Reflections on Roe vs. Wade – 43 years later

pregnancy, Tatiana VdbWhen the Roe vs. Wade court case was decided, I was in high school. I remember discussing the decision with a friend. Part of my friend’s argument was that they weren’t asking for abortion on demand, just for limited situations, such as when the mother’s life was in danger or cases of rape. It was hard to argue with this. I didn’t want to be an absolutist, refusing to allow for exceptions to the rule.

43 years later we have abortion on demand. It seems in allowing for the exception, it became the rule. Abortion is used as another form of birth control.

I now have counter-arguments to meet my friend’s argument. Even in cases of rape, there have been women who have refused to abort their baby, and their children have thanked them for it later.

The understanding of when and how life begins has changed over the course of history thanks to science. In Biblical times it was believed that the male held the seed which was then implanted in the woman to give birth to a child. Masturbation was the loss of this precious seed. Women were just the receptacle. We now know that women contribute equally to the formation of a baby.

As I mentioned in my blog post last week on Psalm 116, on the one hand we expend tremendous amounts of resources and money in neo-natal units saving premature babies that may only weigh a pound, yet abort those same size fetuses. What makes one a life worthy of saving and the other unworthy?

There are couples expending large sums of money on fertility drugs, implantation, surrogacy, desperately trying to have that which others throw away. They go overseas to find babies to adopt because there are none here.

It used to be that miscarriages were not acknowledged as a loss of life at all. Now though, hospital pastoral care departments routinely hold memorial gatherings to remember babies lost through miscarriage. Again, why is one a life worthy of mourning, and the other not?

Even in those cases years ago where the loss was not acknowledged, the women who experienced the loss grieved. I have a 90 year old aunt who continues to grieve the loss of lives due to miscarriages. Even though she had two sons, for her it was the loss of the large family she had longed to have.

On the other hand, according to sociological research, there are women who have had miscarriages and/or abortions that experience none of this. But can we base our definition on when life begins just on feelings of the individuals involved?

To me, this isn’t a situation of both/and. It is either/or. Either the fetus is human and worthy of protection, or it is not. It isn’t possible to have it both ways. There is no scientific proof as to when the soul enters a fetus, however once an egg is fertilized, it can’t develop into anything but a human baby.

It’s been 43 years since this decision and we are still arguing about it. This isn’t the case for other controversial decisions such as Brown versus the Board of Education. Maybe because there is something wrong with this decision. Roe versus Wade hasn’t met the test of time. Time to look at it again.

***

In the first book of my Dancing Through Life Series, Dancing on a High Wire, Joy, a ballet instructor, is pregnant with her third child when it is discovered that she has breast cancer. She is confronted with the question of aborting this child in order to pursue aggressive treatment of her cancer. On January 22, the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, I will be lowering the price for the electronic version of this book to $0.99. (wish I could give it away but apparently I have used up my give away days already 😦 ) I hope Joy’s struggles will inspire others.

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