Case Leaves Legacy

By Pamela Bond

North Texas Daily

Jan. 24, 2006

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Yesterday marked the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, which liberalized abortion in the U.S. by declaring laws against abortion violated the constitutional right to privacy. In 1973, when the decision passed, it inspired a controversy between political parties.

Not much has changed. Thirty-three years later, the issue of abortion is still a debated topic in politics. It has divided the nation’s political system into pro-life versus pro-choice and has prompted scientific research on the developing stages of the fetus and psychological affects of abortion, such as post-abortion syndrome.

Yesterday, anti-abortion protestors gathered at the foot of Capitol Hill. President George W. Bush called from Manhattan, Kan. to assure protestors that they were pursuing a “noble cause” and that “we’re working to persuade more of our fellow Americans of the rightness of our cause” (AP – Washington).

On Saturday, there was a pro-life rally in downtown Dallas. NT’s Young Conservatives of Texas organization attended the rally to show their support for the pro-life movement.

“Numerous logical reasons and facts prove the humanity of the unborn and, therefore, the need to protect life under the law,” states the Eagles for Life website, http://orgs.unt.edu/elf.

While conservative Americans are urging for the Roe v. Wade decision to be overturned, liberals are trying to uphold it.

“The case definitely changed politics and it’s now one of the most decisive issues; parties are divided on it,” said Adam Silva, Irving junior and president of College Democrats of NT. “Even someone who knows little about politics knows each parties’ stance on the issue. I think you’re going to see a lot of Democrats voting against Alito, who is pro-life, since abortion is a big issue for nominations.”

The continuing debate over abortion issues is why Roe v. Wade is such well known Supreme Court case, which is often referred to in political science textbooks and classes.

“It’s significant because since Roe v. Wade we have been continuing to fight and struggle over this issue,” said Kimi King, associate professor of political science. “We will undoubtedly continue to struggle, just as other countries struggle, over the issues of population inclines and planned parenthood.”

Since the decision, other Supreme Court cases, such as Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized contraceptives, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld the Roe v. Wade decision, have furthered the pro-choice agenda.

According to the pro-choice movement, human life occurs during the third trimester, the gestational stage of pregnancy where brain cells have begun to develop and the fetus can survive outside the mother’s body. Therefore, an abortion before this time is not considered murdering a human life, but merely a mass of cells.

However, the pro-life front has become more vocal and organized since the decision as well. Originally, the Catholic Church was the main opposition to the decision legalizing abortion. Today, many Protestant churches, as well as other organizations, have joined the movement.

The pro-life movement states that human life begins upon conception and the unborn are therefore guaranteed “life, liberty and happiness” under the construction – the key word, of course, being “life.”

Since the pro-life movement is technically on the offensive side of the issue, their task is to overturn the decision, while the pro-choice movement defends it.

“As Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, a generation of women, actually two generations of women now, have gown up with Roe v. Wade,” King said. “To the extent that is has remained precedent, it will become increasingly difficult for the court to reverse it. And because opinions are hotly divided on the topic, we will see more legislation that will continue to attempt to limit access to abortion.”

The “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade, Norma McCorvey, has actually switched sides and is now fighting against the ruling. Her conversion to Christianity prompted her to seek an overturn of Roe v. Wade. In a press conference held in January 2005, she claimed to be a “pawn” of her ambitious lawyer, Sarah Weddington, and to suffer emotional and psychological harm because of the abortion.

The Texas Court of Appeals struck down McCorvey’s request for an overturn in 2003 due to matters of timeliness – it had simply been too long since the original ruling. In 2005, the Supreme Court also denied her requests.

Over the last 33 years, America has been divided over abortion issues. In the future, it will probably continue to do so, as an end to the debate does not appear to be coming soon, according to King.

“Watch closely over the next couple of years on abortion limits, especially the shift on the bench, with O’Connor’s retirement,” King said. “In 1993, she was a swing vote in a case (Planned Parenthood v. Casey) that narrowly upheld Roe v. Wade. Upcoming cases will present the first opportunity in over 30 years where the court could conceivably strike down abortion.”