In 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court issued an unprecedented ruling. Abortion, it said, is virtually a private
matter for the woman to decide. "This right of privacy . . . is broad enough to encompass a woman's decision
whether or not to terminate her pregnancy" (Roe v. Wade, slip opinion, pp. 37-38). Beginning in the fourth
month of pregnancy, the Court held, the state could impose some health restrictions on the performance of
abortion, if it chose to do so, and in the sixth or perhaps seventh month it could-if it so chose-extend some
protection to the "potential human life" in the mother's womb (full rights of human personhood are not to be
recognized by the law until at least birth). But, whether in the third, sixth, or ninth month of pregnancy, the
private right of the woman to obtain an abortion is always paramount.
The Court's tragic decision is based on two fundamental errors:
First, the life of the unborn child is assigned a moral value of zero.
Second, abortion is essentially considered in a vacuum, apart from all other human relationships.
The woman, in consultation with her physician, has the final power to decide whether and why the
abortion should be performed. No one else has any say in the matter.
Yet¡Xdespite what the Court said¡Xit is a fact that the generation of new human life is an event of
immense social importance. Court decisions do not create this reality, nor can they destroy it. Many aspects of
this process of generation are personal, but none can properly be called altogether private-that is, pertaining to
the individual alone. When the Court called abortion a private matter for the woman to decide, it adopted a legal
fiction-a fiction which helps society silently condone the performance of what it knows to be a morally
At least since 1969, when national records on the subject were first kept, about one-third of all legal
abortions each year have been performed on... [continues]
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