The exercise of power over the life of one’s offspring is not a new construct. In ancient Rome, for example, the paterfamilias, or family patriarch, maintained a legal right to dispose of children deemed unwanted or unfit after birth. Likewise, a widespread preference for male children has compelled parents in China and India to terminate the lives of their daughters for centuries. Gender-determination ultrasounds have been used more recently to terminate these lives prior to birth, but the brutal infanticide of daughters remains common.Share
What is startling about the “women’s rights” argument for abortion ubiquitous in modern Western culture is that it reframes the act of abortion as a means to women’s freedom, whereas historically it was, by and large, a reflection of male dominance.
The same questionable argument for abortion as a necessity for women’s freedom steered the majority opinion of Roe v. Wade. Justice Harry Blackmun found a right to abortion in an eisegetical reading of the Fourteenth Amendment. He concluded for the Court that a “right of personal privacy” could be found in the “penumbras” emanating from the Fourteenth Amendment, among other places, and that this right included a woman’s right to “terminate her pregnancy.”
Penning his concurrence with the majority decision of Roe v. Wade, Justice Potter Stewart said the Court had shown that “freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” The irony here is that the due process clause mandates that no person be deprived of life without the due process of law—a protection that, thanks to Roe, unborn children no longer enjoy.
In order to make this argument, the Supreme Court had to reject the possibility that the preborn child was a person to be afforded his or her own rights at all. To this end, the majority decision interpreted the Constitution as not defining “personhood” as including the preborn. The opinion further concluded that, because they believed there was no consensus among doctors, philosophers, and theologians about when life began, the justices in favor of elective abortion on demand could not and did not need to resolve what they called that “difficult question.” They decided that preborn children weren’t persons simply because they didn’t see conclusive evidence otherwise. This shocking and extreme conclusion has resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of American children. (Read more.)