7 Quick Takes, March for Life Edition: Why We’re Marching

Today is the annual March for Life. Here’s seven Quick Takes for why we’re marching:

1. Roe v. Wade Really was a Terrible Court Decision
Abortion is talked about in emotionally-charged soundbites, and it’s easy to overlook how radical the Roe v. Wade decision actually is. A federal law legalizing abortion would be bad enough. Instead, we have a Court case claiming that there is a constitutional right to abortion, even though it wasn’t quite sure where that constitutional right was (even disagreeing with the lower court, whose decision it was upholding):

This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg, perhaps the most liberal and pro-abortion Supreme Court justice, thinks Roe v. Wade was badly decided. People might like the outcome (abortion on demand), but the legal argument is simply terrible.
Furthermore, there is a gross irony to the Court’s claim: to defend abortion, they’re citing a pro-life line from the the Fourteenth Amendment:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Yet this line was used to strip unborn persons of equal protection of any laws. In the infamous Dred Scott case, the Court claimed that under the Constitution, black Americans were:

a subordinate and inferior class of beings, who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, whether emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the Government might choose to grant them.

The Court has done something similar here: the unborn have no rights, except what the government might choose to grant them. But it actually goes even further, declaring it illegal (even unconstitutional!) to protect the lives of unborn children.

2. Roe v. Wade Seriously Undermines the Constitutional System
At least since Marbury v. Madison in 1803, there has been an agreed-upon understanding of how constitutional checks and balances work. The Congress is the legislative branch, creating laws; the president passes or vetoes these laws, and is tasked with executing existing laws; if the president vetoes a bill, the upper house, the Senate, can override that veto; and the Supreme Court, in addition to its other judicial responsibilities, ensures that neither Congress nor the president acts contrary to the Constitution.
But Roe threatens this system: it is one of the most extreme examples of the Supreme Court acting a super-legislature. You’ll hear reference to the Court “legislating from the bench,” but here’s why that matters: the Court is supposed to provide Constitutional oversight for the legislative branch. If it instead acts as a sort of super-Legislature, we’re in serious trouble: Congress doesn’t have to approve its decisions, the president is powerless to veto their decisions, the people have no ability to vote bad Justices out of office (they are appointed for life), and there’s no oversight to ensure that this quasi-legislature’s decisions are constitutional. Two branches of government, and the American people, are cut entirely out of the constitutional equation.
Incredibly, as Bob Woodward discovered in the 80s, the architects of the Roe v. Wade decision realized this:

EVER SINCE the Supreme Court issued its controversial abortion decision, Roe v. Wade, 16 years ago today, many legal scholars and millions of other critics have cried foul. They have argued that the court was legislating social policy and exceeding its authority as the interpreter, not the maker, of law. 

New evidence has now surfaced that some of the justices who wrote and supported the opinion were doing precisely that, in at least part of the decision. The opinion’s author, Justice Harry A. Blackmun, said in one internal court memo that he was drawing “arbitrary” lines about the times during pregnancy when a woman could legally receive an abortion. In another memo, Justice Potter Stewart, who joined the Blackmun opinion, said the determination in the opinion about these lines was “legislative.”

So the Court, by its own understanding, was acting arbitrarily, and as a super-Legislature. 
It has only gotten worse since then. The Supreme Court Justices were genuinely surprised that the American people didn’t simply accept their decision (it turns out, judges without legislative experience aren’t necessarily good at legislating). They followed this up with case after case eroding constitutional rights, in a foolish attempt to protect Roe’s extreme legacy. Hill v. Colorado is an eye-opening read, as are the dissenting opinions of Justices Scalia and Kennedy. It’s the Supreme Court case from 2000 involving a law that prevented people from protesting outside of abortion clinics (even on public sidewalks).
In any other context, this would be clearly a violation of the First Amendment: you generally can’t outlaw protests in America, and these content-specific restrictions are illegal. The ACLU and prominent liberals like Laurence Tribe argued that the law should be declared unconstitutional. It really was an easy case. But the Court favored abortion over the Constitution, again. In the opening paragraph of one of his finer dissents, Justice Scalia wrote:

Having deprived abortion opponents of the political right to persuade the electorate that abortion should be restricted by law, the Court today continues and expands its assault upon their individual right to persuade women contemplating abortion that what they are doing is wrong. Because, like the rest of our abortion jurisprudence, today’s decision is in stark contradiction of the constitutional principles we apply in all other contexts, I dissent.

This captures it well: the Court has defended its constitutional usurpation with a series of egregious constitutional usurpations. Roe isn’t just bad policy, it’s not just badly decided: it’s positively dangerous for a constitutional republic.
3.  The Death Toll from Roe is Staggering.

The Democrats used to argue that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, but as pro-abortion groups flaunt, “abortion is now one of the most commonly performed clinical procedures.” There have been over 56 million abortions since Roe v. Wade. That’s an enormous segment of our population that has been quietly, legally murdered.

4. Why March for Life? To Protest an Unjust Law.
Given what I’ve just said, you can hopefully see why to join the March for Life. Martin Luther King, who was commemorated this week, said in his letter from the Birmingham jail that we have a duty to protest such laws:

I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

5. Why March for Life? To Remind America What She has Lost

wrote about this last year, but one of the main reasons to March for Life is simply to remind Americans that we once stood for something noble and beautiful, an example for the world. As Mother Teresa said:

America needs no words from me to see how your decision in Roe v. Wade has deformed a great nation. The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. […] 

I have no new teaching for America. I seek only to recall you to faithfulness to what you once taught the world. Your nation was founded on the proposition—very old as a moral precept, but startling and innovative as a political insight—that human life is a gift of immeasurable worth, and that it deserves, always and everywhere, to be treated with the utmost dignity and respect.

6. The March is Thriving, and isn’t Going Away until Abortion does.

There’s something of a media black-out on the March for Life: either it will be ignored entirely, or covered in such a way that it seems to be a small event, or that it seems like there’s an equal number of pro-life Marchers and “pro-choice” counter-protesters. Last year, it is estimated that 650,000 people marched to protest the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Meanwhile, there were only a handful of counter-protesters (I may have seen two).

7. Even if You Can’t March, You Can Still Help.

Not everyone can make the March for Life today. If you can’t, I urge you to join in by fasting and praying for the March’s success. Your prayers really do make a difference!

1 Comment

  1. An interesting case study is Scott Peterson:


    His case demonstrates a HUGE problem in our legal system. He was convicted of murdering both his wife, Laci Peterson, as well as their unborn child, Conner Peterson.

    Laci Peterson could have gone ahead and had an abortion right up to the minute of birth (Like it or not that’s pretty much what we legally have in this country right now. Finding one of the few “doctors” for that gruesome procedure is another matter…), and no one could have stopped her, and she could have walked right out of the abortion “clinic” afterwards, and no one could touch her.

    But if someone had blown Laci Peterson away with a gun, they’d be (as Scott Peterson was) brought up on two murder charges.

    Either the unborn are people with rights, and they deserve to be treated as such and therefore should be protected, or they are not. If the unborn are not people then someone like Scott Peterson shouldn’t have been convicted of the murder of a non-person.

    And I think I (with little-to-no formal legal training) could argue successfully that he should have at least that conviction overturned.

    And for the record: Scott Peterson is an evil SOB, he should be left to rot, and considering CA legal system, he most likely will be on death row until he dies of old age…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *