Monday, January 22, 2024

Wrong, wrong, wrong. . .

When the issue of abortion came before the Supreme Court, America was already in the throes of revolution.  It was the best of times and the worst of times.  We were preparing to exit Vietnam and the tumultuous times of race riots, the sexual revolution, and political crisis.  At that moment the SCOTUS was handed a case no one wanted.  Roe v Wade ending up being not merely a stab at morality in morally uncertain times but an attempt to answer the question with science.  We knew where things were headed in a world where the pill was becoming a thing and there was no more stigma attached to other means of birth control.  We wanted the right to practice sex safe from the unwanted burden of pregnancy.  The court was not only going to apply simply a moral judgment but some objective criteria to support its reasoning -- science.  At that very “point in the development of man’s knowledge,” as Justice Harry Blackmun put it in Roe, the science did not fail but those using it did.  Now, looking through the rear view mirror, we realize that we were not quite ready for the bigger questions -- like when was the point at which life began?   So how could you decide if the fetus was a person or that person was really alive or if that person really alive deserved all the legal protection afforded life in the law.  Now we know so much more but we have also become accustomed to -- dare I say addicted to -- the idea that we will decide for ourselves such weighty matters.

As the SCOTUS reconsidered Roe, the science had changed.  Not the politics but the science had.  We were nowhere near a consensus but now we know that the science that once under girded the argument for abortion has changed dramatically .  No, maybe the science cannot address the morality of it all but it surely has informed us of things we did not know then but know now about that life growing in the womb.  The technology of the ultrasound so new to the 1970s has become absolutely normal, reliable, and trustworthy.  With those machines we have discovered that what lies in the womb is not some faceless clump of cells but the image of a child startlingly real to a culture that wanted it to be fake.  Now we take those ultrasound pictures and pass them around with all the photos of childhood.  The fetus has become a child to us -- even to the promoters of abortion -- and it has changed things profoundly.   Viability of the fetus outside the womb has changed dramatically.  The smallest of infants have survived their delivery from the safety of the womb into a world they were not quite ready for.  If the court had the science of today perhaps the abortion decision might have been different.  Who knows?  But the end result of voting on abortion laws has become an oddly unsettling and eerily strange thing.  It the fetus in Ohio not a baby or life deserving of protection but it is in Tennessee? 

Now we are in a new phase of the the thing.  Abortion no longer rests upon science nor does it rest upon morality.  It all boils down to the individual -- both the individual person deciding whether or not to abort and the individual state laws applying to that individual.  We may have won in the court but we are losing in the ballot boxes of America -- largely because there are those who do not want a choice to be determined by science that may not support their position or by morality applied to them without their consent.  If it was hard to undo the Supreme Court decision, it will be even harder to undo the hardness of hearts who refuse to believe in the science or the morality.  That is where we fight now -- for the minds and hearts of adults in America.

No comments: