In the most significant ruling on the abortion issue in nearly two decades, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-3 on Monday as unconstitutional a Texas law that placed stringent requirements on the performance of abortions. I am a strong advocate for women’s rights, for celebrating their abilities and potential, and above all for equal pay and opportunity. It grieves me, however, that there is no protection whatever in this country for the innocent, powerless developing human beings that have not yet reached court-approved “viability” within the womb.
For centuries in this land, women were unquestionably treated as second-class citizens, unjustly denied even basic rights. The U.S. Supreme Court was one of most effective tools used to redress this inequality. Three breakthrough decisions were instrumental in buttressing women’s struggle to be treated equally.
The 1923 the Adkins v. Children's Hospital case ruled for the first time that women could not be legally paid a lower wage than a man. Women’s reproductive rights were defended by the Griswold v. Connecticut case in 1965, in which a state law which denied the use of birth control to unmarried women was struck down. And in 1971 the Supremes ruled in favor of women’s equality in the workplace in Phillips v. Martin Marietta Corp. Each of these rulings helped remedy the injustice under which women had long languished. This latest ruling, however, does not fit in that category.
In Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt, the opinion of the court on Monday ruled the Texas law violated the Federal Constitution because the law “places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion.” The landmark Roe v. Wade decision established the benchmark upon which this ruling was measured, most pointedly on the matter of fetal viability. The court decreed in 1973 that in terms of a state’s “legitimate interest in potential life, the ‘compelling’ point is at viability. This is so because the fetus then presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother's womb.” One might reasonably ask, however, why a human fetus only attains the right to live on the day it attains a court-approved ability to survive outside the womb.
According to the Mayo Clinic, three weeks after fertilization “the neural tube along your baby's back is closing and your baby's heart is pumping blood.” Whatever term you want to use – “embryo”, “fetus” “baby”—it is a developing human being with a beating heart just weeks after conception. If not externally impeded, it will emerge from the womb after nine months by the name it is universally known: an infant. The advocates of abortion rights focus exclusively on a woman’s rights on matters related to her body. The U.S. Supreme Court backs this interpretation with the force of law. But what of this living, developing human being inside that woman? There is no more helpless life on the planet. Why does U.S. law disregard this growing human?
I fully support a man and woman’s right to choose. Where I differ is where that choice comes into play. Those who laud the court’s ruling hold that it comes at any time prior to the Roe v. Wade defined point of viability. I hold the point at which a man and woman have a decision to make isn’t up to the twenty-second week of pregnancy. It should come at the moment just prior to conception. In other words, they can choose whether or not to have sex or whether or not they use contraceptives. Once that decision is made, however, they should be prepared to live with the consequences.
Many things in human affairs are private and no one’s business; what two consenting adults do in secret usually affects no one outside. But that’s not always the case. When that encounter results in the spawning of human life, men and women should accept the responsibility of protecting and caring for it.
I care deeply about women and champion their right to compete on equal footing with men. I wholeheartedly support and applaud the areas where U.S. law elevates women and protects their rights. Yet it grieves me that American law enshrines the ability of men and women to escape responsibility when their actions initiate life, foisting the consequences for the parent’s decision onto a defenseless developing human.
The most vulnerable and helpless life in the United States is abandoned by the Law, left powerless and silent; its fate subject solely to the preference of the woman in whose womb, by no choice of its own, it resides. I assure you if these little ones could speak they would beg for their life. But the nation’s highest court continues to tighten the chains over their mouths, prohibiting others to speak for them in the process. We have elevated personal convenience over responsibility, further diminishing the value we Americans place on life. I grieve for our country.