I believe one of the most consequential events to happen in the history of the United States is the possible overturning of the controversial abortion ruling in 1973, Roe v. Wade.
Since around 1982, a significant portion of my life was dedicated to fighting the evils of abortion on demand. I wrote about this here. In my more reflective moments, I was certain that Roe v. Wade would never be overturned; it would always, in my mind, be the law of the land and we could never go back to the way things were before that tragic ruling.
When I learned of the unprecedented leak at the Supreme Court and that the majority ruling would be to overturn Roe v. Wade, I believed we were facing a moment in our nation’s history that would be remembered throughout the rest of our existence as one of those defining moments—on the same level as 9/11, Kennedy’s assassination, the landing on the moon, etc.
We are living through a profoundly historical moment if—indeed—Roe v. Wade is overturned when the official ruling comes out in June.
What will make this event so historical is not only the unprecedented leak itself, but the fact that the Supreme Court will have reversed itself on a such a contentious subject. This reversal, especially after almost 50 years of precedence, is nothing short of astonishing. Again, I never expected this to happen but believed it couldn’t happen.
Over the course of several sittings, I read through the leaked draft decision. There is no question the final draft will be different if only for the fact that the dissent will also be included (which this one does not contain), but this rough first draft packs enough information to reveal the depth of the issue that this country has faced in our history and how wrongly decided Roe v. Wade truly was.
In a nutshell, what is the significance of this possible reversal? Why has it been such a hotly contested issue for so many decades? I believe it is this: the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) removed from the people the ability to decide this issue for themselves on a state to state basis and forced abortion on demand to be accepted by millions upon millions of Americans who believed it was an evil that should not be tolerated in this country. Here is one relevant portion from the leaked draft, second paragraph from page one:
“For the first 185 years after the adoption of the Constitution, each State was permitted to address this issue in accordance with the views of its citizens. Then, in 1973, this Court decided Roe v. Wade, 410 U. S. 113…”
Then, from pages two and three:
“At the time of Roe, 30 States still prohibited abortion at all stages. In the years prior to that decision, about a third of the States had liberalized their laws, but Roe abruptly ended that political process. It imposed the same highly restrictive regime on the entire Nation, and it effectively struck down the abortion laws of every single State. As Justice Byron White aptly put it in his dissent, the decision represented the ‘exercise of raw judicial power…'”
Note the phrase the “exercise of raw judicial power.” In more vulgar language, this was a decision forced down the throats of all of those millions of Americans who were vehemently against abortion and instantly removed the issue from being decided on a state by state basis and ushered into society a so-called “right” that had not been agreed upon nor recognized by a majority of the citizens.
In short, this was a totalitarian “exercise of raw judicial power” wholly incompatible with our republican style of representative government of “by the people, for the people.”
Freedom minded Americans do not happily submit to being forced to do things by the government at judicial gunpoint and understandably reacted quite negatively at this power grab. The rejection of this heavy-handed decision made by nine lawyers wearing black judicial robes who made up the Court back then instigated a culture war that has never let up for one moment since that fateful day in 1973.
This, as I stated above, is the main reason for why this issue has been so contentious for so long. Certainly the fact that we are dealing with human life also comes into play, but this is secondary in my opinion. Abortion is not an issue that can be decided by nine lawyers but only by the people residing within each individual state. And this can only be decided by those people debating, discussing and then voting on such an issue by a process devoted to the free exchange of ideas that seek to convince others of the right or wrongness of each position. This is the essence of the democratic process.
Personally, I abhor abortion. Yes, I see where there are circumstances where it is necessary (for example, when the mother’s life is in imminent danger if the pregnancy continues), but if one or more states vote that the citizens of that state want abortion and it is decided by a majority of that state’s citizens, well, I would have to accept that even though I would not agree with their decision.
But in a democratic republic, the people decide such issues—not the courts. Roe v. Wade circumvented that process which resulted in both sides warring over it ever since.
If the Court overrules Roe v. Wade, this means the “raw judicial power grab” will cease and the people of each state will now decide what they want to have done in their communities.
Roe v. Wade was a constitutional disaster that should have never happened. My hope is the decision of the Court revealed by the leaked draft will become the law of the land and return this issue back to where it always belonged: in the hands of the people.