Roe’s Defense of Irresponsible Behavior

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            In my previous post, A Fourth of July Reflection, I briefly reflected on some of the decision language that caused me to exclaim “Wow! Did they really put this into print?!”. This post is the promised follow-up reflection.

Recall the following passage from Roe v Wade (complete paragraph quoted here):

            “This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy. The detriment that the state would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by childcare. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with an unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, as in this one, the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.” (Roe v. Wade 410 U. S. p.153)

            This language was declared Constitutional. Somehow, a court of Republican appointed Supreme Court Justices (six to be exact, five of whom concurred) found this personal and social behavior consistent with the Republican principles of the 1970’s. (I was in high school at the time and not politically active.)

            First, let me focus on the words “as we feel it is”. Feel!? This is a Supreme Court decision about to impact the entire U.S. population via the equivalent of a Constitutional Amendment and it’s based on how they FEEL! This reflects my view from the first time I read this opinion years ago. Opinions are usually based on feelings; ask any social commentator or screaming demonstrator. Legal decisions based on opinions undermine justice.  

            Second, the Ninth Amendment is “broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy”. How broad? Is it broad enough to support the right to carry a concealed weapon? If I feel more comfortable walking crime-ridden streets carrying a concealed weapon, why should I be denied that right? If psychological harm is imminent in walking the streets without my weapon, does the Ninth Amendment protect my right to carry? Clearly “mental and physical health [will] be taxed” if I am confronted and defenseless.

            Third, “Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future.” Seriously? A distressful life and future confront every American every day for more reasons than can be documented. If we all pursue legal action on every source of distress, can we anticipate a Supreme Court decision based on the Ninth Amendment that removes our sources of distress and guarantees a bright future regardless of our culpability in creating that distress. [Ninth Amendment: The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.]

            A brief note on culpability. Any distress of pregnancy is based on sexual behavior that results in unexpected/unwanted fetal fertilization. The cases I’m restricting myself to do not include rape, incest, etc. I am referring to irresponsible personal behavior that results in the situations listed above in the court ruling. It has been shown that approximately 70% of women getting an abortion choose this for personal reasons. Surveys by the Guttmacher Institute reveal the percentage of women selecting the following reasons for having an abortion.

  • Having a baby would dramatically change my life (74% in 2004, 78% in 1987)
  • Can’t afford a baby now (73% in 2004, 69% in 1987)
  • Don’t want to be a single mother or having relationship problems (48% in 2004, 52% in 1987)
  • Not ready for another child (32% in 2004, 36% in 1987)
  • Don’t want people to know I had sex or got pregnant (25% in 2004, 33% in 1987)
  • Don’t feel mature enough to raise another child (22% in 2004, 27% in 1987)

            The fact that Roe defended this behavior with the Constitution strongly supports Teddy Roosevelt’s statement “When such words can be written of[by] a nation, that nation is rotten to the heart’s core.” [The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses, 1902, page 4, from a speech given in Chicago, April 10, 1899]

            Keep in mind that Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey, 505 U. S. 833 based its decision on the Fourteenth Amendment and applied stare decisis to use Roe v Wade in its decision. As I continue my review of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization references to Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pa. v. Casey will be included in future posts.

            See you next time.

            And from Edward R. Murrow, “Good night and good luck.”

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