Part one in a two-part series on how America was affected by the infamous Supreme Court decision concerning abortion, and what is being done to return America to a culture of life.
In 1976, three years after the U.S. Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade, Francis Schaeffer predicted where the acceptance of abortion would take American society. More importantly he knew the root of problem.
In his book How Should We Then Live, the 20th Century's foremost Christian philosopher explained that when America's legal system rejected the idea of moral absolutes, arbitrary consensus became the new basis of law. This being the case, it's not hard to see that law is embracing many heinous things, including not only the removal of legal protection from the unborn, said Schaeffer, but also euthanasia, infanticide and harvesting body parts from those who are brain dead.
Now that America is 30 years down the road from the Roe v. Wade decision, we can better see how Schaeffer was right. Abortion's negative impact on American culture is obvious.
Abortion Since 1973
In 30 years, over 40 million infants have lost their lives at the behest of their mothers. Abortion's high tide was reached in 1980 and 1981 when the rate was 29.3 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44. According to a survey released last week by Planned Parenthood's Alan Guttmacher Institute, the rate of abortion has now reached its lowest point in 29 years. In 2000, the number of women who had abortions was 21.3 for every 1,000 women.
While the slowing trend is good news to the pro-life community, the cumulative number of abortions since 1973 weighs heavily. In 14 metropolitan areas of the United States, there are more babies aborted than there are live births. The National Right to Life Committee reports that partial birth abortions have tripled since 1996 to at least 2,200 performed in 2000.
Abortion, Feminism and Roe
The Supreme Court passed Roe v. Wade during the culmination of a rising influence of the women's rights movement and the abandoning of moral absolutes in American law. Surprisingly, however, the support for abortion at the time was not widespread. Hadley Arkes, Professor of Jurisprudence and American Institutions at Amherst College says, "In the early days after Roe v. Wade ... we never expected it would last as long as it has. With the sentiment in Congress and the (public's) reaction at the time, we really expected that this thing would be overturned with a constitutional amendment."
It wasn't. Now this fatal choice is considered a right, indeed an "entitlement." Indeed, feminists would have society believe that this ultimate act of selfishness is actually part of the Constitution. In the book, Feminism: Mystique or Mistake, author Diane Passno says, "The secular feminist agenda thrives in a postmodern culture, since the movement is basically selfish or self-centered in nature. It's all about women and what they want, and has nothing to do with what is healthy for all members of the culture..."
The feminist ideology that backed the push for legalized abortion has indoctrinated our society with the image of women as powerful. And yet, the exact opposite is true in the case of a woman who wants abortion. Passno writes, "If feminists want women to be perceived as masters of their own destiny, then why are irresponsibility and lack of self-control the reasons behind most elective abortions?" In pregnancy (except for the miniscule number of pregnancies caused by rape), a woman has contributed to her predicament by accepting a sexual proposition. Society is expected to pity her because her recreation resulted in an ironic twist of feminism.
Roe gave women a rallying point to claim equality with men on issues related to childbirth. For thousands of years a man could physically walk away from a pregnancy with little outside consequence. Now for the first time women could seemingly walk away from that unwanted pregnancy as well.
Abortion's Effect on Men
In an interview on KUED-TV in Salt Lake City, women's rights activist Gloria Steinem articulated the feminist view of utopia for our society, "We've had a lot of people in this country who have had the courage to raise their daughters more like theirs sons. Which is great because it means they're more equal. But there are many fewer people who have had the courage to raise their sons more like their daughters. And that's what needs to be done."
Today's man lives in a world of confusion over what is expected of him. Rosemary Bottcher, author of Feminism: Bewitched by Abortion sums up the double standard saying, "A man is expected to be mature when he fathers a child; he is expected to endure inconvenience and hardship ... But the woman, according to feminists, is so selfish, immature, irrational and hysterical that she cannot stand the fact of nine months of inconvenience in order to bring life to another person ... or to some other family who might adopt that child."
The feminist movement made sure that our entire society condones a woman's killing of an unborn child. If a man is caught running away from the responsibility of a child, he is chastised. But a woman has the "right" to escape the consequences of a carefree lifestyle.
Hope for the Future
In the three full decades since the Roe decision, technological advances have carried our debate over life issues to new levels. Just as Francis Schaffer predicted, issues like euthanasia (doctor-assisted suicide), stem cell research and cloning are now dominating headlines. Yet the technology many use to further a culture of death in America may become a double-edged sword.
General Electric, perhaps inadvertently, is teaching people that wombs hold much more than "tissue." There, during the primetime hours of network television, many of us got our first glimpse what resides in a womb, and it looked like a child. As General Electric ran ads for their new 4-D Ultrasound technology, viewers were greeted by an active preborn baby with distinct features. Singers set the mood with a voiceover of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."
Kellyanne Conway, president and CEO of the Polling Group, points out, "Did you ever notice that even the people in Hollywood name their babies in the fourth month of pregnancy."
A preborn baby that is wanted by its mother is a "baby," and any other preborn is a fetus. The test for what is alive becomes, "Is it wanted by someone?"
As we see the couple in the GE commercial marveling at their baby's first photo, taken several months before the child's birth, it becomes harder to deny that baby's humanness. It becomes apparent that the preborn baby in the womb is alive, regardless of the mindset of its mother.
- Stephen and Candice McGarvey are freelance writers living in Northern Virginia.
In part II of this article, we will talk about what America's pro-life advocates are doing to on several fronts to fight against the effects of Roe v. Wade.