In the course of my research during the past year, I encountered four powerful answers to Roe v. Wade in two books that should be required reading for anyone working in the pro-life movement.
Both books make Constitutional, ethical, and natural law arguments against abortion.
The first is a book released in 2013 titled Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade, by Clarke D. Forsythe.
In this book, Forsythe expertly and brilliantly revisits the argument made in favor of Roe.
Based on two decades of research, the author counters not merely the arguments made by the judges, but also the arguments made by other proponents of abortion.
My guess is that even those who consider themselves experts on Roe will find themselves using a highlighter on almost every page. There are too many aspects of this book to name them all, but three struck me with particular force.
1. The Use of the Word ‘Child’
First, Forsythe’s historical study about the ideas of prenatal life and abortion is both compelling and comprehensive, as he addresses the concepts of life in the womb and quickening from pre-Christian times to the culture of the 1960’s. He writes:
Anglo-American law has called the unborn child an “unborn child” or a “child” from at least the 1200s, a tradition that was inherited from Roman law. The language of “child”—which Justice Marshall questioned at oral argument—was adopted by the English and American courts centuries ago. Forsythe, Clarke D. (2013-09-24). Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade (p. 114). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.
There is an added irony present in this observation. The more that medical science and 4D imaging confirm the existence of a child in the womb, the more the pro-abortion side insists on referring to a child by any other word.
2. The Weakest Defense
Second, Forsythe looks at some bizarre aspects of the case that are rarely examined, including the way in which it was argued.
“…(T)he question of where the right to “abortion” could be found in the Constitution became virtually a joke at the first argument. Weddington was willing to say it could be found almost any where—the “due process clause, equal protection clause, the Ninth Amendment, and a variety of others….” The statement was so weak that Justice Stewart quipped “and anything else that might obtain,” provoking laughter from the audience. To which Weddington responded, “yeah, right,” and laughed.” Forsythe, Clarke D. (2013-09-24). Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade (pp. 99-100). Encounter Books. Kindle Edition.
3. The Only Medical Procedure with a Constitutional Right
Third, Forsythe makes a point about how Roe v. Wade changed the Constitutional outlook of abortion in a way that few people have considered.
When you think about medical procedures—heart bypass, kidney transplant, appendix removal—you are talking about some pretty vital medical procedures. Necessary though they may be, these are not constitutionally-protected procedures. You know what is?
With Roe v. Wade, Forsythe explains, “Abortion was declared to be a constitutional right—the only medical procedure to ever have that status…” (p. 10). Moreover, he argues that because of this, the vast majority of abortions are performed “virtually immune from public health (i.e., government) oversight.” (p. 228).
Ironically, though Roe v. Wade is seen by some as the great protector of women’s health, it has led to forty years of terrible mistreatment. And counting.
4. A ‘Routine’ Medical Procedure
The second text that I recommend is an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas in the Stenberg v. Carhart case of 2000.
Though the Carhart case was heard 27 years after Roe, Thomas’ dissenting opinion served as a bold answer to Roe, and the fourth powerful answer I want to cover.
In a remarkable essay that addresses the unconstitutionality of Roe, Justice Thomas makes an observation of which many people are unaware. For instance, Thomas says that even though the Supreme Court had been hearing cases regarding abortion for decades, he writes that the Court had made a startling omission:
“In the almost 30 years since Roe, this Court has never described the various methods of aborting a second- or third-trimester fetus. From reading the majority’s sanitized description, one would think that this case involves state regulation of a widely accepted routine medical procedure. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
In all its debate, the Court had failed to outline what exactly an abortion is, and how it is medically performed. Thomas then spends considerable time outlining various abortion procedures.
He proceeds to describe several methods of abortion, including partial birth abortion, which he describes as follows:
…While the fetus is stuck in this position, dangling partly out of the woman’s body, and just a few inches from a completed birth, the physician uses an instrument such as a pair of scissors to tear or perforate the skull.…The physician will then either crush the skull or will use a vacuum to remove the brain and other intracranial contents from the fetal skull, collapse the fetus’ head, and pull the fetus from the uterus….
Thomas concludes: “The question whether States have a legitimate interest in banning the procedure does not require additional authority….In a civilized society, the answer is too obvious, and the contrary arguments too offensive to merit further discussion.”