Roe should be overturned because by judicial fiat, it hallows killing the innocent as part of our Constitution. In a just society there can be no right to do evil. Not every evil should be illegal, but no evil action should be hallowed as a constitutional right. It took years and much horror to remove slavery, another soul crushing immorality, from the Constitution. The court imposed a culture of death on the nation contrary to our oldest traditions, to our best moral impulses, and to the gradual expansion of liberty and justice to all Americans.
Liberty always loses when the weak are harmed for the benefit of the stronger. Siding with the strong over the weak has always been an American vice, from our treatment of the First Nations, slavery, to abortion.
Though few wish their children to grow up to be abortionists, abortion gains some social acceptability because it became associated with the noble cause of women’s rights. Women should have power over their own bodies. Women often face cultural prejudices, stereotypes, and barriers based on sex. Abortion is presented as a tool for social equality, yet this moral mistake gains force from the truth that our society makes pregnancy and childcare hard for women. Solving these barriers to family life would help create a culture of life.
Yet being associated with good causes does not remove the moral odium of abortion. Putting roses on the table while you serve a fetid meal will not improve the taste, though it might distract the guest for a time. Associating the moral good of women’s civil equality with abortion does not change the immorality of abortion. If anything, it harms the good cause by falsely associating it in the public mind with the moral evil.
The right to control over one’s own body ends at the other person’s body. Here, advances in technology have given Americans a window on the womb and knowledge the authors of Roe did not have. The unborn child is not merely an organ of the mother’s body. Science is at war with the reasoning of Roe. The unborn child is unique genetically from the moment of conception. Nor does history suggest that social equality for a group is best gained by suppressing a different group. When the state is given power to declare one group of humans unequal before the bar of justice, it does not restrain itself for long. Poor Whites in the old South tried to advance by supporting the oppression of Blacks. Some tried to gain white women’s suffrage by abandoning the cause of votes for Blacks. At times Black activists in the late eighteenth and early twentieth century abandoned the cause of First Nations. These strategies did not secure what they sought and made them complicit in a great evil.
Of course, abortion will not end if it is illegal. Other forms of killing continue though they have remained illegal. If abortion is the taking of innocent human life, then that murder should be illegal..
Some assert that killing a baby is no worse than refusing to give a family a government welfare check. Being born into poverty is not good because it limits possibilities, but being killed is a good deal more limiting. Abraham Lincoln managed to overcome “regressive” social welfare policies and rise from poverty to the White House, but an aborted Lincoln would have never helped free the enslaved or saved the Union.
Asking us to wait for some Utopia where every child is born into “better” conditions is an excuse to tolerate evil. Nobody is sure of the best way to end poverty or if poverty can even be ended in a society that is otherwise livable.
Liberals and conservatives don’t take a different moral position: both think it wrong when children are born into stifling poverty. They disagree about what to do about it. The argument is about the best and appropriate means to an ideal end on which all agree.
The abortion issue is different. The disagreement is more fundamental. Pro-life voters (a group including both liberals and conservatives) wish to protect the unborn while those in favor of Roe do not. Pro-Roe voters may personally be opposed to abortion, but they must not think the unborn child is fully human or their failure to grant her the right to life is unconscionable.
Given this fact, why then should abortion regulations be left to the states?
There is a good pragmatic reason and also a reason related to our form of government.
Pragmatically it recognizes that only a “states-rights” solution will allow any civil progress on this issue in the immediate future. Effectively ending abortion in states with a pro-life consensus, such as Louisiana or Utah, will be better than the current situation. There is no reason Utah should be forced to have the same abortion policies as California.
As a federalist, I am also opposed to allowing the government in Washington the last word on everything of importance. The expansion of federal power at the expense of the states is another evil of the last fifty years of court decisions. Each state has different laws regarding the definition of murder and manslaughter. Each state is allowed different penalties regarding such crimes. There is no reason to make abortion a “federal” crime and good reasons for a federalist to oppose it.
When Roe is overturned, God willing, the battle for human rights will continue. It will be fought out in each of the fifty states. Legal abortion will be opposed by a broad coalition of secular and religious Americans and moral truth will prevail.
I have confidence that in such a fight the American people will see the wisdom of Ronald Reagan who said: “Abortion concerns not just the unborn child, it concerns every one of us. . . . We cannot diminish the value of one category of human life — the unborn — without diminishing the value of all human life.”
*A version of this piece originally appeared on the Washington Post.