Ending Roe v. Wade

by Beacon Staff • November 16, 2005

There's nothing like a Supreme Court nomination to bring the complicated issue of abortion to the forefront of political debate. Since President George W. Bush tapped Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Samuel Alito for the nation's highest court on Oct. 31, there has been a great deal of discussion about how the latest high court candidate views Roe v. Wade and abortion.

Make no mistake, there is no longer any intelligent debate about the Roe v. Wade decision.

There is only political lobbying inspired by the intensely emotional arguments from advocates and politicians regarding abortion-not the legal basis for the court decision.

Millions are poured into campaigns and ads on both sides to support or oppose nominees on the basis of their feelings on abortion and nothing else.

What is worse, however, is that ever since one of President Ronald Reagan's nominees, Robert Bork, was voted down- because he did the unthinkable and let senators know exactly what he thought about Roe v. Wade and other settled cases- Supreme Court nominees have been increasingly reluctant to comment on hot button judicial issues such as abortion.

Therefore, pro-life and pro-choice advocacy groups end up going to great lengths to support or oppose nominees based on the way they think they might vote. That is an absurd system.

Candidates are always sure to say that there would be no litmus test if they had a chance to nominate someone for the bench. Anyone can plainly see this isn't true, and the litmus test they use before all others is based on Roe v. Wade.

This makes a joke out of the serious process of determining whether someone is fit to serve on the powerful Supreme Court.

I believe the Supreme Court should overturn Roe v. Wade. Many people will read that and label me a fanatic pro-lifer, but I am pro-choice and, in fact, feel there are too many restrictions on abortion.

Which is precisely my point-the issue of the court's justification for the decision and the debate over abortion should be entirely separate. When taking a step back from one's personal feelings on this emotional issue, it becomes clear that with Roe, the court found a very questionable constitutional right, linking the medical procedure of abortion with a right to privacy contained, to some extent, in several amendments.

The fourth amendment assures a "right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures." The function of the Supreme Court is to interpret the Constitution.

I understand it is difficult to imagine a nation without Roe. For many women, the thought is frightening. But an overturned Roe does not mean a nationwide ban on abortion, as many seem to believe.

It means the debate goes back to the state legislature, where it belongs. It's not the court's place to legislate these judgment calls. That is the function of the people, represented by their elected officials.

I also understand that an overturned Roe v. Wade may seem like a victory for the religious right and conservative Republicans.

The former will certainly see it that way, but there is nothing Republican lawmakers want less than a 50-state fight over abortion.

Traditionally representing the party of states' rights, they would put on their best victory faces in public, but politically it would be a nightmare and they know it.

Polls show that the majority of Americans supports some abortion restrictions, while a minority wants to ban the measure altogether.

Some conservative states may go that far, but I don't believe the issue would simply break down along red state/blue state lines.

So those of us who consider ourselves pro-choice should stop treating Roe v. Wade as if it were the foundation of our democracy and instead do what the pro-life movement isn't doing-considering the long-term consequences of a short-term political goal. I say let them have this one.

As a judicial decision, Roe v. Wade is a mess anyway, so we might as well do the right thing and give Karl Rove a headache at the same time.

Let's take the fight to the states. It's the last thing they want.

Patrick Boyle is a sophomore organizational and political communication major and a contributer to The Beacon.