As the John Roberts' Supreme Court nomination fight opens, the predicted battle to save or kill Roe v Wade already has taken to the streets, the Internet and the media. But the 32-year-old constitutional right to an abortion may face its gravest challenge not from red state values triumphing on the Supreme Court, but from medical research being carried out in elite blue state universities and in Europe and Asia.
It is the very language of Roe that carries the seed of its own possible irrelevance within the next several years. Roe enunciated the more or less unencumbered right of a woman to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability. After viability, the right of states to regulate or prohibit abortions arise. The court defined legal viability as "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid."
But medical science is remorselessly advancing on two fronts along paths that may fairly soon seize and destroy in a scientific pincer movement the viability of Roe's reasoning.
When Roe was handed down in 1973, the survivability of prematurely born babies was not medically possible before 28 weeks of gestation. Today, babies born after only 20 weeks of gestation routinely survive -- and thus are viable under the Roe definition (and thus potentially legally safe from the abortionist's medical weapons).
But radical research may soon reduce that 20 weeks to just a few -- or perhaps no weeks. At Juntendo University of Tokyo, Dr. Yoshinori Kuwabara and his team of scientists have successfully removed goat fetuses from mother goats and placed them in tanks of amniotic fluid stabilized at goat body temperature, while connecting the baby goat's umbilical cord to machines that pump in nutrients and dispose of waste.
The purpose of Dr. Kuwabara's research is to provide a safe home for human fetuses prematurely expelled from the mother's womb. According to the British Guardian newspaper, it is expected that such methods capable of sustaining a child for the full nine months "will become reality in a few years."
Meanwhile, at Cornell University's Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility, Dr. Hung-Ching Liu and her team of scientists have been approaching the problem of fetal out-of-womb survival from the other side. She is developing a full artificial womb that can receive a just-conceived embryo -- with the hope that it will successfully gestate for the full nine months.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.