Getting to know Jane Roe

The plaintiff in Roe v. Wade changed her mind on abortion, so should the Supreme Court.

Never trust anyone over 30. That was the call to arms for a generation of anti-establishment types. I would adjust this statement only slightly. “Never trust an abortionist older than 32.” Anyone older than 32 had their gestation protected by law. Their lives were legally defined without ambiguity.

Whenever anyone of such vintage lectures me on a woman’s right to choose to end her pregnancy, I simply make that point. They overwhelmingly believe their parents would not have aborted them even if they had the legal right. But one in four pregnancies today ends in abortion. Imagine if one in four people older than 32 had never existed – that is what has been done to our generation.

Luckily, some people do understand this; Norma McCorvey is one. You might not know her; she was Jane Roe. Roe, as in Roe v. Wade. McCorvey was the young woman pushing for the right to end her pregnancy. She succeeded. For some time she carried the guilt of the abortion holocaust, but in 1995 she was baptized and found her salvation. Now she works to undo a 32-year-old wrong.

Last week, McCorvey and her attorney filed a petition for writ of certiorari under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60. This rule allows the original participant of a court case to seek review and reversal of it if the ruling is unjust. Certainly, of the Supreme Court’s many failures, Roe v. Wade is among the most flagrant examples of judicial legislation.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist, then an associate justice, made the case in his dissent. Rehnquist wrote, “The Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment undoubtedly does place a limit, albeit a broad one, on legislative power to enact laws such as this. If the Texas statute were to prohibit an abortion even where the mother’s life is in jeopardy, I have little doubt that such a statute would lack a rational relation to a valid state objective Ö But the Court’s sweeping invalidation of any restrictions on abortion during the first trimester is impossible to justify Ö (T)he conscious weighing of competing factors that the Court’s opinion apparently substitutes for the established test is far more appropriate to a legislative judgment than to a judicial one.”

But Rehnquist was making a plea against judicial legislation; unfortunately, this is what we have for the time being.

McCorvey makes the case that we were all ill-informed. With modern medical technologies, we can delve into the darkest reaches of human development, and we can now see better than ever the humanity of the unborn. Their hearts beat inside the first month of gestation. Before the first trimester ends, the baby has brain waves and can move its limbs. Its hearing develops, it smiles and it can even feel pain later in the pregnancy.

McCorvey is also making the case for women’s health. Her writ includes documentation that suicide rates increase dramatically for women who get abortions. In her petition it is stated that, “there are about one thousand affidavits of women who have had abortions and claimed to have suffered long-term emotional damage and impaired relationships from their decisions.” Studies by scientists, offered by McCorvey, suggest women might be affected emotionally and physically for years afterward and could be more prone to engage in high-risk, self-destructive conduct as a result of having had abortions.

It was more than 32 years ago that the Supreme Court legislated from the bench the right to abortion. For those of us who do our best to proclaim the rights of the unborn to life, the conversion of McCorvey is a great victory. To know that someone who used to call herself “hard-core” when it came to abortion could be shown light gives hope to us all.

Marty Andrade welcomes comments at [email protected]