By Whitney Ann Dotson
The Roe vs. Wade case posed perhaps the most controversial handling of Constitutional material in history. The argument defended—the national legalization of abortion—stirred claim to liberties stated within the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified over a century earlier. The premise for this preference of action was established upon the Article’s general references to “equal protection” and individual recognition regardless of race or cultural distinctions. Those representing defense for the recent lawsuit contended the right to private expression of choice; those countering the 1973 historical landmark, however, refuted their opponents’ rationalization. In convictions involving morality and governmental capacity, many questioned whether or not such a case faithfully typified the intentions of the article’s original authors. Although the Supreme Court, in the end, consented to all in behalf of Jane Roe’s cause, a nagging speculation continued to haunt the minds of the American people following: was the Roe event sufficiently and rightly justified? A brief overview of the significance asserted by the Fourteenth Amendment and the historical understanding of liberty and government supports the fact that in light of such knowledge, the Roe. vs. Wade case would have earned the forefathers’ disapproval.
Shortly following the War Between the States, the nation was still in shambles; unity was little more than a hope as each side begrudged the other for their inflictions—the South, for its facing an unbeknownst future of nationalism and without slave labor, and the North, as it proposed to uproot Southern political representation. It was, in short, a time identified by refutable prejudices and misconceptions. As former Confederates blamed the North for their poverty, some Northern politicians made it their aim to alter, within their judgment, the Constitution itself. The eyes of Radical Republicans, a party new to Congress, desired to see those formerly holding prominent Confederate positions excluded from all civil and political rights. Despite the less-threatening plans of reuniting the country proposed by both Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, Radicals sought to deny Southern Democratic senators and representatives civil voice; in short, they worked to chastise the South particularly for its mistreatment of slaves and divisive succession. In addition, they chose to turn their attention upon those whom they perceived suffered the most governmental neglect—the black community. Such was the fertile ground upon which Article Fourteen was conceived.
Wedged between Amendment Thirteen and Amendment Fifteen, Article Fourteen was birthed one of three laws proposed to proclaim civil rights. Each of these articles reflected the rampant desire to confirm equal citizenship and citizenship benefits among both slave and master. Under Amendment Thirteen, the institution of human slavery was permanently dissolved except as a method of lawful punishment. Article Fifteen addressed the matter of voting, in which any male—regardless of race or color—could represent themselves politically. Article Fourteen recognized all born within the United States as rightful inhabitants of equal freedoms within civil discernment—no state imposition could thereafter “…deprive any person of life, liberty, or property.” Such a vision signified an attempt to atone for the prejudices and national immorality permeating the aftermath of slavery. Little could the authors of such inscription foresee that their own words would be channeled to defend a vastly dissimilar case.
Under the surname of “Jane Roe,” Norma McCorvey reflected the case of scores of women across the nation. Expectant with her third child and unwed, she sought to have her pregnancy terminated; such a procedure, however, was prohibited by Texan law. Falsely claiming her condition the result of gang rape, her circumstance drew the attention of attorney Sarah Weddington. Before long, Jane Roe became an object of sympathy, rousing a cause for defense amongst feminist and equal rights communities. Though abortion had been previously left a matter of state judgment, Jane Roe’s struggle increasingly met the consideration of federal politicians. Appealing to the equal rights clause of Amendment Fourteen, the case ended in the success of Roe, and women considered themselves liberated from circumstances threatening their right to “happiness.” Though Miss McCorvey remained personally disappointed—she had delivered her third child towards the end of the lengthy hearing—her unclaimed victory certainly affected the nation.
Since abortion became accessible to every state in the nation, an estimated 40,000,000 fetuses were destroyed to the present period, and the Constitution underwent an alteration from which it will never recover. A clause was conjoined to Article Fourteen to further modify and confirm the opinion reached; this appendage affirmed the fact that government acknowledged the individualistic freedom of sexual expression upon which no law could curtail. The case also opened the door to the efforts and eventual achievement in confirming the legality of partial-birth abortion. This particular procedure surpassed the standards formerly met in the Roe resolution–that is, through breeching births, the fetus could legally be aborted up to nine months following conception.
To the surprise of many, abortion was a rising practice into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and was recognized by law. As city prostitution increased and factories drove unmarried women from the protection of their homes and families, abortion stood as the only certain form of birth control (WORLD magazine). In fact, from the mid-1880s and well into the twentieth century, abortions and all involved were severely penalized in nearly every state. With Massachusetts providing the first to take the initiative, the concept of abortion was banned, and nearly every state following prohibited abortions with the exceptions of the cases of incest or rape. As many medical advisors turned deaf ears to desperate mothers, only two main options remained: illegal and often unsanitary abortion clinics, or self-induced procedures—with the latter often ending in death for both parties. State laws, however, and legitimate medical institutions limited the procedure relevant to the woman’s stage of pregnancy. James Wilson, a respected and prolific speaker and participant in the signing of the Constitution, echoed the prevalent medical opinion circulating at the time—that is, that life began when the soul entered the material body of the fetus. This was accounted at around fifteen weeks into gestation, and was popularly termed the “quickening,” or movement, of the womb’s dweller. Though abortion was clearly not the widespread issue that it is today, it is apparent that it nonetheless existed. It was severely limited by law, however, and was strictly forbidden after a certain point following conception.
The American government as envisioned by the minds of those who aspired to establish it was one of great balance designated not for the service of government itself, but for the people. This republic boasted maximum freedom benefits in its construction of state and federal services. Generally, though the federal government was allotted the most authority, state laws were reserved the issues of domestic affairs; this was understood the most potent option in preventing the federal government from overriding state laws and representation. The founders of the American country understood too well the dangers of sovereign government, and proceeded to encourage individual statehoods to deal with topics vaguely or indirectly represented in the Constitution. Following this line of thought as asserted in Amendment Ten of 1791, the Bill of Rights protected the people from oppressive and unlimited federalism. This is largely why slavery—and, later, abortion—were outlawed by certain states, and less restricted by others. A more sovereign federal power as known today was incomprehensible to the founding fathers as the federal government received the majority of its power from consent of the states.
The companions of Roe vs. Wade corrupted governmental format, and transgressed civil and moral altitudes entrusted them by the Constitution and its amendments. With the understanding that state laws were to maintain the voice of domestic subjects, the intrusion of the Supreme Court was said to have “nullified state laws.” This understanding seems painfully true in light of the fact that the federal action insisted acted even for states which highly opposed the case. Clearly, this was false and unfair representation which undermined the founders’ aspirations for a confederated union.
The reference to a “right to life” was also represented unfairly within the case. In the understanding set forth by the forefathers, the right to life ceased to be a right when it obstructed another’s right to life (John Adams). Life was then understood a topic of Natural Law. It could not be loaned nor given to any man, and was therefore regarded as existing apart and outside of any earthly judiciary. Natural law consisted of freedoms already provided men—freedoms such as parenthood, marriage, and the family unit within a biblical worldview. In this understanding, government was regarded not the creator of freedoms, but a declarer of freedoms imparted by man’s Creator. Civil authorities were rightly understood only a factor mediating within a relationship concerning two parties—man and God. Though our forefathers fervently believed and fought for the cause of freedom, they understood that it also involved certain restrictions. Morality was understood an imperative influence under-girding any good legislative decisions.
When writing the Constitution and its amendments, the majority of its authors upheld morality as the cornerstone of liberty (John Adams). Moral law—including the sanctity of life—reminded lawmakers of their accountability to God. The Constitution itself was established within a biblical worldview. Because of this respect to persons as image-bearers of God, families were allotted cultural dominance through private property, individuals were recognized freedom of worship, and black men were justly allowed full access to common liberties!
Contrary to its terminology, the modern liberalism utilized to persuade such as those involved in the Roe case does not, in fact, promote true liberty. Forerunners of this philosophy have in the present age popularized liberty as an ideology existing for the very purpose of self-gratification, and relate heavily moral relativity to federal standards. Government has unfortunately evolved to symbolize a fountain of inexhaustible indulgences—an excuse to obtain pleasure apart from moral accountability. As biblical insight into the purposes of government and liberty have dwindled with the age of humanism and ignorance, men have forgotten that the blessings enjoyed exist only because sages of the past insisted that government was possible only with a “religious,” Christian people (John Adams). It was not the structure nor the men of government which prospered American freedom in her youth; rather, it was the convictions of an obedient people under God who recognized that Slavery and Death fettered every being who did not acknowledge His sovereignty and inheritance of liberty (Isaiah 61:1).
Though the Constitution admittedly makes no direct reference to the topic of abortion, it can be well-assumed that in consideration of the audience aimed within Article Fourteen, and the civil and moral matters confronting the forefathers even in their own time, dispute the fact that the decisions reached in abortion today would have earned their consent. Indeed, with such knowledge, it is difficult to conclude anything but the fact that the Roe vs. Wade case presented the greatest abuse of historical intention in history.
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