It’s Time to Revisit Roe v Wade

Reno Gazette Journal February 10, 2019

Last week, New York passed sweeping legislation expanding abortion “rights” all the way up to child birth. Not to be outdone, Virginia tried to pass a bill that would have allowed abortion even after child birth. “The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother” said Virginia Governor Northam, indicating that the mother and the physician would decide if the newly born baby should live or die.

These are significant developments, with the Virginia bill being an extreme version of abortion “rights”. While America’s abortion debate goes back a long way, a good starting point for the current discussion would be the landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v Wade (1973). Justice Blackmun’s decision in Roe split pregnancy into three trimesters. During the first trimester, abortion could be had with no restrictions. In the second trimester, government can restrict abortion but not totally ban it. In the third trimester, government could ban abortions except when the mother’s health is in danger.

Setting aside the argument that this decision never belonged with the Judiciary and should have been determined by the Legislative branch, let’s examine the thinking behind the ruling. Justice Blackmun’s trimester split was rooted in the fact that in the first trimester, the fetus is not viable and an abortion can be performed without any risk to the mother. Conversely, in the third trimester, the fetus will be viable and the risk to the mother from an abortion is significant. Due to advances in medicine, a fetus can be viable much earlier today than it was in 1973. Likewise, the risk to the mother due to a late-term abortion is almost non-existent today, compared to 1973. Advances in medicine have invalidated the fundamental thinking behind the Roe ruling. To quote Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, “The Roe framework is clearly on a collision course with itself”.

A fetus has a heartbeat at 7 weeks and can feel pain at 20 weeks. That is one of the reasons 38 states including California have fetal homicide laws and only 7 countries allow elective abortions after 20 weeks (Source: Washington Post). Civilized societies have an obligation to protect the most vulnerable and laws have to be interpreted in accordance with the evolution of technology. Just like the second amendment does not grant one the right to one to carry a shoulder launched missile downtown, the right to abortion should not extend into the third trimester of pregnancy.

One final point: Every trip to New York City, my first stop is always at the World Trade Center memorial to remember those who lost their lives on that fateful September day in 2001. The names of 2,983 victims are inscribed on the memorial pools. The names of 11 pregnant women have an additional phrase “and her unborn child”. Next to the memorial pools is the newly-constructed replacement of the twin towers, One World Trade Center (One WTC). That complex is a symbol of unity. The fact that New York Governor Cuomo chose to light One WTC pink to “celebrate” the signing of his abortion bill is despicable. National symbols should never be used to highlight controversial partisan measures by one party or the other.