In this vortex of fear about a near future in which there would simply be too many people on earth to feed, abortion seemed almost scientific, at least to those short-sighted enough to belief Ehrlich and his ilk. But we now know there was no “population bomb” (nor are there “too many Asians”). Yes, the population has grown, but famines and starvation did not. Instead, life expectancy and average incomes rose due to trade, technology, and free enterprise – not population control.
Third, the Justices in Roe “thought they were riding a wave of cultural sentiment in favor of abortion,” says Forsythe. They never anticipated the backlash – the push for constitutional amendments, the thousands of people who march on the Supreme Court every anniversary of Roe, or the way the decision dominates the nomination process for Supreme Court Justices.
The Justices made America one of only four countries where women can get an abortion for any reason after viability – the other countries are Canada, China, and North Korea – but polling for the past forty years shows that most Americans want abortion to be legal only in “certain circumstances” before viability. In September 2011, 62% of respondents in a CNN poll supported making all or most abortions illegal. Only 9% of Americans think abortion should be legal for any reason at any time.
Among the influences on public opinion the Justices did not anticipate is the modern ultrasound. As the mother of two, I didn’t need a philosophy treatise to tell me that the child whose ultrasound picture hung on my refrigerator was a living human being. It is a shame that Roe was decided by old men who had likely never seen an ultrasound photograph, and it’s unfortunate that they were subject to misinformation about women’s health, population control, and popular sentiment.