By Leslie Shaw Klinger
On January 22, 1973, in its Roe v. Wade decision, the Supreme Court determined that the right to privacy includes the right to procure an abortion.
In the forty-eight years since, people of faith have been at the forefront of the fight against this ruling. Before science acknowledged that the fetus is distinct from the mother with its own DNA, people of faith argued for its humanity. They recognized that it was a human person and possessed the inherent dignity that all human beings share as a result of being created in the image and the likeness of God.
In 1973, I was seventeen years old and a junior in a Catholic high school. I remember being torn by the results of the Supreme Court ruling, because, while I understood that women wanted to be able to determine their own destiny, I also knew that babies are precious and beautiful and deserve to live. I understood the argument of the feminists that men could walk away from an unwanted pregnancy while a woman could not and how unfair that seemed. Now, of course, I know how flawed this argument is, for it asserts that women cannot be truly free in this society unless they have the same license as immoral men. At the age of seventeen, however, it seemed only fair that women should be able to rid themselves of the responsibility of pregnancy with the same ease as a man.
My life took several tragic turns over the next ten years. Now, at the age of sixty-five, I accept the consequences of my decisions to end the life of not one but four of my unborn children. Yes, I could argue with you that three of those choices were made under violent duress. I could even tell you that the one I did choose without enduring a black eye or a bloody lip was done because I was an active alcoholic and drug addict and not in my right mind. Regardless of the reasons why, I am now a post-abortive woman who has been granted healing, relief, and her voice through the mercy found in her faith tradition. However, I have no living children. I have no grandchildren. I sit alone in the pew at Mass surrounded by people my age who are holding the results of bringing life to its proper fruition.
How do I feel, therefore, about the statement issued by the Biden–Harris Administration on January 22, 2021?
I feel sad.
I don’t feel this sadness because a man who claims my faith tradition speaks in support of abortion. I am sad because he uses logic from 1973 with a bone thrown in the direction of the real issue: supporting women and families in such a way as to snap in two the pervasive falsehood that a pregnancy unplanned is a pregnancy that derails a woman’s ability to achieve her dreams—in education, in the workplace, and in society. The idea that abortion is a privacy issue fails to dispel the notion that biology is destiny and “those poor females who end up pregnant” might as well throw in the towel in terms of their lives.
The Biden–Harris Administration’s statement proclaims its determination to codify Roe v. Wade. Think about that, people. Think carefully about what this Administration wants to do. In terms of how far the medical field has progressed, the 1973 ruling is as outdated as the Dred Scott decision of 1857. Is privacy between a doctor and patient important? Yes. Is a doctor required to report a patient in danger, a patient under duress, a patient who may be in real trouble? YES.
Let’s be clear, though, the current emphasis among abortion-rights advocates does not center on privacy, but on choice. Talk to the average person on the street and ask her how she feels about abortion, and she will generally speak about a woman being allowed the choice to end the unborn child’s life. However, ask that same person if there should be restrictions on that choice, and the waters become muddy, as most people are uncomfortable with the idea that a child who is minutes, days, weeks, or even months away from being born should have that life ended simply as a matter of choice.
People have no problem putting caveats on that choice. They will say, almost to a person, that abortion in the case of rape or incest is okay. They are surprised when they learn that the choice to end a child’s life for those two reasons amounts to a minuscule subset of abortions—some say less than one percent—and are dumbfounded when confronted with other possible reasons for that choice to be made.
We now have tests to determine the sex and physical health of the unborn child. If we as a society are okay with a parent killing her child because that child may have special needs, then are we okay with a parent killing her child because it is not the “right” sex? If a genetic test determines that a child may someday develop cancer, will we consider that a sufficient reason to choose abortion? How about if the parents find out there is a possibility the child may be homosexual or of the “wrong” race or color? How far are we willing to go to validate the “private choice” to end a child’s life?
President Biden and Vice-President Harris pledge in their statement to “work to eliminate maternal and infant health disparities, increase access to contraception, and support families economically so that all parents can raise their families with dignity.” They don’t define dignity. I would like them to do so.
I would also like to know what they will do to ensure that every woman or girl who shows up to get an abortion is there of her own free will. I want the fourteen-year-old children being driven to the clinic by their twenty-six-year-old “boyfriends” to be protected. I want the staff at the clinic to be required to act if they see someone there for the second or third time with visible bruises and dead eyes. I want them to be required to report to law enforcement when the woman’s “choice” might be made under duress. I also challenge the Biden–Harris Administration to get specific when they speak of a rededication to ensuring all people have access to health care. Will they require clinics to be held to high standards of cleanliness and proper procedures? Will they be committed to these clinics if access to prenatal care is offered instead of, or along with, abortions? Will this administration look at people having access to food and shelter as an integral part of adequate health care?
The American Solidarity Party does not support abortion; however, we are more than simply another group with an anti-abortion platform.
Within our ranks are people who would like to see abortion eliminated by providing every woman faced with an unwanted pregnancy with the real, practical, and consistent support she needs in order to protect the life of the child she carries in her womb. We want to take the fear of that pregnancy off the table.
If a woman or young girl understands that any reason she might have to end the life of her child has an alternative solution, she then truly has a choice. If she thinks she cannot complete her education, find a place to live, have access to suitable and safe child care, win that trophy, get that job, or otherwise reach her dreams if she gives birth, she is not making a free choice; rather, she is acting out of fear.
If a woman or young girl knows that she can look her clinician in the eye and say, “I don’t want this to happen, but I need help to escape,” she is much more likely to ask for that help.
Scientific advances have made it possible for children in the womb to receive medical care that would make them much healthier as newborns. Is this type of health care going to be championed by the Biden–Harris Administration?
I will leave the debate over the legal viability of the Roe v. Wade decision to those better qualified, but I will argue that many of the emotional, frothy appeals once made by the feminists of the 1970s should now fall flat. Women are not so weak and helpless as to be denied success simply because they give birth; to imply otherwise is insulting. If we are (as is often screamed from the ranks of pop culture) “warriors” who are able to take on anything and everything life has to offer (or throw at us), then that has to apply to unwanted pregnancy, too. We have to be assured that having a child does not take us out of the game. We can still play because the rules of the game will support us.
But if the issue is only a matter of privacy and choice? Given the advancements in science, we must be willing to brace ourselves for the future.
As a society, we had better be okay with some horrible reasons given to end the life of a child.
And the Biden–Harris Administration had better be okay with it, too.