Editor's note: To mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Long Beach resident and Pastor Emeritus of Grace Community Church of Seal Beach Donald P. Shoemaker wrote a piece decrying the ruling along with current and related movements that threaten religious freedom in the United States. Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest provider of sex education, issued a statement supporting legalized abortion and decrying current efforts to repeal women's reproductive rights. Patch is publishing both below.
Roe v. Wade at 40
By Donald P. Shoemaker
“You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). For this scripture and other reasons I joined the “Right to Life” movement on January 22, 1973, the day “Roe v. Wade” was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. As Roe v. Wade reaches its 40-year mark, I want to make three observations about this landmark decision.
First, the court’s Roe v. Wade decision was far more expansive than necessary to decide the case before it. It gave unlimited right to an abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy and allowed limits during the second trimester only as were “reasonably related to maternal health.” For the third trimester, the court noted “the potentiality of human life” (the unborn) and said states could regulate or ban abortion at this stage except if maternal “health” (broadly understood) was at risk.
Thus the court “legislated” (made law) rather than “judged” law. Justice Rehnquist in dissent reminded the court it should never “formulate a rule of constitutional law broader than is required by the precise facts to which it is to be applied” (www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0410_0113_ZD.html).
Second, public opinion has never been in accord with Roe v. Wade and is even less so now than in 1973. It also should fairly be said that public opinion doesn’t support the “Right to Life” side in all details either. Here are some samples of recent Gallup opinion polls (www.gallup.com/poll/1576/abortion.aspx).
• Today 50% say they are “pro-life” compared to 33% in 1996. In 1996, 56% claimed to be “pro-choice” and today that number is 41%.
• 71% support requiring parental notification if the woman is under 18.
• 62% support legal abortion during the first three months of pregnancy, but
71% oppose it during second three months and 86% in the last three months.
• Still, 52% do not want to see the U.S. Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.
If we survey all the questions in the polls, we see most Americans are against most abortions and do not favor either an outright ban on abortions nor unqualified access to abortions.
Third, a new wrinkle has been added by the “contraception mandate” in what is popularly called “Obamacare.” Now the issue of religious liberty (the “free exercise” of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment) has been raised. In other words, the debate moves from what people should be free to do to what people and institutions with religion-based convictions can be forced to do.
“Obamacare” provides a very narrow and inadequate exemption for “houses of worship” but plans to force religious institutions (such as Christian colleges) to cover free access to contraception including, as feared by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “drugs which can attack a developing unborn child before and after implantation in the mother’s womb” (www.usccb.org/news/2011/11-154.cfm). This major debate will certainly go to the Supreme Court.
The current administration is no friend of religious liberty in my opinion. Ironically, President Obama’s 2013 “Religious Freedom Day” proclamation said, “As we observe [on January 16] Religious Freedom Day…let us honor it by forever upholding our right to exercise our beliefs free from prejudice or persecution” (www.whitehouse.gov/the-‐press-‐office/2013/01/16/presidential-‐proclamation-religious-‐freedom-‐day).
Yes, Mr. President, let’s do that even if exercising religious liberty conflicts with your plans for expansive government control in matters previously thought to be better left to the consciences of individuals and the convictions of religious institutions.
Donald P. Shoemaker is Pastor Emeritus of Grace Community Church of Seal Beach. In 1980 he served as General Chairman of the National Right to Life Convention at the Anaheim Convention Center.
Planned Parenthood Advocates for Continued Access to Safe and Legal Abortion
The following is a statement issued by Planned Parenthood marking the Roe v. Wade 40th Anniversary.
As we near the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade (January 22, 2013), Planned Parenthood stands with women across the country in reinforcing the importance of access to safe and legal abortion.
“As the nation’s leading women’s health care provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood understands that abortion is a deeply personal and often complex decision for a woman to consider, if and when she needs it,” said Cecile Richards, president, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “A woman should have accurate information about all of her options around her pregnancy. To protect her health and the health of her family, a woman must have access to safe, legal abortion without interference from politicians, as protected by the Supreme Court for the last 40 years.”
Despite abortion being legal, constitutionally protected, and consistently supported by a majority of Americans, opponents of women’s health continue to work tirelessly to chip away at or ban access for women. Earlier this month, the Guttmacher Institute released a report showing that 43 laws were passed in 19 states last year to restrict access to abortion — the second-highest number of such measures passed in a single year (behind only 2011).
This past November, Americans voted to protect women’s access to health care, yet, within days of the election, Ohio legislators tried to advance bills to practically ban abortion and to prevent women from going to Planned Parenthood health centers for basic health care. Just before the New Year, Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed legislation aimed at shutting down women’s health care providers.
Many anti women’s health politicians who are fighting to end access to safe and legal abortion also want to limit access to birth control. This is part of a much larger and unrelenting attack on women’s health care. Access to affordable birth control and family planning services help reduce unintended pregnancy and the need for abortion. In fact, a recent study found that if women have access to birth control of their choosing, at no cost, the abortion rate can be cut by up to 71 percent.
“For 40 years, access to safe and legal abortion has been the law of the land. A majority of Americans oppose efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade, and in November they voted to protect a woman’s ability to make her own personal medical decision without interference from politicians,” said Richards. “Legislators who continue to interfere with a woman’s access to safe and legal abortion do so against the will of their constituents.”
- According to a 2012 Quinnipiac poll, 64 percent of American voters agree with the Roe v. Wade ruling, up from 60 percent in 2010.
- According to a post-election poll from the Pew Research Center, 64 percent of voters younger than 30 said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
- According to a Gallup poll of voters in 12 swing states, 39 percent of women cited abortion as the most important election issue for women. Women who cited abortion preferred Obama by a three to one margin.
- According to research from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of Latino registered voters support a woman's ability to make personal, private decisions about abortion.
- According to a 2012 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, two-thirds (67 percent) of African Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
As the nation’s leading women's health care provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood works every day to reduce unintended pregnancy and keep women healthy. Planned Parenthood health centers provide health care that helps women prevent an estimated 486,000 unintended pregnancies and 204,000 abortions every year. From courthouses to statehouses to Capitol Hill, Planned Parenthood works to protect access to health care for women across the country — taking action to ensure that women have access to care, no matter what.
Forty years later, how do you feel about the landmark Supreme Court decision?