How Much Do You Know About Roe?

US Supreme Court building We couldn’t let this week pass without posting on a significant op-ed that appeared in this Tuesday’s Chicago Sun-Times. The appearance of John O’Sullivan’s article, “Do you really know our abortion law?” in a major daily newspaper is quite a coup, as untold thousands of people learned for the first time how radical the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions really were. Here’s a sample:

Most Americans, let alone most European sophisticates, have no idea that the landmark Supreme Court decision, Roe vs. Wade, establishing a constitutional right to abortion, means that a woman can obtain an abortion right up to the moment of her baby’s birth. When this claim is advanced, they point out that Roe specifically insists that states may regulate abortion in the second trimester and prohibit it in the third trimester. But Roe also states that states can neither ban nor regulate abortion in cases where a doctor certifies that a woman’s life or health would be adversely affected. And in a second Supreme Court judgment, Doe vs. Bolton, delivered that same day, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote that the doctor’s medical judgment should be exercised “in the light of all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient.” In brief: unfettered choice posing as a clinical decision. Roe and Doe together allow a woman and her doctor to have a legal abortion for any reason at any time before birth, and arguably even during birth. The courts have confirmed this in countless cases, but especially in those striking down state and federal laws to prohibit or regulate “partial birth abortion” — i.e., the procedure in which a baby is partly delivered and, while in the birth canal, has his or her skull crushed and his or her brains sucked out. Most Americans don’t know this is the legal. If they did, they would oppose it. A Gallup Poll in 2003 found that 68 percent of Americans thought that abortion should be “generally illegal” in the second trimester, let alone the third. This popular opposition is growing slowly but steadily. Today the single most accurate way of describing the opinion of the American people is as follows: “Most Americans oppose most abortions.”

Read the whole thing. Also of interest: Blogger Timothy P. Carney’s work in progress titled Pro-choice Criticisms of Roe

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