roe v wade roe vs wade
Ethics & Morality

Roe v Wade, and the constitutional right to kill

“This isn’t about life and never has been,” writes the Rev’d Michael Coren. “It’s about control. Of women, freedom, and progress. As a Christian I know where I have to stand.”

And he stands foursquare on a woman’s right to choose whether or not to terminate a pregnancy: “There is nothing Christian about allowing women to die in illegal back street abortions. Nothing Christian about removing the basic right of a woman to control her own body. Nothing Christian about wanting to criminalize female equality.”

Indeed there isn’t, though one may reasonably argue that there is nothing particularly Christian about ‘human rights’ (or even a notion of female equality which advances that woman can only be truly equal to man when she is free to evacuate the thing that makes her a woman [if, indeed, it is any longer true that the possession of a uterus is intrinsic to womanhood]). But all this is rather tangential, not to say deflecting from the significance of the leaked legal opinion of Judge Samuel Alito that Roe v Wade ought to be rowed back, and the question of the legality (and threshold) of abortion returned to state legislatures.

This point is not addressed by the Rev’d Michael Coren (or, indeed, by many thousands of people on Twitter who are talking about ‘The ban on abortion’ and ‘Taking away women’s rights’). What exactly is the problem with the Supreme Court of the United States determining that the right to kill the baby in the womb (or, if you prefer, the right to expel the product of conception) should be determined by elected politicians who are accountable to the people, rather than by judges who are not?

Of course the law changes, and of course judicial precedent may become an established and enduring interpretation of the legislature’s political intention. But Roe v Wade was flawed (which is not simply the asserted belief of ‘pro-life’ activists, but the considered legal opinion of eminent ‘pro-choice’ constitutional lawyers). The leaked opinion of the Supreme Court is a judicial acknowledgment of this constitutional fact, to which the logical solution is to devolve the matter back to state legislatures.

If Congress wishes to involve itself, as Bernie Sanders has demanded, it is for politicians to determine.

Bernie Sanders Roe v Wade Congress

Yet even he doesn’t appear to grasp that ‘codification’ is what the Supreme Court appears intent on ending: what a Democrat majority in Congress gives, a Republican majority in Congress may take away.

And what judicial power giveth, judicial power taketh away.

Blessed be the judicial power.

And that is the point (and the manifest judicial desire): in a liberal democracy, significant societal change should emanate from (and be subject to) the people’s elected representatives, not by a bench of pontificating judges. And where such a societal change is concerned with the codification of the right to kill, there is nothing un-Christian about making politicians face up to the reality of their policy, and be accountable for its societal consequences.

This is sometimes uncomfortable for them..

Far easier when a ‘Late Term Abortion Bill’ may be argued to be the logical extension of an inviolable constitutional right decreed from on high by an infallible judicial bench and set down in immutable tablets of stone. This shouldn’t be a matter for state legislators, as Virginia’s former Governor Ralph Northam explains:

Does the Rev’d Michael Coren believe that an abortion may be procured at any point during the third trimester, even as the woman is dilating?

If not, why not?

If so, what is particularly Christian about killing a baby (or, if you prefer, aborting a fully-formed foetus) at the moment of birth? At what point may the control “Of women, freedom, and progress” be legitimately and compassionately concerned with the rights of the baby (or, if you prefer, foetus)?

If there is a constitutional right to kill “the product of conception”, as Roe v Wade determined, why should this not extend to the moment of birth, as VA Delegate Kathy Tran believes; or, indeed, as former VA Governor Ralph Northam advocates, in the moments after birth, when he says a discussion might take place about whether the infant should be ‘resuscitated’ (ie helped to take its first breath).

He calls it an ‘infant’.

What is particularly Christian about just leaving an infant to die?

What is wrong with just having a rational debate about all this, without all the apocalyptic warnings of a dystopian ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ or of imminent civil war? Women are not ‘losing their right’ to abortion; politicians are being made accountable to the people for their abortion policies. What is un-Christian about politicians taking responsibility for their law-making, and for the due consideration of pre-natal human rights?

There is nothing Christian about allowing babies to die in steel kidney-shaped medical trays. Nothing Christian about removing the basic right of an infant to take its first breath. Nothing Christian about wanting to criminalise human equality.

There is nothing Christian about dogmatically asserting Roe v Wade, and decreeing infallibly: ‘Here endeth the lesson.’