When the U. S. Supreme Court handed down the Roe v. Wade decision, on this day, January 22, 1973, they hoped to end increasing controversy over a practice which was allowed in limited instances in some states but almost never in others. Instead, their decision polarized the American people and American politics. In its ruling, the court struck down a Texas law which prohibited abortion except when necessary to save a mother’s life.
As is usual when a ruling defies custom and popular conscience, the decision could only be achieved through deception. The woman known as Jane Roe (Norma McCorvey, now a Christian and a pro-life advocate) has acknowledged that she perjured herself in her testimony. She also says she was lied to by her counsel. Supreme Court memos show that pro-abortion Supreme Court justices (especially William O. Douglas), knowing they had no precedent, plotted to “finesse” the issue.” The ruling flew in face of scientific evidence which increasingly shows that a baby in the womb is very human. With modern technology, premature infants have survived at younger and younger ages.
What the court did in its divided opinion was to develop a new judicial theory–that a woman has a constitutionally protected right to privacy. The U.S. Constitution does not mention any such right, but the Court read it into the l4th Amendment which prohibits a state from unreasonably interfering with life, liberty, and property. The court expanded the meaning of the word “liberty” to guarantee a woman’s right to privacy in choosing an abortion.
Although the court said that the liberty guaranteed by the fourteenth amendment protects the woman’s right to privacy, at the same time the court held that it did not protect the unborn, since the court arbitrarily determined that a fetus is not a person and thus not a concern of the court. Roe v. Wade further permitted abortion to prevent the mother from future mental or physical distress in caring for the child. Thus the Court placed the personal choices of the mother above the life of her unborn.
Numerous jurists–even those who favor abortion–have observed that Roe v. Wade ignored constitutional precedent. In fact, the decision overturned laws regulating abortions in every one of the fifty states.
Many Christians protest the Court’s ruling as immoral. They see the decision as an expression of an individualistic and secular society in which people try to live their lives independent of God’s laws, principles, and truths. They teach that our bodies are not our own, but on loan to us from God and humans are made in the image of God and therefore to be valued. Roe v. Wade has become a central issue in the conflict over which principles should govern American society.