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Sunday, January 22, 2012

January 22, 1973

Norma McCorvey was 21 years old and pregnant with her third child when two young female Texas lawyers recruited her to be "Jane Roe," the lead plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade class-action lawsuit. The "Wade" was Henry Wade, the District Attorney in Dallas County, charged with upholding Texas state law.

McCorvey never had an abortion, delivering a girl that she gave up for adoption. But the landmark decision she championed proved a critical - but far from final - chapter in the great abortion debate.

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional, by a 7-2 vote, a Texas law prohibiting abortion except for the purpose of saving a woman's life.

What the Supreme Court said, in simple terms, is that women have a constitutional right to privacy to make decisions about whether to have an abortion. Because this decision involves moral as well as medical considerations, the Court ruled, a woman has the right to consider her personal circumstances and the dictates of her conscience.

"Abortion raises moral and spiritual questions over which honorable persons can disagree sincerely and profoundly. But those disagreements did not then and do not now relieve us of our duty to apply the Constitution faithfully," said Associate Justice Harry Blackmun in the majority opinion.

Honorable persons - as well as nefarious scoundrels dressed in religious garb - have, in fact, disagreed both "sincerely and profoundly".

For the past year, zealots in Congress and state legislatures – many of whom preach the sanctity of privacy and freedom from government – have relentlessly waged a vicious war on women’s access to health care.

"Family values" they call it - a term they like to pull out and apply 'liberally' (/sarcasm) in opposition to everything from Reproductive Rights to Marriage Equality.

Can you say, "hypocrite"?

More than 1,000 bills were introduced in state legislatures, including the Ohio “heartbeat” bill banning abortion after the 6th or 7th week of gestation, and numerous bills requiring pregnant women to have ultrasounds.

In 2011, ninety-two (92!!!!) anti-abortion provisions were enacted – the most in any year since Roe v. Wade was decided!
In the U.S. House of Representatives, radical and repressive legislation was introduced, including the “Protect Life Act” which would allow hospitals to let a pregnant woman die rather than provide her services (see also 'hypocrite' above)

Lawmakers also launched a full-scale effort to defund clinics that provide reproductive health services, including Planned Parenthood clinics, where thousands of low-income women and children benefit from health programs on contraception, sexually transmitted diseases and more.

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled a scientific panel and rejected broader accessibility of emergency contraception on store shelves.
It is not a coincidence that these efforts come at a time when there is a Black man in the White House, and an 'uppity' former First Lady as Secretary of State.

But there were victories last year, too.
Voters in Mississippi defeated by 55% to 45% a personhood amendment that would have conferred legal rights at the moment of fertilization.

The governor of Kentucky refused to permit the merger of a publicly-funded institution with a Catholic health group that would have restricted abortion (even to save a woman’s life), sterilization, contraception and emergency contraception.

Just two days ago, HHS Secretary Sebelius eased our worst fears by reaffirming contraceptive services without co-pays or deductibles in new healthcare legislation, and permitting only a narrow exemption for religious employers.
Like the struggle for Civil Rights for People of Color, sexuality and gender-identity, the fieriest battles are on religious fronts.

People have often used scripture as the rationale for their prejudice, bigotry and oppression.

Proponents of "natural law" point to The Bible as the reason that "the way we were" is good enough for "the way it ought to be".

Read: 'Man on top' as the metaphor for the structure of society wherein everyone who isn't White, male, heterosexual and well-monied is in control of everything.

It boggles my mind that there are women - many, many women around the country - who support this position. My only response is to say that either these women don't understand their own potential or, if they do, they have consigned themselves to be underachievers.

Which is their right and their choice. I would never deny them that.

I would only ask for the same right and the same choices for myself and my sisters and our daughters and granddaughters who think differently.

Actually, I'm not asking. I'm insisting on a right that is mine - and, all women - and guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States.

In the 39 years since Roe v. Wade, many things have changed. Many more options are opened to women than have ever been previously available.

Many on 'The Right" are crying, "I want my country back."

Well, as Bill Mahr says, I want my country forward. 

Let's use the observance of the 39th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade to renew our commitment to keeping information about human sexuality as well as early intervention and prevention of pregnancy widely available to women.

Let's try to reduce the number of abortions by reducing the factors that contribute to the reasons women choose abortion, which include but are not limited to poverty, poor education, and inaccessibility to affordable health care.

And, yes, let's keep abortion safe, legal and free from moral scrutiny and religious judgment and government interference.

It's been 39 years since Roe v. Wade.  It's time to move the political, religious and cultural battleground somewhere other than a woman's body.

Like, let's say, Congress. Or, the Vatican.

Neither of which I trust with either a choice or a child.


Lyn G. Brakeman said...

AMEN! from a sister of the cloth and a woman who at 74 still has a good old body with its womb intact. Lyn

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Lyn - And a razor-sharp intellect. Thanks, my dear.

I still love that old slogan from the early Pro-Choice movement:

"Don't want abortion? Don't have one."

See? Easy!

(My other favorite is: "Keep your rosaries off my ovaries".)

JCF said...

In 2012, a post like this SHOULD not require courage.

Unfortunately, it does---and I thank you for it.

Mother Jesus, creator of women's autonomy, protect your daughters!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, JCF.

Brother David said...

I am NOT anti-abortion, I AM pro-choice. That said, a lot of abortions are not performed when the pregnancy looks like the thing in the first photo in your post. I think that approach is a bit anti-intelectual and way over simplifies the real situation.

Anonymous said...

Since the law of the land (courtesy of our black-robed overlords of the US Supreme Court) allows abortion one minute prior to delivery, why not show a fully-grown chick or a full-term human baby? Last time I checked surgical abortions were not being conducted on fertilized ova.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Br. David - I share your position. I am pro-choice, not anti-abortion. But, it's not true what you say about when "most" abortions are done. That's what people on the Right - like Michael here - want you to believe.

I can't find you the source, but if you spend 10 minutes googling, you'll find that most abortions are performed at 8-10 weeks gestation. Not exactly a collection of cells but nothing that could sustain life outside of the womb. Which, by the way, is the legal parameters of abortion. It's still 20-24 weeks. Period.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Michael, Michael, Michael - you will say anything to make yourself feel "right" - even if it's not true.

Have you read Roe v. Wade? If you have, then you know that "legal" abortion is not allowed "one minute prior to delivery".

Look, Michael - if and when you ever need an abortion, you can choose not to have one. Otherwise, let's just trust women to know what's important for them and their bodies and their families and their futures, shall we?

I know that's a bit of a stretch for someone like you, but give it a try. Channel all your energy that goes into condemning women into fighting against the situations that force her to choose to have an abortion: poverty, poor education, domestic violence, rape.

You know. All the things Jesus would have us work against so that we might bring about the Realm of God.

If you stopped - just for one red hot second - trying to figure out ways to twist the truth in order to condemn and control women, you might help hundreds of all of God's people consider how they might move us closer to the Realm of God here on earth.

IT said...

Andrew Sullivan ran a series on his blog last year telling the true stories of women who had late term abortions-- you can probably google it.

The stories were gut wrenching and clearly exposed the agony of the choices they made. No one has a late term abortion because they frivolously change their mind.

In Nicaragua, where abortion is criminal, women are dying--not just of illegal abortions, but of ectopic pregnancies and complications from natural miscarriages which doctors are afraid to treat for fear of going to prison.

If the right wing reallyc ared about reducing abortion, they'd make sure that every woman had access to birth control, and they'd fight against the debasement of women in our hypersexualized culture.

Brother David said...

Madre, you do me a disservice. I have done the research. I did not say "most", you have. You put a word in my mouth that I did not use because I was very careful in every word I did use. I am sure you read my post in haste because you are often quite busy with a life likely much more hectic than my own.


Anonymous said...

Nice post. The comments remind me of what my mother use to say. "When the Pope can get pregnant that is when I will follow the Pope."

Many of the women I know that are oppossed to abortions would be the first ones to take their daughters to the hospital if she was raped and ask for an after pill. What they fail to realize is that the after pill is an abortion too.

This is a decision between a woman and God not a woman and everyone else.

As an American I am grateful to the civil liberties granted to me and every other woman and man by the US constitution.

Anonymous said...

Roe v. Wade is not the guiding SC decision on abortion-on-demand. Try looking at the Webster decision, a precipitous downward movement on the slippery slide into hell.

Roe's trimester scheme, as appalling as it was, was never closely followed. Any American woman, with a bit of traveling, can abort her child a minute before delivery.


Kay & Sarah said...

Elizabeth, could not have composed a better argument for Michaels blubberings.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

IT - Reminds me of the quote by Frederica Mathewes-Green - wife of a former Episcopal Priest and both are Orthodox:

"No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg."

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Brother David. Right. You did not say "many". You said "a lot". My apologies. Sincerely.

Again, I agree with you: not a lot are done when the pregnancy is in the cellular state, but certainly not, as Michael insists, "minutes before birth".

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Maria - One of my favorite quotes about abortion comes from Flo Kennedy: "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament."

She also said, "If abortion is murder than a blow job is cannibalism".

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Michael,Give me some evidence to back up your claim that (1) Roe v. Wade is NOT the guiding SC decision for "abortion on demand" (whatever the heck THAT means) and (2) that 'Any American woman, with a bit of traveling, can abort her child a minute before delivery'.

Give me evidence and I'll give you credibility. Traveling from where to WHERE, for God's sake, without she and her doctor being charged with murder?

Even late trimester abortions can only be done after a thorough medical hospital review by a team of doctors, nurses, pathologists, clergy and ethicists. I know. I used to serve on one.

Let me repeat to you what Frederica Mathewes-Green - wife of a former Episcopal Priest and both are Orthodox - once said:

"No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg."

Brother David said...

Anyone can make the outrageous claims that you make here Michael. All of us here have heard just about every outrageous claim that you lot can make on any given topic. But when we ask you for the evidence to back up such claims, you lot time and again disappear.

Provide us the links to the proof of your claims or spare us the outrageousness.

"Put up or shut up!" Please.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well said, Brother David.

I expect radio silence from Michael.

Don't hold your breath waiting for a response with some credible links.

There aren't any.

All he'll be able to do is something like Michele Bachmann when she talked about the "dangers" of the HPV inoculation. "Some woman" who came up to her and told her about how her "precious daughter" who was 13 at the time "went retarded" after being inoculated.

Funny. No one could find "that woman" or her "precious daughter" but Michele stuck to her guns, despite an outcry from the medical community which provided an abundance of scientific data to the contrary.

Don't ever confuse these folks with facts. Their minds are made up. Facts just get in the way of prejudice and bigotry informed by ignorance.

MarkBrunson said...

Good Lord! Frederica Mathewes-Greene said something that intelligent?!

I suppose it's the broken-clock thing!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mark - Yup. Correct at least twice a day.

Elaine C. said...

About a decade ago, the sister of a parishioner of mine who was just beginning her third trimester, found out the baby had died. She and her husband went through the ethics committee, prayed about it, did not want to have an abortion. Medical advice suggested that carrying a dead baby to term might endanger the mother. The whole family, wept, prayed and mourned the lost, much-wanted beloved child. Then the doctors induced labor, it went on for more than a day, difficult as well as, both physically and emotionally painful. It was a terrible choice, but if it had not been available, the mother might have been lost as well. Better that it was available and legal, so somewhat safe, instead of illegal and dangerous.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Elaine. I've been in those situations, back in the day when I was a Maternal-Child Health Nurse. Even in 1971, that was a legal procedure because of the danger to the mother.

Anonymous said...

I understand both sides of this issue and my comment comes not from my personal perspective but rather from two points: philosophical and political in the context of American history and modern science. I agree that the right to make our own choices in health and reproduction is an essential part of our American society. However, I believe that the government should not intervene with federal laws if rights can be protected or achieved at state level - so from this approach it seems that Roe v. Wade was a victory for those who support that social issue and perspective yet in other ways it accomplished the very thing that Americans on both sides have been entrusted with by our constitutional founders - that we determine our additional liberties (not specified or already provisioned for in the Constitution) not by Federal law but by our states.

For instance, if the general population of a state wants legal access to abortion then those living in the state can petition and nominate leaders that reflect those mainstream views, that is how a republic democracy works. Yet by making abortion legal through federal laws people who do not support these views are now in essence required to embrace such views whether it be through any tax or public health systems that allow and perform abortions (as one example) - in theory if it only occurred at state level then people could contest such laws or move to a state that reflects the same views. In return, they could have the chance to rally their majority, electing officials and assimilating into a culture that supports their views of "anit-abortion" just as another state might with their majority of "pro-choice" views.

So for myself, the abortion battle was won by lawyers and judges who argued and determined the values of the people through the case of one woman rather than the overwhelming majority and support of generally all American men and women changing the culture and society through the electoral process in their states, resulting in a step that may be considered socially progressive to many but in broader historical and political terms of our constitution - it was politically progressive towards State interference and expanded government that we are to safe guard against no matter our stance on abortion or political parties, while it also created a greater divide between these different cultures with their different philosophies and values. Thus, in the end, is this a win-win for everyone? Thoughts? I hope this came across in a debating but not hostile manner (I would like to mention the science and philosophical part but I digress I have already written too much for now!) Thanks!

Brother David said...

Yes Anon, and by that logic, the South would still be ensconced in various levels of legal segregation.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Anonymous. Your question might just get more reaction on today's post about abortion. However, a warning: I will not print it if you do not "own" it by giving us your name.

I allowed it to be posted here because (1) you were not hostile and (2) people rarely comment on a post that's more than a week old.

However, I will not publish any other comments from you if you do not provide "full disclosure".