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What's Wrong with Roe v Wade?

What's Wrong with Roe v Wade?

By Chuck Edwards

Legalizing Abortion On Demand

January 22, 1973 ushered into our national consciousness a new term, and a novel idea, "reproductive rights."  The event was the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, Roe v. Wade. 

But does a woman's "reproductive rights" supercede the unborn child's "right to life"? This issue has been the central point of contention for the past thirty years. To answer that question, we need to evaluate a key point raised in the original decision.


In this landmark case, Justice Blackmun, writing for the majority, stated,


"We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer."[1] 


However, contrary to its own opinion, the court did resolve this "difficult question" by refusing to affirm that a fetus during the first two trimesters is a living human being and stripping the unborn of his or her right to life. This decision thus struck down every state law regulating abortion before 24 weeks, leaving the decision to abort to the discretion of the mother and attending physician. With the addition of a broadly defined "health" clause in a companion case, Doe v. Bolton, the Justices opened the way for "abortion-on-demand" during all nine months of pregnancy. 



There are a number of compelling reasons why this arbitrary declaration of the onset of human life is flawed, and these reasons parallel the court's original statement concerning the disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology. 


First, it is well documented in embryology and other scientific texts that a human being is produced when human sperm and ovum unite, creating a new individual with a unique genetic code, differentiating it from the mother. Contrary to the Supreme Court's opinion, there is no debate in the medical science community over the fact that human conception marks the beginning of human life.


Second, the High Court based its decision on the assumption that the fetus is merely "potential [human] life" and develops into a human person at some later stage. But in philosophical terms, this line of reasoning turns out to be a category fallacy, confusing what something is (a person) with some characteristic it may have (personality). J.P. Moreland and Norman Geisler elaborate: "Personality is a psychological concept; personhood is an ontological category.  Personalities grow, but persons are the kind of thing they are from the very beginning."[2] Therefore, not only is the fetus a human being, but by its very nature, a human person.


And finally, the Court failed to understand the connection between rights and theology. The United States was founded on the theological notion of inalienable rights of life and liberty endowed by the Creator. To simply assert, as the Supreme Court did, that an innocent child can be killed at the mother's discretion because of the baby's stage of development, desirability, or convenience usurps the rule of law based on God-given rights for every person and turns our legal system on its head.



In 1973, seven Justices changed the course of U.S. legal theory by declaring that a certain class of people (the unborn) does not have the protection of the state.  The same logic declared Jews to be sub-human, resulting in the German Holocaust, with over 6 million murdered. Our own holocaust on the unborn stands at 42 million and counting, the equivalent number of people currently living in the states of California and Georgia combined!


With Roe v. Wade, a person's right to life has been transformed into a mirage-dependent for its existence on the whims of those in power. It is time for a new generation of judges who have the conviction to base their decisions on God-given, inalienable rights. Without such judges, human rights and individual liberty will remain on the horizon, an image held in our minds, but not in our hands.



Chuck Edwards, a resident of Statesville, NC, is a traveling speaker for Summit Ministries ( and has debated the issue of abortion with the former head of the Rationalist/Humanist Association of New Zealand.

[1] (Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), Section VII)

[2] The Life and Death Debate: Moral Issues of Our Time, by J. P. Moreland and Norman L. Geisler (Greenwood Press, 1990) p. 32.