Roe v. Wade
Mary Ann Glendon, Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard, is in the limelight now for her decision to deprive Jenkins of his fig-leaf over his invitation to honor Obama on May 17, 2009. I am not surprised by this development. She has long been an eloquent defender of the unborn in a completely hostile environment. She has written many articles on the subject.
Hattip to the ever eagle eyed Jay Anderson at Pro Ecclesia. Justice Antonin Scalia on stare decisis and Roe. By the way, Scalia’s low estimate of Roe as a legal opinion is pretty nearly universal in the legal world. Liberal attorneys and judges, even though they support abortion on demand, will frequently agree in private, and sometimes in public, that Roe was a shoddy piece of legal work, and that Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe, was a poor excuse for a jurist. This of course does not prevent them from supporting Roe since they approve of the result, but it does mean that all of the many cases following Roe are based on an intellectually, and of course constitutionally, rotten foundation. We can see this in the opinions that strain to make sense of Roe, which, as Judge Bork famously noted, is completely devoid of legal argument.
In the course of the 2008 presidential campaign, a small group of Catholic and Evangelical Protestant intellectuals and activists, while saying that they personally support legal protection for the unborn and oppose the redefinition of marriage, promoted the candidacy of Barack Obama, who made no secret of his intention to wipe out the entire range of laws restricting or discouraging abortion and embryo-destructive research, or of his opposition to all state and federal initiatives (such as California Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act) to preserve marriage as the union of a man and a woman. These men and women assured their fellow Christians and other social conservatives that Obama’s economic policies would reduce the incidence of abortion, and they promised that Obama was being honest when he said that he was opposed to “same-sex marriage.”
Despite these assurances, we fear that the Obama administration will swiftly begin an assault on pro-life laws and pro-marriage policies.
As is observed every time we discuss Supreme Court appointments, there is very little pro-life progress possible under the Roe v. Wade regime, because anything which is seen as unduly obstructing a woman’s access to terminate her pregnancy (and thus use her constitutional right to “privacy”) is struck down by the courts. And yet, while abortion on demand is decidedly not popular according to the polls, Roe v. Wade mysteriously is. A solid majority of people way they want to keep Roe v. Wade, despite the fact that a solid majority would also be in favor of legal restrictions on abortion well in excess of what Roe allows.
It seems to me that one of the most difficult tasks for the pro-life movement is thus not to convince the population that abortion should be seriously restricted and reduced (banning would right now be a very hard sell, but it would seem that a great deal of progress in that direction would be possible) but rather to convince citizens that Roe is actually an obstacle to this. Thus, “the fair fight initiative”. The purpose would be (and the lawyers on here can inform me if this is indeed a legal possibility) for Congress to pass a law which would officially remove from the federal government (legislature and courts) any ability to restrict or allow abortion.
One of the most common complaints directed at pro-lifers is that they are trying to overturn a Supreme Court decision that is popular with the American public. In one respect, this is a fair point. Roughly sixty percent of the country, when asked, says that they would not support overturning Roe. At the same time, roughly 2/3 of people say they would prefer the type of ‘stricter limits’ on abortion that are barred by Roe and Casey.
Noting this disconnect, Peter Suderman recently suggested that pro-lifers should focus on framing Roe as a barrier to compromise on abortion.
His Eminence the polite and soft-spoken James Francis Cardinal Stafford head of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary gave a lecture on November 13 at the Keane Auditorium at Catholic University of America last week titled, “Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II: Being True in Body and Soul“. In it Cardinal Stafford critiqued President-elect Obama as “aggressive, disruptive and apocalyptic,“ and he further added that Obama ran an “extremist anti-life platform”.
Here are some highlights of his lecture:
“Because man is a sacred element of secular life,” Stafford remarked, “man should not be held to a supreme power of state, and a person’s life cannot ultimately be controlled by government.”
“For the next few years, Gethsemane will not be marginal. We will know that garden,” Stafford said, comparing America’s future with Obama as president to Jesus’ agony in the garden. “On November 4, 2008, America suffered a cultural earthquake.”
Cardinal Stafford said Catholics must deal with the “hot, angry tears of betrayal” by beginning a new sentiment where one is “with Jesus, sick because of love.”
The lecture, hosted by the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, pertained to Humanae Vitae, a papal encyclical written by Pope Paul VI in 1968 and celebrating its 40 anniversary this year.
Stafford also spoke about the decline of a respect for human life and the need for Catholics to return to the original values of marriage and human dignity.
“If 1968 was the year of America’s ‘suicide attempt,’ 2008 is the year of America’s exhaustion,” said Stafford, an American Cardinal and Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary for the Tribunal of the Holy See. “In the intervening 40 years since Humanae Vitae, the United States has been thrown upon ruins.”
Election fever is catching everybody these days, even bishops, and since it’s so fashionable to issue clarifying statements about the 30+ page Faithful Citizenship document, Cardinal Justin Rigali (chairman of the USCCB* Committee on Pro-Life Activities) and Bishop William Murphy (chairman of the USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development) have issued a clarification about clarifications of Faithful Citizenship.
Though my tone in stating this is flip, there’s some very good material in the two page letter:
“Catholic Answers: Two books for voters who take their faith seriously”– Doug Kmiec, who has lately become something of a poster-boy and spokesman for ‘Catholics for Obama’, reviews Archbishop Chaput’s Render unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life (Doubleday, 2008) and A Nation for All How the Catholic Vision of the Common Good Can Save America from the Politics of Division , by Chris Korzen and Alexia Kelley.
As to be expected, Kmiec finds a sympathetic ear in Korzen & Kelley, given their assertion that Catholics have become ‘preoccupied’ with abortion to the subordination of peace, the environment and welfare: