This Friday marks the 37th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision in the United States Supreme Court, arguably the most controversial and politically significant case in the history of our country’s highest court.
In effect, this precedent repudiated state and federal restrictions on abortion that were in place at the time, prompting a national debate that continues even to this very day.
For those, like myself, born well after the fact, it’s rather difficult to imagine the socio-political influence of this case, to say nothing of the cultural implications.
I have to admit that I rely heavily upon the work of scholars and historians to gain a foothold in understanding, and I’m sure that my own perception of the effects is irrevocably tied to having come late to the game.
Roe v. Wade has impacted everything from personal relationships amongst individuals to the religious relationships of entire congregations.
Moreover, the striation of the political landscape can be easily delineated between Democrats (largely in favor of legal abortions) Republicans (largely against legal abortions), in addition to motivating strong grassroots efforts on either side of the debate.
For those of my younger readers, I would encourage this little thought experiment: imagine a time whereupon the differences between being “conservative” and “liberal” were largely based upon one’s views of economic theory.
Or better: imagine a time when urban Roman Catholics, not suburban Protestants, were the vocal vanguard against an issue that rarely found its way into the Op-Ed columns of national papers.
As is often the case with political issues that so sharply prick one’s own sense of moral outrage, abortion has contributed to a significant amplification of the national dialogue.
I have been at a function amongst extended family members when the matter was broached, to see individuals of shared surname and blood relation who held opposing viewpoints all but physically assault each other.
So passionately does this issue yet remain with us these 37 years later.
As an individual who flatters himself to think that he considers even trivial subjects deeply, and deeper matters all the more so, I continue to intellectually “rake myself over the coals” when I examine my own point-of-view.
With that said, I confess that I am passionately against taking the life of an unborn child.
However, I have also worked with low-income or poverty-stricken single-parent households, to whom another “mouth to feed” represents another “burden” on an already broken federal welfare system.
Individuals of various ideological stripes have hijacked abortion, reinterpreting it to suit the framework of their own worldview.
For those holding to a modern feministic perspective, abortion represents the logical outworking of “reproductive rights” with catchy soundbites like “safe, affordable, and rare” but at what cost?
As a minister, I have counseled women that remain traumatized decades after the fact, and others who have learned that there is nothing more expensive than regret.
For those, like myself, who oppose abortion on the moral grounds that the taking of human life violates the teaching of our faith, how do we yet ignore the many other clear teachings of our faith?
What are we doing for the millions upon millions of unwanted children that were carried to full-term, and yet are now growing up “in the system” of foster care and the like?
How many children are available for adoption in this country? In this world?
I know of plenty of earnest and well-meaning believers who will stand in a picket line for hours at an abortion clinic, while seeming to forget the child born to a single or teenage mother in the same town.
Our churches build vast steeples and new ornate structures of stained-glass and steel, while millions of single-parents work two different part-time jobs to make ends meet.
Verily, on either side of this debate, contradictions abound.
I hold that the issue of abortion remains a blight upon this nation… a nation that claims that those born under its star-spangled banner are endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
For where one of them is forfeit, the other two are rendered void.