Say Not the Struggle Naught Availeth

In a sensitive area such as this, involving as it does issues over which reasonable men may easily and heatedly differ, I cannot accept the Court’s exercise of its clear power of choice by interposing a constitutional barrier to state efforts to protect human life and by investing mothers and doctors with the constitutionally protected right to extinguish it.

                                  Justice Byron White-Dissent in Roe v. Wade (January 22, 1973)


SAY not the struggle naught availeth,

The labour and the wounds are vain,

 The enemy faints not, nor faileth,

And as things have been they remain.

 If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;  

  It may be, in yon smoke conceal’d,

Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers,   

And, but for you, possess the field.

 For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,

   Seem here no painful inch to gain,

Far back, through creeks and inlets making,   

 Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,

When daylight comes, comes in the light;

In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly!  

  But westward, look, the land is bright

Arthur Hugh Clough

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Pray for the conversion of sinners and America. And, you won’t be going to Heaven if you vote democrat PERIOD.

  2. My great admiration for Byron White is tempered somewhat by his decision to wait to retire until a Democrat was President and could nominate his successor (White having been nominated by a Democrat, JFK). The result was Justice Ginsburg or Justice Breyer, I forget which. The result was replacing an anti-Roe Justice with a pro-Roe Justice.

    With the Court’s current split likely to be 5-4 in favor of upholding Roe, such choices as White’s make a big difference. A pity he didn’t give as much thought to how his replacement would come down on the issue as did some of the pro-Roe Republican appointees who waited to retire until a pro-Roe Democrat president could appoint their successors.

  3. Jay, I’ve heard it said that Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson and others were pro-life until the political wind shifted the other way. Could White have been affected similarly, in which case it might have been a calculated decision to wait rather than something to which he didn’t give much thought?

  4. Could White have been affected similarly, in which case it might have been a calculated decision to wait rather than something to which he didn’t give much thought?

    Doubtful, Brian. He voted with the minority in Casey vs. Planned Parenthood. That was the Supreme Court case upholding Roe when Justices Souter, O’Conner and Kennedy joined in on what is, in my opinion, the most horrendous decision ever handed down by the Court. White joined with Thomas, Scalia, and Rehnquist in wanting to overturn Roe. The case was decided in 1992, a year or two before White retired.

  5. Thank you Paul. In light of that, his decision to want to be replaced by a democrat appointee seems odd.

  6. White was always a firm vote against Roe. He also indicated that he felt most comfortable during his tenure at the Supreme Court during the Rehnquist court. White was in good health when he retired, but he was 76 and I wonder if he just thought that it was time to go. Here is a section from his dissent in Thornburgh v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (1986)

    “If the woman’s liberty to choose an abortion is fundamental, then, it is not because any of our precedents (aside from Roe itself) command or justify that result; it can only be because protection for this unique choice is itself “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty” or, perhaps, “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition.” It seems clear to me that it is neither. The Court’s opinion in Roe itself convincingly refutes the notion that the abortion liberty is deeply rooted in the history or tradition of our people, as does the continuing and deep division of the people themselves over the question of abortion. As for the notion that choice in the matter of abortion is implicit in the concept of ordered liberty, it seems apparent to me that a free, egalitarian, and democratic society does not presuppose any particular rule or set of rules with respect to abortion. And again, the fact that many men and women of good will and high commitment to constitutional government place themselves on both sides of the abortion controversy strengthens my own conviction that the values animating the Constitution do not compel recognition of the abortion liberty as fundamental. In so denominating that liberty, the Court engages not in constitutional interpretation, but in the unrestrained imposition of its own, extraconstitutional value preferences.”

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