It is a little known fact that there was laughter in the United States Supreme Court 40 years ago during the Roe v. Wade hearings. Thought to be the youngest person ever to win a Supreme Court case, then 26 year old Sarah Weddington, the attorney for “Roe”, briefly lost her composure in a choked bout of chuckles before the court. She laughed alone that day, however, and every single citizen in our nation ought to hear what was said, particularly in light of this month’s Alabama Supreme Court ruling that “unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law.”
When Justice Harry A. Blackmun asked whether Mrs. Weddington felt there is any “inconsistency” in Court decisions against the “death penalty with respect to convicted murderers and rapists at one end of lifespan, and [her] position in this case at the other end of lifespan,” she replied that it has “never been established that the fetus is a person or that it’s entitled to the Fourteenth Amendment rights or the protection of the constitution.” It was clear to the court, even back then, that the case depended on the “fetus” having “constitutional rights.”
Justice Potter Stewart pressed further, “Well, if it were established that an unborn fetus is a person within the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment, you would have almost an impossible case here, would you not?” Mrs. Weddington replied, “I would have a very difficult case.” And then she laughed nervously. Justice Stewart, not laughing at all, continued that this is akin to ruling that if a “mother thought that it bothered her health having the child around, she could have it killed.” Mrs. Weddington said, “That’s correct,” and declined any further response.
Our laws still, chillingly, reflect this inconsistency. On the one hand, we have the almost decade long 2004 Unborn Victims of Violence Act which federally recognizes a “child in utero” as a legal “victim” if he or she is injured or killed by crimes of violence, and laws such as the one decided in Alabama this month that recognize “unborn children are persons with rights that should be protected by law.” On the other hand, we have abortion for all nine months of pregnancy and impunity for the ones that kill those children, children who are not even guaranteed the protections given to convicted murderers and rapists in some states. It was not funny 40 years ago, and it is still no laughing matter. These are children being killed. Aren’t children people too?
Have you ever listened to the Roe vs. Wade arguments?
Click the play button, it will start at ~20:00 minutes into Mrs. Weddington’s arguments (the attorney for Roe). The clip is only ~4 minutes, but be sure to listen from 23:30 – 24:30. The whole recording is found here. It is a piece of history, a tragic one. This is how it was argued that a mother has a right to kill her own child 40 years ago.