Re-reading what the New York Times said about Roe v. Wade is great motivation
By Dave Andrusko
Quick but important note. We are literally printing as I write this, but you still have time to order additional copies of NRL News’ 2012 Election Issue. But don’t wait another day to purchase them, especially to distribute to wavering friends and family members (www.nationalrighttolifenews.org/news/2012/10/have-you-ordered-your-national-right-to-life-news-election-special-issue-yet).
Inside you will find an ad for National Right to Life News’s January 2013 edition commemorating the 40th anniversary of the hideous January 22, 1973, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions. As we put the current issue of NRL News together, I was reminded that it’s been years since I’d read the New York Times story that ran the next day after Roe and Doe were handed down, or the Times editorial that followed on the 24th. Here’s why I think it’s worth your time and mine to ponder what was said.
Naturally the news story minimized the impact of Roe and Doe (as did the editorial). “Doe” explained what “Roe” meant by the “health” exception. Justice Harry Blackmun offered a carte blanche definition but just how expansive a “liberty” he found lurking in various “penumbras” was not entirely clear for several more years.
But it was the editorial that is most relevant to us today, as we approach the anniversary of four decades of the methodical annihilation of defenseless unborn babies.
The Times synopsized its take in the first three sentences:
“The Supreme Court has made a major contribution to the preservation of individual liberties and of free decision-making by its invalidation of state laws inhibiting a woman’s right to obtain an abortion in its first three months of pregnancy.
“The Courts seven-to-two ruling could bring to an end the emotional and divisive public argument over what always should have been an intensely private and personal matter. It will end the argument if those who are now inveighing against the decision as a threat to civilization’s survival will pause long enough to recognize the limits of what the Court has done.”
The Times, it should be noted, helped to establish early on the myth that Roe “only” allowed abortion in the first trimester. The newspaper was hardly alone, but the Times is immensely influential today, even more so then.
And as part of its self-assigned role as cultural arbiter, the Times announced that it was time to move on—“bring to an end the emotional and divisive public argument over what always should have been an intensely private and personal matter.” Indeed the editorial came full circle in its final paragraph: “The Court’s verdict on abortion provides a sound foundation for final and reasonable resolution of a debate that has divided America too long.”
That almost sounds quaint now, and no doubt there was some of the wish being father to the thought in the Times’ imperious pronouncement.
But think about the situation 40 years ago. Pro-abortionists wielded almost total control of the media (much smaller in number and variety than today), headed much of the philanthropic community, held almost total sway in academia—plus the SUPREME COURT had just made its pronouncement which Chief Justice Warren Burger insisted “Plainly, the court today rejects any claim that the Constitution requires abortion on demand.” With such a purportedly “modest” accommodation, backed by all the right people and powerful institutions, the Times could be forgiven for expecting that we would blindly fall down in submissive agreement.
For pro-lifers, of course, Roe was not a stop sign, but a wake-up call. We forget how radical the decision was and how few people anticipated how in throwing out the bath water—the abortion statutes of all 50 states—that the Court would be throwing out the lives of over 54 million babies as well.
But for me, the most irritating, condescending passage came in the third paragraph from the end of the editorial:
“Nothing in the Court’s approach ought to give affront to persons who oppose all abortions for reasons of religion or individual conviction. They can stand as firmly as ever for those principles, provided they do not seek to impede the freedom of those with an opposite view.”
And by “impeding,” the Times meant failure to hang our heads and promptly go home. Pro-lifers said thank you very much, but we are going to work tirelessly until the day comes that legal protection is returned to the littlest Americans. The opinion of seven unelected justices can hold sway for a time, but not forever, provided we do our job.
So instead of giving up, we vowed to pass laws at the state and federal level; to educate from early in the morning till late at night; to provide women in crisis pregnancies with moral and material support; and most of all to shout from the housetops that there MUST be a better way.
Be sure to order extra copies of the Election Issue in which you will find instructions how to order many, many additional copies of National Right to Life News’s January 2013 edition commemorating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton.
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