By Fr. Don Braukmann/St. Philip, Bemidji & St. Charles, Pennington
The 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade unleashed abortion on demand in our country. Planned Parenthood and other pro-abortion organizations which profit from the carnage of abortion are determined to make sure the ruling is never overturned.
Now, maybe, there is another way to go instead of through the Supreme Court.
Over the years, pro-lifers have declared small victories when we are able to chip away at abortion laws in the more outrageous cases. It is as if we have had to “settle” for the little gains and we may have become complacent.
Pro-life senators in the United States Senate are proposing another option. It may be time to bypass the Supreme Court and use the Constitution as it was meant to be used. The senators are proposing a “Life at Conception Act” which declares children in the womb “persons” as defined by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, entitled to legal protection.
In 1973, the justices who voted to open the doors to legalized abortion at every stage admitted in their decision that such a legislative move as the one being proposed would cause the case for legal abortion to “collapse.”
The Roe v. Wade decision was made based on a new, previously undefined “right of privacy” which it “discovered” in the Constitution. But the Court never declared abortion itself to be a constitutional right.
Part of the decision reads: “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. The judiciary at this point in the development of man’s knowledge is not in a position to speculate as to the answer. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the case for abortion collapses. The fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the 14th Amendment.”
The 14th Amendment could not be more clear: “… nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law.” The Amendment also says: “Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”
As I have explained previously, if the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade is overturned, the abortion laws of each state prior to 1973 would be back in force. Over half the states would see little change in the abortion rate or availability.
The Life at Conception Act returns the debate to Congress, those we elect, and its passage would clearly define “personhood” to include the innocent child in the womb.
So, in the end, we remain firmly planted in the political process to elect those who see and defend the dignity of life from conception to natural death. The work to defend life is complicated especially by Catholic politicians and voters who somehow justify a pro-abortion position in politics on election day while praying to God, the Creator of All Life, on the weekend. I have never understood how that can be. Denial is a powerful reality when we are determined to have what we want no matter who gets run over or dismembered in the process.
Even the late Ted Kennedy, the “Lion of the Senate” and self-professed champion of the pro-abortion movement once held a different view. I keep the words from a letter he wrote to a constituent in August of 1971 close at hand.
“While the deep concern of a woman bearing an unwanted child merits consideration and sympathy, it is my personal feeling that the legalization of abortion on demand is not in accordance with the value which our civilization places on human life. Wanted or unwanted, I believe that human life, even at its earliest stages, has certain rights which much be recognized – the right to be born, the right to love, the right to grow old.”
Two years later the political breeze changed for Senator Kennedy (and others) and somehow the human life in the womb had become a blob of tissue to be dealt with as desired.
That letter inspires me to fight the fight, to seek the truth, and never take for granted the power of the evil one. St. Peter says of him in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”