40th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade
January 24, 2013
As is widely known, this week marks the 40th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade decision, which made unrestricted access to abortion-on-demand the law of the land. Its sister ruling, Doe v. Bolton, authorized abortion for women after the unborn child became "viable" for reasons of a woman's "health" - a term so broadly defined that it makes abortion accessible at any time throughout the nine months of pregnancy.
This week also marks 40 years during which people of conscience have striven to correct this ruling, because 55 million children have been aborted and tens of millions of women victimized and permanently scarred.
In addition to the lives lost and families damaged by Roe, the ruling was, as constitutional interpretation, without basis. As Harvard Law School professor Mary Ann Glendon writes:
Among legal scholars, what attracted the most attention about Roe and Doe were the separation of powers and federalism issues. Leading constitutional lawyers such as Paul Freund and Archibald Cox were critical of the Court majority for striking down the statutes of all fifty states with so little warrant in constitutional text or precedent. Even Court watchers who favored legislative liberalization of abortion law were inclined to agree with dissenting Justice Byron White that the case represented an extraordinary judicial power grab.
And in his elegant dissent to Doe, Justice White wrote this scathing evaluation of his colleagues' handiwork in these two anvil-striking cases:
I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court's judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant women and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes ... As an exercise of raw judicial power, the Court perhaps has authority to do what it does today; but, in my view, its judgment is an improvident and extravagant exercise of the power of judicial review that the Constitution extends to this Court.
For three decades, Family Research Council has been at the forefront of protecting unborn life and seeking to provide practical aid to women in crisis pregnancies. From helping state legislators draft pro-life legislation to partnering with pregnancy care centers nationwide, FRC has been a leader in advancing a "culture of life" for all Americans, born and unborn.
To access some of our most compelling resources (all of which can be downloaded at no charge), visit our website, One Life. There you will find user-friendly research papers, op-eds and videos that not only will encourage you but which also will challenge you to act.
Our newest publication, "40 Years after Roe v. Wade - Six women Reflect on Tragedy and Hope," contains the stories of six women pro-life leaders who represent the next generation in the battle for life. It will encourage and inspire you as you pray and work for the little ones and their mothers.
In words familiar to pro-lifers but which never lose their power, the Psalmist prays, "You formed my inward parts, You wove me in my mother's womb" (139:13). Life is precious to God. May we work to sustain it for the unborn and the born, now and always.
Senior Vice President
Family Research Council