Roe v. Wade, 35 years later

Today is the 35th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. We need a word for the commemoration of a bad event that we mark with the opposite of celebration: This is not a holiday, but an unholy day. Thousands will mourn the unholy day here in D. C. in frigid weather at the March for Life.

But perhaps we are seeing a little progress. A study of every abortion facility in the country has found that the number of abortions has declined sharply. From ABC News: Why Are Abortions Down in America?:

The study, conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, which researches issues related to reproductive health and sexuality, found that in 2005, the U.S. abortion rate fell to 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 to 44, the lowest level since 1974. The total number of abortions also declined, to a total of 1.2 million in 2005, well below the all-time high of 1.6 million abortions in 1990.

But the study raises a fascinating and tricky question: Why?

The researchers who conducted the study said they simply don’t know, but they do have two theories.

One reason could be that since people now have easier access to contraception — including emergency contraception like Plan B — there are fewer unwanted pregnancies.

Another reason could be that there are also fewer abortion clinics.

OR, maybe pro-lifers are winning the debate. It is absurd to take too much comfort when abortions are “only” numbering 1.2 million. Notice, though, how many recent movies are about “keeping” the baby, evidence perhaps of a cultural shift.

Today’s Washington Post is marking the anniversary with a celebratory article on the increasing use of RU-486, the abortion pill, which supposedly makes abortion easier.

“The impact and the promise is huge,” said Beth Jordan, medical director of the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals. “It’s going a long way towards normalizing abortion.”

But, from what I can tell from the article, abortions done by RU-486 are counted in the declining abortion statistics. So if abortion has become easier and more widely available, as the article claims, and yet are STILL going down, we may be making more progress in the battle for hearts and minds than we realize.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • fw

    I would have to believe that the emotional carnage of abortion would probably preach loudly to women as to the evil of abortion. Could this be the reason?

    Any bloviating by us conservatives to each other appears in places where women who would abort would not look or be influenced.

    Our normal approach to the issue of the murder of innocents, does not lend itself to a public debate in places where these women could potentially be influenced.

    We say that there should be no debate in fact.

    But there must be.

    The root of our problem is not a bad law. It is a moral problem. Fixing the law will not fix this.

  • fw

    I would have to believe that the emotional carnage of abortion would probably preach loudly to women as to the evil of abortion. Could this be the reason?

    Any bloviating by us conservatives to each other appears in places where women who would abort would not look or be influenced.

    Our normal approach to the issue of the murder of innocents, does not lend itself to a public debate in places where these women could potentially be influenced.

    We say that there should be no debate in fact.

    But there must be.

    The root of our problem is not a bad law. It is a moral problem. Fixing the law will not fix this.

  • Pingback: Abortion on the decline? « Planet Augsburg

  • Pingback: Abortion on the decline? « Planet Augsburg

  • http://www.williamcmarsh.com Bill

    Dr. Veith, I think it should be titled, ”
    35 years later,” as the decision was handed down in 1973.

  • http://www.williamcmarsh.com Bill

    Dr. Veith, I think it should be titled, ”
    35 years later,” as the decision was handed down in 1973.

  • Thomas Baden

    I find it ironic that Lyndon B. Johnson, the president who championed (demeaning) social programs through his War on Poverty, died on the same day that Roe v. Wade was passed. The day LBJ died is the same die much of America’s morality died. As I said, ironic.

  • Thomas Baden

    I find it ironic that Lyndon B. Johnson, the president who championed (demeaning) social programs through his War on Poverty, died on the same day that Roe v. Wade was passed. The day LBJ died is the same die much of America’s morality died. As I said, ironic.

  • JLarson

    Correct, Bill. http://www.abort73.com has some pretty horrific footage of this stuff. Very sobering.

  • JLarson

    Correct, Bill. http://www.abort73.com has some pretty horrific footage of this stuff. Very sobering.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    The pro life movement has done some great work, but I have to think ultrasound did a lot, too. The “blob of tissue” rhetoric had its days numbered when women could see with their own eyes what was being discussed in such terms.

  • http://www.oldsolar.com/currentblog.php Rick Ritchie

    The pro life movement has done some great work, but I have to think ultrasound did a lot, too. The “blob of tissue” rhetoric had its days numbered when women could see with their own eyes what was being discussed in such terms.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Regarding ultrasound, I know that it had a hand in saving the life of my yet to be born grand-nephew-or-niece.

    And RU-486 is scary; about 0.2% of the people who initially took it needed a transfusion to survive, and close to a dozen young women are dead. Any other procedure with a record like this would be shut down by the lawyers in a heartbeat.

  • http://www.bikebubba.blogspot.com Bike Bubba

    Regarding ultrasound, I know that it had a hand in saving the life of my yet to be born grand-nephew-or-niece.

    And RU-486 is scary; about 0.2% of the people who initially took it needed a transfusion to survive, and close to a dozen young women are dead. Any other procedure with a record like this would be shut down by the lawyers in a heartbeat.

  • Joe

    There is an organization in Milwaukee call Eyewitness For Life that provides free ultrasounds to pregnant women who are considering abortion. A representative of this group spoke at my church last year. They claim a very high success rate. She also told me that Planned Parenthood has a policy of never showing the mother the ultrasound screen because it would encourage the woman to have the child. Her source for this was a former PP nurse.

    Local doctors and nurses donate their time to do the ultrasounds. They are in need of new equipment and other resources – donations are can be made via the information on their website.

    http://www.eyewitnessforlife.org/index.htm

    (I have no formal connection to this group; I just happen to think they do very good work. They are an LCMS recognized service organization too.)

  • Joe

    There is an organization in Milwaukee call Eyewitness For Life that provides free ultrasounds to pregnant women who are considering abortion. A representative of this group spoke at my church last year. They claim a very high success rate. She also told me that Planned Parenthood has a policy of never showing the mother the ultrasound screen because it would encourage the woman to have the child. Her source for this was a former PP nurse.

    Local doctors and nurses donate their time to do the ultrasounds. They are in need of new equipment and other resources – donations are can be made via the information on their website.

    http://www.eyewitnessforlife.org/index.htm

    (I have no formal connection to this group; I just happen to think they do very good work. They are an LCMS recognized service organization too.)

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    Dr. Veith -

    This past Sunday was Sanctity of Life Sunday at my church. Given the current presidential race that is ongoing, our Pastor made some poignant, some might say controversial, comments from the pulpit.

    He said that abortion is a unique issue in American politics in that there is only one Christian position.
    Moreover, he said that Christians bear a special responsibility in a democracy to vote as Christians, not as Republicans, not as Democracts, not as liberals, and not as conservatives.

    Finally, he declared that to vote for a pro-abortion candidate in any election is a sin.

    It was a powerful sermon and, in my view, perfectly appropriate. I am curious whether you would disagree.

  • http://planetaugsburg.wordpress.com Andy Adams

    Dr. Veith -

    This past Sunday was Sanctity of Life Sunday at my church. Given the current presidential race that is ongoing, our Pastor made some poignant, some might say controversial, comments from the pulpit.

    He said that abortion is a unique issue in American politics in that there is only one Christian position.
    Moreover, he said that Christians bear a special responsibility in a democracy to vote as Christians, not as Republicans, not as Democracts, not as liberals, and not as conservatives.

    Finally, he declared that to vote for a pro-abortion candidate in any election is a sin.

    It was a powerful sermon and, in my view, perfectly appropriate. I am curious whether you would disagree.

  • Carl Vehse

    “Finally, he declared that to vote for a pro-abortion candidate in any election is a sin.”

    On that the pastor is correct. It is a sin to support a pro-abortionist for public office, because such a politician legislates and supports actions consisting of the brutal and wicked murder of our nation’s unborn children.

    As Luther explained in the Large Catechism (Part 1, para 188-9) :

    “Therefore the entire sum of what it means not to kill is to be impressed most explicitly upon the simple-minded. In the first place, that we harm no one, first, with our hand or by deed. Then, that we do not employ our tongue to instigate or counsel thereto. Further, that we neither use nor assent to any kind of means or methods whereby any one may be injured

    “Secondly, under this commandment not only he is guilty who does evil to his neighbor, but he also who can do him good, prevent, resist evil, defend and save him, so that no bodily harm or hurt happen to him, and yet does not do it… So also, if you see any one innocently sentenced to death or in like distress, and do not save him, although you know ways and means to do so, you have killed him.” [Emphasis added]

  • Carl Vehse

    “Finally, he declared that to vote for a pro-abortion candidate in any election is a sin.”

    On that the pastor is correct. It is a sin to support a pro-abortionist for public office, because such a politician legislates and supports actions consisting of the brutal and wicked murder of our nation’s unborn children.

    As Luther explained in the Large Catechism (Part 1, para 188-9) :

    “Therefore the entire sum of what it means not to kill is to be impressed most explicitly upon the simple-minded. In the first place, that we harm no one, first, with our hand or by deed. Then, that we do not employ our tongue to instigate or counsel thereto. Further, that we neither use nor assent to any kind of means or methods whereby any one may be injured

    “Secondly, under this commandment not only he is guilty who does evil to his neighbor, but he also who can do him good, prevent, resist evil, defend and save him, so that no bodily harm or hurt happen to him, and yet does not do it… So also, if you see any one innocently sentenced to death or in like distress, and do not save him, although you know ways and means to do so, you have killed him.” [Emphasis added]

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  • Pingback: In Light of the Gospel » Blog Archive » Roe v Wade, 35 Years Today

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Wow, Carl Vehse. And the Large Catechism is one of our official Lutheran confessions. How can the ELCA be pro-abortion in light of these clear teachings?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    Wow, Carl Vehse. And the Large Catechism is one of our official Lutheran confessions. How can the ELCA be pro-abortion in light of these clear teachings?

  • Carl Vehse

    “How can the ELCA be pro-abortion in light of these clear teachings?”

    The E_CA’s Social Statement on Abortion (http://www.elca.org/SocialStatements/abortion/) angsts over abortions being considered or done, but then offers this loophole through which an abortion clinic waste disposal truck could pass without scratching the paint:

    “A woman should not be morally obligated to carry the resulting pregnancy to term if the pregnancy occurs when both parties do not participate willingly in sexual intercourse. This is especially true in cases of rape and incest. This can also be the case in some situations in which women are so dominated and oppressed that they have no choice regarding sexual intercourse and little access to contraceptives. Some conceptions occur under dehumanizing conditions that are contrary to God’s purposes.”

    And then this navel-gazing:

    “Our biblical and confessional commitments provide the basis for us to continue deliberating together on the moral issues related to these decisions.”

    After thirty-five years, it’s time pro-life groups begin to advocate that those who have legislated, judicially ruled, and administered for abortions be indicted for a public Nuremberg-type trial for this mass genocidal slaughter.

    And if pro-life groups don’t advocate this, why should the public (and their young) believe murder-by-abortion to be as evil as it is claimed?

  • Carl Vehse

    “How can the ELCA be pro-abortion in light of these clear teachings?”

    The E_CA’s Social Statement on Abortion (http://www.elca.org/SocialStatements/abortion/) angsts over abortions being considered or done, but then offers this loophole through which an abortion clinic waste disposal truck could pass without scratching the paint:

    “A woman should not be morally obligated to carry the resulting pregnancy to term if the pregnancy occurs when both parties do not participate willingly in sexual intercourse. This is especially true in cases of rape and incest. This can also be the case in some situations in which women are so dominated and oppressed that they have no choice regarding sexual intercourse and little access to contraceptives. Some conceptions occur under dehumanizing conditions that are contrary to God’s purposes.”

    And then this navel-gazing:

    “Our biblical and confessional commitments provide the basis for us to continue deliberating together on the moral issues related to these decisions.”

    After thirty-five years, it’s time pro-life groups begin to advocate that those who have legislated, judicially ruled, and administered for abortions be indicted for a public Nuremberg-type trial for this mass genocidal slaughter.

    And if pro-life groups don’t advocate this, why should the public (and their young) believe murder-by-abortion to be as evil as it is claimed?

  • Pingback: 35 years later, Joel Osteen, and don’t forget! « Strengthened by Grace

  • Pingback: 35 years later, Joel Osteen, and don’t forget! « Strengthened by Grace

  • fw

    #13 carl

    wow carl. i didn´t realize that the ELCA had gone so very far down that path… sad.

  • fw

    #13 carl

    wow carl. i didn´t realize that the ELCA had gone so very far down that path… sad.

  • Joe

    The ELCA’s insurance plan for its church workers (including pastors) pays for abortions.

  • Joe

    The ELCA’s insurance plan for its church workers (including pastors) pays for abortions.

  • The Jones

    This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while and it’s coming to a head now that everybody’s talking about Roe v. Wade this time of year. I’m having a hard time seeing how the argument against abortion is a religious one.

    People often bring up how God formed us in our mother’s womb, etc. But God forms lots of things. I’m sure God makes plants, too, but I have no problem eating lettuce. God formed my wisdom teeth and my appendix, but I have had those removed in my lifetime. If I don’t mourn the loss of my wisdom teeth, why should I morn the loss of a fetus?

    The answer to these questions are so simple that it’s almost insulting to ask them. “Because a fetus is a human being, you moron! How can you compare a head of lettuce to an unborn baby!?” And that is exactly the central point to the abortion debate as I see it. We’re dealing with human beings, here. That is the central point we need to stress.

    I’m trying to stress that it is not important that the fetus is innocent, or created by God if we do not first establish that a fetus (or an embryo or a zygote) is a human being. Bessie the cow is innocent and created by God, but nobody gives a whoop that I am enjoying my steak dinner because Bessie is a cow and not a human being. I think that’s why the ultrasound tactic is so effective. Women see that and realize, “Wow. I’ve actually got a kid in here.”

    Therefore, I think it is rather unhelpful to view all pro-abortion bills, persons, catechisms, and mindsets as un-Christian. I think it’s just an uneducated, rather silly conclusion based on premises that are simply not true, and it has had disastrous consequences.

    The moral repugnance of abortion is so basic that everyone should be able to understand it once they get the facts. We have to go to the Bible and religon to argue about stuff like the nature of the Trinity. That is a religious issue. It is extremely difficult to discuss it outside of Christian doctrine. Abortion is about killing people. And everybody recognizes the rightness and wrongness of that issue. So why should I have to go to the Bible? (Especially sense many people in the electorate don’t care about it.)

    I’m open to a response if somebody disagrees with me. But I think it’s just not very helpful and possibly counter-productive to view abortion as a religious issue in the public square.

  • The Jones

    This is something that I’ve been thinking about for a while and it’s coming to a head now that everybody’s talking about Roe v. Wade this time of year. I’m having a hard time seeing how the argument against abortion is a religious one.

    People often bring up how God formed us in our mother’s womb, etc. But God forms lots of things. I’m sure God makes plants, too, but I have no problem eating lettuce. God formed my wisdom teeth and my appendix, but I have had those removed in my lifetime. If I don’t mourn the loss of my wisdom teeth, why should I morn the loss of a fetus?

    The answer to these questions are so simple that it’s almost insulting to ask them. “Because a fetus is a human being, you moron! How can you compare a head of lettuce to an unborn baby!?” And that is exactly the central point to the abortion debate as I see it. We’re dealing with human beings, here. That is the central point we need to stress.

    I’m trying to stress that it is not important that the fetus is innocent, or created by God if we do not first establish that a fetus (or an embryo or a zygote) is a human being. Bessie the cow is innocent and created by God, but nobody gives a whoop that I am enjoying my steak dinner because Bessie is a cow and not a human being. I think that’s why the ultrasound tactic is so effective. Women see that and realize, “Wow. I’ve actually got a kid in here.”

    Therefore, I think it is rather unhelpful to view all pro-abortion bills, persons, catechisms, and mindsets as un-Christian. I think it’s just an uneducated, rather silly conclusion based on premises that are simply not true, and it has had disastrous consequences.

    The moral repugnance of abortion is so basic that everyone should be able to understand it once they get the facts. We have to go to the Bible and religon to argue about stuff like the nature of the Trinity. That is a religious issue. It is extremely difficult to discuss it outside of Christian doctrine. Abortion is about killing people. And everybody recognizes the rightness and wrongness of that issue. So why should I have to go to the Bible? (Especially sense many people in the electorate don’t care about it.)

    I’m open to a response if somebody disagrees with me. But I think it’s just not very helpful and possibly counter-productive to view abortion as a religious issue in the public square.

  • Joe

    “Abortion is about killing people. And everybody recognizes the rightness and wrongness of that issue. So why should I have to go to the Bible? (Especially sense many people in the electorate don’t care about it.)”

    This is unfortunately not a correct assumption. There many examples, but I will use Dr. Peter Singer to make my point. Ms. Singer is an ethicists and on the faculty of Princeton University. Mr. Singer disagrees and argues that killing people can in fact be ethical. He proposes a ethical system of utilitarianism. He has argued that the their is nothing morally wrong with killing a mentally retarded child or a elderly person with dementia. This guy is widely read and has many folks who agree with him – even they don’t go quite as far as he would. He centers his views on killing people on his concept of “personhood.” It is wrong to kill a person but someone who is demented or mentally retarded is not a full person and therefore can be killed.

    “Therefore, I think it is rather unhelpful to view all pro-abortion bills, persons, catechisms, and mindsets as un-Christian. I think it’s just an uneducated, rather silly conclusion based on premises that are simply not true, and it has had disastrous consequences.”

    This doesn’t make it any less un-Christian. If it is against God’s commands, it is un-Christian regardless of the understanding of the folks who are supporting it.

    I agree that you can make non-Bible arguments but I don’t think that means you should not make the Biblical arguments. Indeed, the science only confirms what we already new was true.

    If you argue abortion from only the secular perspectives you have already lost. We are not taking up the abortion battle because we think it is wrong, we are taking up the abortion battle because it is an abomination in the sight of the Lord and we have a duty to try to be salt and light to the world.

  • Joe

    “Abortion is about killing people. And everybody recognizes the rightness and wrongness of that issue. So why should I have to go to the Bible? (Especially sense many people in the electorate don’t care about it.)”

    This is unfortunately not a correct assumption. There many examples, but I will use Dr. Peter Singer to make my point. Ms. Singer is an ethicists and on the faculty of Princeton University. Mr. Singer disagrees and argues that killing people can in fact be ethical. He proposes a ethical system of utilitarianism. He has argued that the their is nothing morally wrong with killing a mentally retarded child or a elderly person with dementia. This guy is widely read and has many folks who agree with him – even they don’t go quite as far as he would. He centers his views on killing people on his concept of “personhood.” It is wrong to kill a person but someone who is demented or mentally retarded is not a full person and therefore can be killed.

    “Therefore, I think it is rather unhelpful to view all pro-abortion bills, persons, catechisms, and mindsets as un-Christian. I think it’s just an uneducated, rather silly conclusion based on premises that are simply not true, and it has had disastrous consequences.”

    This doesn’t make it any less un-Christian. If it is against God’s commands, it is un-Christian regardless of the understanding of the folks who are supporting it.

    I agree that you can make non-Bible arguments but I don’t think that means you should not make the Biblical arguments. Indeed, the science only confirms what we already new was true.

    If you argue abortion from only the secular perspectives you have already lost. We are not taking up the abortion battle because we think it is wrong, we are taking up the abortion battle because it is an abomination in the sight of the Lord and we have a duty to try to be salt and light to the world.


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