As you may know, today is the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that federally legalized abortion in America. And for the first time in my life I have come to realize it is likely that, when I die, this ruling will still not have been overturned.
When Roe was first announced I was eighteen years old and, at the time, I have to admit it seemed a logical result of the reigning American political and moral condition. In retrospect and looked at theologically, the Greek word kairos comes to mind — to use the words of Lutheran theologian Paul Tillich, kairos means a event was made possible by a “constellation of factors.”
Theology is applicable here because abortion and Roe have always been given religious overtones, as if the United States Supreme Court had actually taken on the mantle of an early church council deciding a controversial heresy. In truth, this question seemed far less theological than appeasing. It seemed to me that the fact the question had been asked at all showed a deep unhappiness within many sections of American culture, but within the heart and minds of women in particular.
As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up in a conservative Midwestern suburb, and as such I spent my childhood watching and listening to unhappy women. (For those of you reading this who are under thirty, I’m not sure you are capable of adequately comprehending how miserable many of these woman were.) My friends and I saw them everyday when we came home from school. We would often find them sitting at their kitchen tables chain-smoking or talking on the phone. Some of them were never out of their bathrobes, and others had achieved the status of the “toilet alcoholic,” a breed of woman who hid her bottle of vodka in the bathroom and would venture in there every so often to drink behind locked doors.
Sure, there were women who liked their lot in life, but there were enough who did not that we Midwestern males knew something was going to have to give. The intellectuals articulated this all over the airwaves as feminism, but we Midwestern males knew it was a rejection of a social order that we were taught everyday needed to be preserved in the face of the communist threat against Judeo-Christian society throughout the world. We knew something big was coming, you see, because it had always been the women who had picked and nutured the religious beliefs within the suburban family, and they were turning against the religious beliefs and institutions of America. The men I knew in the 1950s and 60s were much more cynical about religion than the women, perhaps because they had spent too much time fighting in wars. My father often told me that religion was for children and old people; women saw religion as a binding glue that held the morality of the family in place.
By 1965, however, we began hearing the outcry against organized religion and how it imposed its beliefs on society. It was male-dominated, the outcry, intent on preserving woman as domestic breeders. The word “breeder” was endlessly thrown at us males in the attempt to make it clear that we thought of females as little else as breeding machines, and that until such a perspective ceased to be, women would never be free. They would spend their lives at the mercy of men. In order for a change to occur, either religion had to change or society had to change, but when push came to shove, they would abandon their religion and change society. A lot of people only went to church once a week, after all, but a person lives in society every day.
The left made great strides in this issue by preaching the idea that American society had to be changed structurally. It was not enough to say that women should be free to exercise their freedom to choose their own lives — society had to be re-organized or that freedom would never be achieved. Therefore, Roe vs. Wade is not as assertion of freedom as many of the people who look down upon today’s March For Life with scorn might say, it is a re-structuring of the social fabric of society. Women were told that they alone could decide the reproductive future of society, an assertion which on the surface may have been liberating for some but nonetheless attempted to remove the idea that the state had no interest in whether its children were or were not born. To express this idea in a less chilling fashion, consider the old joke about the vegetarian who was asked why he chose not to eat meat: “This is not about me,” he replied. “This is about the chicken.”
In the eyes of pro-life supporters, this appeasement to the condition of woman was used as an excuse to justify the immorality of the 1960’s sexual revolution. There may be some truth in that, but the sexual revolution never took over a vast majority of America the way the desire to promulgate the rights of women did. A woman can remain a virgin, after all, but still want to be free. What actually destroyed the sexual revolution was the onslaught of diseases linked to sexual promiscuity and the natural inclination of people to behave more moderately when they get older. Even liberals. My experience taught me that many women wanted to live in a society that saw them the way men were seen. A man who was a doctor, for example, was regarded by society as a doctor who had children, not as a father who was also a doctor. These women believed this could not be achieved without their ability to determine when they would have children with no outside interference of any kind.
In conjunction with learning this side of Midwestern women, I learned about federalism. I have a brother who is three years older than I am, so he got to venture into the licentious halls of the local university in 1970 when I was a sophmore in high school. He brought home the college newspaper, and when I read it I saw an ad for a weekend travel package that provided air travel, accommodations and an abortion in New York for one low price. In my naivete, I had never fully considered that a crime was only a crime if it occurred in a particular place. The old westerns that were shown regularly on television would depict Old Mexico as the place to run if you wanted to live somewhere without any law, but now that idea went state to state. Murder in Ohio or Kentucky was considered a medical procedure in New York.
My friends and I also knew this would not last. We felt it had to go one way or another, with the root of that feeling almost bordering on President Abraham Lincoln’s 1858 statement that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” States’ rights had already been under severe attack from the civil rights movement and the attacks against the Jim Crow laws in the American south. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court did not seem to understand that an immoral act made legal for everyone is not superior to bad decisions made by individual states. Federalism, though, had a cornerstone laid in place with Roe vs. Wade that has not been removed.
Two years ago the modern ramifications of the abortion issue were illustrated to me on one of my rides home from Philadelphia on the commuter train. A young woman sitting beside me on a Friday afternoon ride smelled as if she had stopped at the bar in the train station for an hour or so before boarding the train. She spoke slowly and deliberately, and occasionally looked as if she would fall asleep. About half way through the ride she turned to me and blurted out the following:
“My father is a doctor. You didn’t know that, did you? When my mother was pregnant with me he did some tests and they were going to have me aborted. But then the test came out okay, so I got to be born.” She smiled at what must have been a classically confused look on my face and added: “Are you happy about that?”
To this day, I still do not know if this story is true, but she gave the impression that she wanted someone to tell her they were glad she was alive. I, of course, told her I was happy she had been born, but I politely avoided commenting about her father.
The point is this story is very possible. I have read religious commentaries which contend that 80 percent of children with Down’s Syndrome are aborted. America has gone beyond women’s rights and federalism in the abortion issue. Science has made the abortion issue an issue of eugenics. It may be that abortions are about an individual woman making choices, but now these abortions can be done in the name of removing genetically defective people from society. Considering that, it seems even more unlikely that as things stand now we’ll see Roe overturned — after all, so much of the current debate over medicine and health care centers on questions about caring for people who are a burden to society.
Back in August of last year, Jeff Schreiber here at America’s Right wondered aloud whether ObamaCare was really “Cash For Clunkers II.” According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, ObamaCare may be dead in the water, but the underlying tendency to look at America’s seniors as “clunkers” could also have application when it comes to the most defenseless among us as well. The actual Cash For Clunkers program was done under the guise of saving the environment from the nonsense that is man-made global warming — what happens when that same sentiment is applied to people?
When the issue was purely moral, the right-to life movement always had the higher ground and always will. It’s a matter of life. That issue will be seriously muddled, however, when the discussion turns to population control in an effort to save the environment, a bankrupt government and ever-decreasing resources. As the left will see it and spin it, to be pro-life will mean you are against the existence of the American nation and the Earth as a whole.
President Barack Obama, as a state lawmaker, once opposed a measure which would ensure that babies who survived a botched abortion would receive medical care and not be left to die. Anybody concerned about life and the natural rights of those who cannot speak up for themselves should have no confidence in knowing that it is Obama, Senate leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Pelosi, and liberal Supreme Court Justices like Sonia Sotomayor will have a say in who lives and who dies. Right now, it appears as though the left has all the bases covered to prevent a change in Roe vs. Wade anytime soon.
Regardless, it should come as a comfort to know that today’s March For Life in Washington, D.C. will be well-attended. Even if President Obama is not watching, God is.
Ronald Glenn has worked in real estate and law for more than twenty years. He now works in Philadelphia, and lives outside the city with his wife. Ron has been writing for America’s Right since January 2009.