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Pro & Con on Roe v. Wade's 40th Anniversary

Forty years after Roe v. Wade in which the Supreme Court issued a ruling legalizing abortion, Americans remain sharply divided over the tension between reproductive rights and religious freedom.

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?

david ernst January 22, 2013 at 07:30 PM
Roe v. Wade is an American travesty, and the killing of over 55 million unborn infants is comparable to communism's and fascism's slaughter of a comparable number of innocent citizens in the 20th century.
Shripathi Kamath January 22, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Yes, read all about the history of the liberal Presidents who appointed liberal activist judges who made this happen: http://bit.ly/prRPzG
SM January 25, 2013 at 05:22 AM
Actually, little understood by many, due mostly to the inflated positions made up to sway voters to one side or the other, R v W was a decision of equal access not one of legalalizing abortion. The government had been funding care in some states and not others due to state laws prohibiting in this case abortion. The decision could have been seen as a requirement to end payments or as a requirement for payment in every state for abortion, what Rowe sued for... She wanted an abortion in a state that did not provide Medicaid funding for them since they were illegal in that state. Medicaid is administered by each state, so the court ordered that the Federal Government must ensure equal access - which at the time they interpreted as an opt in care rather than opt out care, they did not legalize abortion per se. Interestingly, this interpretation of the law seems unchallenged as is the idea that the Federal government might just as easily stop paying for these services altogether under the auspiceses of not being "medically necessary." Surely, in few cases, but most assuredly in most cases abortion is not a medically necessary procedure. Rather than R v W being synonymous with the legalization of abortion, it is in reality about equal access. If funding is removed across the board that too is equal access. So, the question really is: Shall the public allot continued funding for abortions at all? Perhaps the millions of dollars could be put to far better use, like saving lives??
karen S. Harper February 01, 2013 at 03:25 AM
If a woman does not have control over her body, she lives in a tyrannical country. Remember before access to legal abortions, women had dangerous illegal abortions because they wanted a modicum of control over their lives. Hospital wings were filled with women with botched abortions and many died. Women took every dime they had to travel to states that had legal abortions. Prochoice is pro-life because it saves women's lives, in many cases to care for the children they already have.
SM February 02, 2013 at 05:16 PM
Karen S. Harper. While I agree that women should be and ultimately are the arbiters of their own lives I do not agree that R v W is the sword we all should die on. We need to come together over so many issues rather than be divided over an issue of payment. I do know women died with botched abortions, many even self inflicted but I do not believe "hospitals were filled with them." R v W is a decision of equal access that became erroneously synonymous with legalization. I do not think every state has passed a law(s) making abortion legal which makes R v W critical in that cause however, every state now has health laws and health plans which provide for health decisions which include D&C and abortion under private health concerns. So, today R v W is largely about equal access, no longer an issue. Women have rights to their own bodies under the 13 - 16th amendments but still old state laws are not abolished wherein women are considered chattel or property but since no one can be a slave in the USA or its territories or business prospects since the 13th amendment was passed as long as we are a union of states this also is no longer an issue. We need to come together over so many other things and the abortion issue only serves to divide us.

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