From Guest-blogger and Regent 3rd Year Law Student Elizabeth Oklevitch
Today marks the end of Sanctity of Life Month, a month designated to commemorate Roe v. Wade. The last month made one thing clear: forty-one years after the Supreme Court handed down the Roe decision, the issue of abortion remains far from settled in American law and culture. Churches across the country took time to recognize National Sanctity of Human Life Day on January 19th, and thousands joined the March for Life in D.C. on January 22nd. Though these events are in some ways "the face" of the pro-life movement, several developments took place in January that shed light on coerced abortion, abortion's relation to women's health, and the deliberations behind Roe, and these developments may prove to have subtle yet lasting impact on the abortion discussion.
A lawsuit filed against NFL running back Arian Foster illuminates the ongoing problem of coerced abortions. A Life Site News article explains that the mother of Foster' unborn child is "seeking a restraining order, so the NFL star and his family will stop haranguing her to abort a baby she wants to keep." This may be one of few alleged coercion cases to be litigated, let alone make headlines, but unfortunately, there have been more than a few instances of coerced abortion since Roe. The article notes that the allegations against Foster and his family "are consistent with what pro-life leaders say is a ubiquitous problem: coerced abortion. Post-abortive women have testified that they felt pressured – or in some cases were forced to abort – by parents, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, husbands, abusers, even policemen."
While the Foster situation brought awareness to mainstream culture on the issue of coerced abortion, law professor Helen Alvare advanced informed, life-respecting perspectives before federal legislators. In her testimony before a House subcommittee considering legislation on federal funding of abortions, she shared that popular opinion does not support the idea that abortion is a "public good." Although abortion advocates profess to champion the underprivileged, Alvare cited a study finding that women, the less educated, and the poor are more likely to be pro-life than their counterparts. As a second key point, Alvare demonstrated that federal government statements and other sources indicate that abortion is not actually part of a women's health agenda. Frankly, one paragraph in a blog post doesn't do her thoughts justice; check out this summary article, or better yet, take five minutes to watch the video of her testimony.
Also in January, Clarke Forsythe gave a presentation on his book, Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade at The Heritage Foundation. His research delves into the Justices' personal papers, revealing what one review calls the "blend of misinformation, backroom politics, arbitrary logic, and incomplete jurisprudence" that led to "most controversial decision in recent Supreme Court history." Since its release last fall, the book's publicity has included coverage in The Weekly Standard and a review by The Washington Times. As Forsythe's book continues to reach a wider audience, it provokes reconsideration of the quandaries, values, and assumptions underlying legalized abortion's foundational case.
From the national events to the smaller developments in culture, law, and literature, January was filled with vivid illuminations of the aftermath of Roe. Four decades later, America has not settled into placid acceptance of legalized abortion. Roe has brought to a head conflicts over coerced abortion, abortion's relationship to women's health, and the "jurisprudence" of abortion rights. Thankfully, these confrontations make it nearly impossible to "settle in." Rather, they provide important perspectives to inform the abortion discussion. Each time one of these issues arises in the news or in everyday life, it sheds light on the true consequences and motivations of Roe and gives an opportunity to speak up, to stand up for freedom rather than coercion, for true public goods rather than agendas parading as "women's health," and for the rule of law rather than "arbitrary logic." In January, a running back, a professor, and an author all helped to expose aspects of the conflicts surrounding Roe; the rest of the year is left to respond to those conflicts in a way that promotes life and fosters restoration of individuals, families, and culture.