
As I noted in National Review Online a few weeks ago, the truth about abortion history was the first casualty of Roe. The second was the truth about when human life begins. In his Roe opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun famously maintained agnosticism about the origins of human life. “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins,” the Nixon-appointee insisted. “When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to come to a consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”
But the question—at least as a matter of biology—was not hard to answer in 1973. An editorial published just a few years earlier in the journal California Medicine (which was supportive of liberalizing the nation’s abortion laws) put it this way: One result of the rhetorical strategy pursued by proponents of abortion reform “has been the curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra- or extra- uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalize abortion as anything but the taking of a human life would be ludicrous if not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices.”