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Sample Letters to the Editor on Roe v. Wade

 

As our national debate over Roe v. Wade continues, it is important for all concerned to know one major fact that is often ignored by the media. Norma McCorvey, a.k.a. Jane Roe, has changed her mind. Since 1995, Ms. McCorvey has been a pro-life activist, doing everything she can to undo the damage that was done in the case that will forever be associated with her. She has even gone so far as to ask the Supreme Court to overturn its decision.

While it would be naïve to think that this in and of itself would change anyone's mind, it should give those who generally consider themselves "pro-choice" pause.  Ms. McCorvey has admitted that she did not understand the full ramifications of abortion.  She was unaware of the health risks to herself and of what was involved with the actual abortion procedure.  She simply wanted to end her pregnancy.  When she finally learned more about what abortion actually is, she had a change of heart.

When one is going to speak about legal abortion, he should take the time to learn more about what it actually is and the long-term effects of the various abortion procedures.  Surely this will not make everyone pro-life, but it will raise the level of discourse on this hot-button issue.  Hopefully once people take the time to follow Ms. McCorvey's lead we will be able to find greater common ground and reduce the number of abortions.

*****

Unfortunately, media polls tend to mischaracterize the Supreme Court's ruling in Roe v. Wade.  They usually say that the Roe decision legalized abortion for the first three months of pregnancy. The Roe case actually allowed for abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.

With a quick scan of the yellow pages, one can find numerous advertisements for abortions up to 24 weeks (6 months) and beyond, well past the three-month period in which these polls say that the Court legalized abortion.  Polls that ask more direct questions about abortion show that the American public overwhelmingly opposes abortion after the first trimester, and even supports tighter restrictions on first-trimester abortions.  Further, the American public overwhelmingly supports state control over the issue instead of a policy imposed by judicial fiat.

If Roe polls are to be taken seriously, they must not misrepresent what Roe actually did.  To be sure, many Americans would continue to support the decision.  Others, however, would gain a new appreciation for the view that Roe should be changed to allow the elected branches of government to legislate on the issue.  Such a change would allow Americans to find more common ground on the issue, such as enacting laws that would prohibit abortion after viability and require parental consent for minors seeking abortions, just as they need for any other medical procedure.  These are goals that the public supports but that Roe has made impossible.

*****

As many people attempt to portray judges willing to overturn Roe v. Wade as “extremists,” it is important to look at what exactly Roe did.  According to Paul B. Linton in the University of Detroit Law Review, "The Supreme Court's decisions allowed abortion on demand throughout the entire nine months of pregnancy." (Enforcement of State Abortion Statutes after Roe: A State-by-State Analysis, Vol. 67, Issue 2, Winter 1990)  Polls consistently show public opposition to the overturning of Roe, but they also show support by similar margins, about 2-1, in favor of laws requiring parental consent for their minor daughters to have abortions, prohibiting abortion after viability, and requiring abortion providers to provide detailed information about the abortion and the risks involved.

What this suggests is that the American public does not fully understand the Roe decision.  Through omissions and half-truths, pro-choice activists have successfully drawn a direct connection between changing Roe and an end to legalized abortion.  In fact, the abortion issue, were Roe changed, would return to the states.  Some states would continue a policy permissive of all abortions.  Others would prohibit them outright.  In many others, elected legislatures, or perhaps even the people through referenda, would pass common sense, common ground legislation aimed at reducing the number of abortions.  When asked about this without the mention of Roe, the American public overwhelmingly supports the correction of Roe and the return of these policy decisions to the people.

*****

The Roe decision said that states could, if they choose, regulate abortion in the third trimester except in cases in which the mother's life or health was endangered. Its lesser-known companion included "physical, emotional, psychological, familial [factors], and the woman's age" within the scope of "health." Thus, a doctor, even one who could be paid for the abortion, could recommend an abortion because giving birth would put a psychological strain on the mother, something that is almost impossible to prove.

Women's groups do not flesh this out, though, as it does not fit with their disinformation campaign. The American public does not now nor has it ever supported a policy of abortion on demand for any reason or no reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy. To be sure, most states are not ready to eliminate abortion if Roe is overturned, but most states would be able to reach some consensus on common sense laws, such as the elimination of abortion after viability.

*****

Polls have consistently shown that by wide margins, Americans do not think that Roe v. Wade should be reversed. Other polls, however, show that Americans, by equal or greater margins, favor heavier restrictions on abortion than Roe permits. The Roe decision, with its companion case Doe v. Bolton, legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy for any reason or for no reason at all.

Of third trimester abortion, Roe says, "the State… may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother." Its companion case, Doe, defined "health" to include "physical, emotional, psychological, familial [factors] and the woman's age." This means that a woman could go to her doctor and get a note indicating that bringing the child to term would be a psychological strain on her and that for that reason, she could have an abortion. Many of these doctors would perform and get paid for this abortion themselves.

Most Americans want abortion to be legal under limited circumstances, perhaps only in the first trimester or only in the cases of rape and incest. What Roe did, though, was take the abortion issue out of the hands of the elected branches of government and imposed a policy of abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy by judicial fiat. In doing so, they prohibited even common ground, common sense legislation, a policy which very few Americans support.

*****

As Roe becomes a central issue in the Supreme Court confirmation fight, it is important to clear up some of the confusion that the left has created in this national discussion. Unfortunately, fringe feminists have convinced the American public that a change in Roe would outlaw abortion from Maine to Hawaii without exception. In fact, the correction of Roe would simply restore the authority of state governments to legislate.

In 1973, the Supreme Court usurped the power of elected state legislators and put itself at the heart of the abortion debate. Rather than allow legislatures to do as they had done for two centuries in making their own abortion laws, they decided that they knew better. In doing so, they eliminated the power of the American people to be directly involved with this issue. Now, the Supreme Court will not even allow states to ban partial-birth abortion, a restriction supported by over eighty percent of the American people.

If Roe were corrected, some states would restrict abortion. Others would not. Those concerned with the issue could argue it at the state level, where the debate is much closer to the people than in Washington. In this discussion, both sides could work together to find common ground, such as support for crisis pregnancies and parental notification requirements for minors, and reduce the number of abortions. Unfortunately, though, this type of discussion and progress has been made all but impossible by the judicial tyranny imposed in Roe.

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