January 20, 2012
1973. This is the day that the United States Supreme
Court issued its infamous rulings in Roe v. Wade
and Doe v. Bolton. Most people have heard of
Roe, but few have heard of its companion case Doe.
Roe v. Wade legalized abortion for virtually
any reason during all nine months of pregnancy. In its ruling, the Court
broke the nine months of pregnancy into three trimesters.
In the first trimester, the Court ruled that
abortion may not be restricted in any way. In the second trimester, the
Court said that abortion may be regulated only in ways that benefit the
mother’s health. In the third trimester, the Court said that abortion could
be prohibited except when the mother’s "health" might be endangered by the
The Court didn’t define "health" in Roe, it
defined "health" in Roe’s lesser-known companion case Doe v.
Bolton. In Doe, the Court defined "health" as: "all
factors—physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s
age—relevant to the well-being of the patient."
Obviously, this definition of "health" is so broad
that virtually any reason can fit within it. A 1983 United States Senate
report acknowledged this permissiveness when it said that "[n]o significant
legal barriers of any kind whatsoever exist today in the United States for a
woman to obtain an abortion for any reason during any stage of her
In Roe, the Court claims that it "found" a
right to abortion in the Constitution. But even legal experts who support
legal abortion dispute that claim. John Hart Ely, a Yale Law School
professor said this: Roe v. Wade is "a very bad decision… because it
is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try
Edward Lazarus, former clerk to Justice Blackmun
(who authored Roe) said, "As a matter of constitutional
interpretation and judicial method, Roe borders on the indefensible…
[It is] one of the most intellectually suspect constitutional decisions of
the modern era."
And Harvard Law School professor, Lawrence Tribe,
said this: "One of the most curious things about Roe is that, behind
its own verbal smokescreen, the substantive judgment on which it rests is
nowhere to be found."
Of course, the biggest casualty of Roe and
Doe is not intellectual or legal integrity, but real human lives—and
souls. According to the abortion industry’s own estimates, more than 50
million abortions have been committed in the United States since 1973. And
every year more than one million unborn human beings are added to the death
In Nebraska, more than 175,000 abortions have been
reported since 1973. That is an average of more than 4,600 per year, or
almost 90 per week.
Such cold statistics don’t reflect the reality
that every abortion destroys a unique and unrepeatable human life; a sacred
gift given by, and made in the image and likeness of, our Almighty and
And every abortion wounds the child’s mother,
father, family and society. These wounds include physical, emotional,
psychological, and spiritual wounds for those involved. For our society, one
wound is a dulled collective conscience that has degraded all human life and
opened the door for attacks against vulnerable humans at other stages of
The General Instruction of the Roman Missal,
no. 373, says that "In all the dioceses of the United States of America,
January 22 (or Jan. 23, when Jan. 22 falls on a Sunday) shall be observed as
a particular day of prayer for the full restoration of the legal guarantee
of the right to life and of penance for violations to the dignity of the
human person committed through acts of abortion."
On this 39th anniversary of Roe and Doe please
commit—or recommit—yourself to fighting the insidious evil of abortion. And
please join me in offering prayer and penance on Monday, Jan. 23, for this
intention. For surely abortion is one of those demons that our Lord said
(Mt. 17:21) could only be expelled with prayer and fasting.
You can contact Greg at The Nebraska
Catholic Conference, 215 Centennial Mall South Suite 310, Lincoln, NE 68508;