Nearly three decades ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that abortion
is constitutionally protected. Ostensibly libertarian, the ruling was
actually one of the most tyrannical acts in American history.
What greater power can the state claim than the power to redefine
human life itself — to withdraw protection from an entire category
of human beings? And what greater power could the Federal Government
usurp than the power of the individual states to protect innocent life
from violent death?
The pro-abortion movement has been consistent only in its inconsistency.
It began by agreeing with its opponents that abortion was wrong, but
arguing that abortion, when banned by law, "happens anyway" and
could be better regulated — made "safe" — if legalized.
Of course this could be said of any crime: murder, burglary, and incest,
though banned by law, "happen anyway." Should they too be
Later the pro-abortion propaganda apparat took a new position: that
when life begins is a "religious" question, beyond the competence
of the state to decide. Oddly enough, my Darwinian public-school biology
teachers used to answer the question without consulting their Bibles:
life began at conception. Frog life, bovine life, human life. But in
those days nobody had any axes to grind, so nobody denied or evaded
the obvious. "When does
life begin?" became a mystery only with the emergence of a political
interest in killing the unborn.
Still later, the pro-abortion — alias "pro-choice" —
crowd decided that abortion, far from being a necessary evil, was a
positive good, which the state should not only tolerate but support,
encourage, subsidize, maximize. Taxpayers should be forced to pay
for abortions. They should have no more "choice" than the
How did the pro-abortion position evolve from the necessary evil
position to the positive good position? Easy. The Court arbitrarily
ruled that the U.S. Constitution shelters abortion. Did the Court cite
any passage in the Constitution saying so? No. Did it find any evidence
that the Framers hoped to protect abortion? No. Did it name any justice
of the Court, even the most liberal, who had ever claimed constitutional
protection for abortion before 1973? No. It merely discovered, all
of a sudden, that the abortion laws of all 50 states had been violating
the Constitution all along, even when nobody suspected it.
This fantastic ruling generated a new debate about the "original
intent" of the Constitution. Liberals argued that "original
intent" didn't matter or was unknowable anyway. The Constitution
didn't have a single fixed meaning; it "evolved" over time.
Any interpretation was bound to be more or less "subjective" —
yet somehow the Court's subjective rulings had the binding force of
This amounted to saying that the Constitution means whatever today's
liberal interpreters choose to say it means. If that were so, there
would be no point in having a written constitution, or for that matter
any written law. We would be defenseless against legal sophistry, especially
the sophistry of self-aggrandizing power. That's the perfect prescription
for tyranny, the opposite of the rule of law.
Anti-abortion forces thought they had a winning issue when they raised
the subject of the agony the aborted child may suffer, as rendered
visible in films of aborted fetuses. The pro-abortion crowd replied
— when they didn't just ignore the question — that nobody really knew
whether abortion caused pain. But when the issue of late-term (or "partial-birth")
abortion emerged, it transpired that they didn't care at all whether
a fully developed baby suffered when its skull was crushed and evacuated.
The Court agreed. It had originally made quibbling distinctions among
first, second, and third trimesters of pregnancy, holding that a state
might protect a child in the third trimester, when it had achieved "viability" and
was capable of living outside the womb. But now the viability pretext
was discarded. Killing the unborn was constitutionally protected at
every stage between conception and live birth.
Right from the start, the pro-abortion movement has been defined
by shifting arguments, fallacies, evasions, lame excuses, and utter
bad faith. The Court has not only acted as part of that movement, but
has been its greatest asset, sparing it the need for persuasion by
imposing its arbitrary will on the entire United States — and in the
name of the Constitution it actually despises.
Copyright © 2012 by the Fitzgerald
Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved. This column was published originally
by Griffin Internet Syndicate on January 15, 2002.
Joe Sobran was an author and a syndicated columnist. See bio
and archives of some of his columns.
Watch Sobran's last TV appearance on YouTube.
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during the FGF Tribute to Joe Sobran in December 2009.
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