Now that the dust has settled and we have had a chance to absorb the Supreme Court's recent decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld the facial constitutional validity of the national ban on partial birth abortion, we can step back and assess the significance of the Court's decision. In the immediate aftermath of the decision, some in the pro-life community hailed it as a huge advance, while others who support abortion decried it as a major setback.
Unfortunately, it is neither.
At best, this decision represents a small step forward in our long struggle to protect the lives of unborn children. While it is significant that this is a step forward, it would be excessively optimistic to imagine that the Carhart ruling has paved the way for the overturning of Roe v. Wade. What is clear from the opinion is that the court continues to use the principles of Roe and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, as its benchmarks for measuring the constitutionality of abortion legislation. Carhart does nothing to erode these cases, which have bedeviled the pro-life community and led to the destruction of tens of millions of unborn children.
In a nutshell, the Court continues to labor under the assumption that the individual living in a mother's womb is something other than a human being. No amount of legal precedents can change the medical, scientific, and ethical reality: the fetus is both alive and it is human. It is human life. There is absolutely no logical reason why this human life should not be protected under the law. The Supreme Court of the United States does not have the authority to redefine the nature of reality, and simply because it has a history of redefining reality does not mean it should continue to do so. The logic of Roe and Casey must be rejected.
Personhood and humanity are not a function of age, size or location. The progeny of human beings are human beings. One may be a young human being as opposed to an old one, or a small one instead of a big one, but they are human beings nonetheless. Nothing magical happens between the time when a baby is in the womb at one moment, and outside the womb at the next. There is no mystery about what lies within a woman's womb. It is not a goldfish or a grasshopper. It is a human being. Until the court acknowledges that an unborn child is truly a "person" (and thereby entitled to the protections that are accorded to other persons in our constitutional republic), unborn children will continue to be destroyed at the whim of their mothers.
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