News Analysis

Editor: Roe collapsed under shifting sand of societal change

Republished from Hoover.org

By Guy Page

Since the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the societal earth on which the legalization of abortion rested in January 1973 has since shifted considerably. 

Houses built on shifting sand tend to fall down. Court decisions based not on constitutional principle but on the perceived needs and wants of contemporary society likewise deserve to come a ‘tumbling down. 

Those of us caught up in the zeitgeist of the early 1970’s remember the panic over the Global Population Bomb, the shame felt by the Unwed Mother and her family, and the either/or “better of two evils” choice of ‘safe, legal’ surgical abortions or back alley quackery by coat hanger.  

Abortion is not a simple black hats-white hats issue. People of compassion on both sides need to work together to help mothers in crisis. Still, a half-century later, none of the reasons listed above are still compelling.  

1) Population control is no longer a driving concern. The Burlington Free Press reported in May, 2018 that live births in Vermont in 2017 were the lowest since 1857, the culmination of a 30-year decline. Vermont is now paying young people to come here because there aren’t enough workers. First-world fertility is already below the level of replacement in most countries. The UN expects worldwide fertility to stabilize or decline after 2050.  

The dreaded population bomb fizzled. The world eats more now than ever, thanks to  the Green Revolution driven by technology that didn’t exist in 1973. As for the future – last November the Vermont Artificial Intelligence Commission discussed how robotics are likely to improve productivity on Vermont farms. 

2) Shame is no longer a driving concern. I was 15 on Jan. 22, 1973. I remember that back then, young people who were gay, dating interracially, or pregnant were ostracized. I remember it well. 46 years later, society has changed. We now use the term “baby daddy” and “baby momma” to describe the parents to children born out of wedlock. CDC figures show that in Vermont, 39.8% of children are born to unwed mothers – and that’s on the low side, nationally. Most states are firmly in the mid-40%. For better or worse, societal shaming of unwed mothers has gone out the window. 

3) Contraception access, knowledge and options have increased. I’m not an expert, but I think today’s girls and boys generally know more and can get contraception more easily than in 1973. By state law, every Vermont middle school and above is required to offer contraceptives and contraception training.  

4) Most abortions are now chemical, not surgical. Non-sanctioned pills are notoriously easy to obtain via mail or UPS – ivermectin, anyone?

5) Thanks to science, we know more about the individuality of the fetus. (All hail the ultrasound machine!) Compared to now, in 1973 there was a greater perception that a fetus was a mere mass of cells indistinct from its mother. 

We know more about fetal DNA, its many unique differences from its mother, its pain sensitivity. Viability after premature birth has greatly increased. Yet while awareness of individuality has increased, still this bill insists the fetus is a nonperson. That subjective judgment has terrible resonance in humanity’s history and terrible future implications not only for the unwanted fetus, but for all categories of individuals deemed unwanted by society. 

Human justice is built on the bedrock that it is wrong to take an innocent life. Every angry bit of spray-painted or verbal graffiti uttered since 10:11 AM last Friday morning ignores the glaringly obvious: Momma’s carrying a human life worthy of legal protection. 

S57, the state law enshrining an absolute right to abortion at any stage in fetal development, under any circumstances, acknowledges the right to choose or refuse sterilization. This is a tacit recognition that a past Vermont Legislature, in 1931, got it wrong – horribly and historically wrong – when it legalized compulsory sterilization on those deemed incompetent to choose for themselves. Four years ago, with a sense of shame UVM voted to remove the name of eugenics supporter and former president Guy Bailey from Bailey-Howe Library. Two years ago, the Legislature followed suit by publicly apologizing for previous legislatures legalizing eugenics.

Vermont’s abortion law might someday receive similar condemnation by our more enlightened descendents. 

The author is editor of Vermont Daily Chronicle and father of three adopted children.

Categories: News Analysis

8 replies »

  1. Thanks, Guy, a breath of the fresh air of a reasoned approach is so very welcome. With close to half a century of additional medical/human research, we certainly do know more now about birth control and the suffering of unborn babies.

  2. Well stated Guy…I hate to comment but still..As now everyone has (almost) internet access & those who want to see the “procedure” just use Duckduckgo search engine & look up “graphic abortion videos” if you dare..Roe specified “1st Trimester” I believe but “they”, as always, pushed this thing TOO far, including & up until birth.. Even written descriptions are horrific. We are a Republic of democratically elected states which is where this should have been decided, local rep.’s being closest to their constituents, but Roe took that away creating a right to “privacy” that began with the Griswold decision that is NOT in the Constitution. I would think that “privacy” would be covered by the 4th Amendment as people “shall be secure in their PERSONS, papers, & possessions”, no? And that being said surveys show most of the USA believes in some form of “choice” AND in some form of limitations..The “right to an abortion at any stage”? Maybe Guy’s right about the old Eugenics Laws, the “feeble minded”, etc..Maybe we WILL look back on this shamefully, if there IS any “shame” left, as no matter what proponents say, a life IS ended in the “procedure” and that cannot be denied.

    • Thanks, Steve, I think anyone even hearing a description of one of those “graphic abortion videos” would never be able to get the images out of their mind.

      • We had shock and awe over the horrific medical experiments of the Nazis and Dr. Mengele who experimented on children and twins, but we turn our heads and think not of a baby mutilated in the whom! What kind of monster can perform these gruesome procedures? Many will probably come to Vermont to set up shop to create the new killing fields. I’m not proud of my state if this Article 22 is accepted. No excuses now that contraception is readily available.

    • I am one who believes a woman has a right to choose….to a point, and that point ends after the 1st trimester and I 100% agree…..they pushed it too far; and we now see the results of doing so……with very good reason. I’m not sure I want to look at a video; but I will just to be better educated…..thank you Steve Merrill for a thoughtful piece of writing

    • Steve Merrill states “I believe but “they”, as always, pushed this thing TOO far, including & up until birth.”………This is straw that has broken the camel’s back and made abortion unconstitutional in my view.

      There cannot be constitutional protection for committing infanticide and that’s where the far left extremists have pushed abortion…….It’s wrong, it’s immoral and should not be able to continue with constitutional protections……..Even Bill Clinton said “Abortion should be legal, safe and rare”.

      The abortion activists and even some state legislatures and governors have lost their morals and common sense on abortion and their views do not deserve protection from the Constitution.

  3. I like that you have stated that this is not a black-hats vs. white-hats issue and persons from all viewpoints need to come together with compassio. I would say, perhaps for each other, but mostly for those women who want to have children and for those who do not. Forcing an unwanted pregnancy on a woman for nine months, or forcing birth of an unwanted child are issues that go way beyond the narrow question of abortion or no-abortion. A woman does not become pregnant all by herself. Any burden imposed on the woman must be shared by the father or this is hypocrisy. Obviously, the burden would be very different, but pregnancy does not occur except for the man. In the whole picture, sex education, family planning, and availability of contraception is the obvious precursor. Support of the pregnant woman and child care availability after birth also need to be part of the picture, especially in cases where financial situation is a factor. Violence and trauma are becoming increasing issues for this country and are definitely part of the big picture here, both for a pregnant woman, and the child of an unwanted, forced birth. I have not read the Supreme Court decision, but it does not appear that they have exercised the wisdom that I would expect, and many states appear to be enacting legislation that is hard to believe and seems aimed at appealing to extreme political purposes. We live in a complex world and we have the intelligence that God gave us to use that intelligence in a compassionate way that leads to healthier, psychologically well kids and adults, and greater happiness for all. Where we are now, is more than a step in the opposite direction.

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