Roe v. Wade is a Relic of the Past Because Women Don’t Need Abortions to Succeed

Opinion   |   Maureen Ferguson   |   Oct 6, 2021   |   12:03PM   |   Washington, DC

The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on Dec. 1 for the most consequential abortion case in a generation.

Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization involves a Mississippi law limiting most abortions past 15 weeks. With this case, the court must reconsider the premise of Roe v. Wade.

The case has attracted an extraordinary number of friend-of-the-court briefs, some offering a refreshing vision of how women are flourishing and what it means to be human.

A quick summary of key briefs illustrates the competing visions. It is striking that one vision is filled with hope, beauty and compassion, reflecting the loving interdependence of human beings.

The other is overwrought with despair, tragically limited in terms of resourcefulness and resiliency, and utterly discordant – positioning mother against child.

Mary Ann Glendon and O. Carter Snead, professors of law at Harvard and Notre Dame universities, brilliantly argue the court should return abortion policy to the states to allow for a more harmonious human response to the challenges of an unplanned pregnancy.

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Glendon and Snead summarize their arguments on the fundamental flaw of Roe’s jurisprudence: “It precludes the political branches from seeing the human relationship at the core of the matter as it truly is – not strangers fighting over scarce resources, but a mother and child in desperate need of care. Understood in this light, any decent government or community would rush to provide aid and support to mother and baby before, during, and after the child is born rather than empowering one party to use violence against the other.”

Another brief written by 240 women scholars and pro-life feminist organizations, led by Helen Alvare of the Scalia Law School at George Mason University, provides mountains of evidence that women’s social and economic advancement over the past decades has not been dependent upon abortion access.

Rather, the data shows that the expansion of opportunities for women is attributable to changes in the law related to education, equal pay, equal employment and civil rights – not on the ability to abort. This brief is a devastating blow to the “reliance” argument of the abortion lobby.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch makes similar arguments in defending her state’s law: “A lot has changed in five decades. In 1973, there was little support for women who wanted a full family life and a successful career. Maternity leave was rare. Paternity leave was unheard of. … The flexibility of the gig economy was a fairy tale. In these last fifty years, women have carved their own way to achieving a better balance for success in their professional and personal lives.”

A heart-warming brief from female physicians, including my colleague Dr. Grazie Christie, illuminates the advances in science and medicine since 1973 in understanding fetal pain, fetal and maternal medicine, and ultrasound technology.

The brief includes detailed sonogram images of fetal patients that are so unlike the fuzzy gray images of the 1970s. “The baby’s head, starting with the brain, is a marvel of intricacy. … The fetal profile is clear: the gently sloping nose, the distinct upper and lower lips and chin,” the brief states. “The baby’s mouth opens, and we can even see the tongue moving. … The fetal spine is often gently curved as the fetus rests against the mother’s uterine wall. But then the baby plants her feet against the wall in front of her and stretches vigorously. This is the living reality of what is at issue in this case: a tiny boy or girl who, at 15 weeks, kicks, breathes, and hiccups, who has little fingers that open and close.”

In stark contrast, the brief filed by the abortion lobby is stuck in a 1970s mindset. It is a hopeless series of anecdotes from abortion doctors focused on their own feelings toward their trade, creepily describing how it feels “natural” to end the life of a fellow human being.

There is no imagination allowed in these tragic abortion stories, no creative or life-affirming solutions, nothing empowering. Abortion is the only remedy, and women must rely on it to be successful. The sole 21st century update is the woke and dystopian language referring to “pregnant persons” rather than pregnant women.

Glendon and Snead’s analysis of this abortion mentality is spot on: It “isolates mother and child, pitting them against one another in a zero-sum conflict among strangers, one of whom is recognized as a human person while the other is deemed a sub-personal being. … It offers no support for the persons involved.”

The reasoning undergirding Roe is a relic of the past. Progress requires us to update our laws to reflect what we know in our hearts to be true about the flourishing of human persons, both mother and child.

LifeNews Note: Maureen Ferguson is a senior fellow for The Catholic Association.