By Editorial Staff
Published March 31, 2008
WASHINGTON, D.C. (EP) – In a decision widely hailed as a blow to legalized abortion on demand, the Supreme Court ruled that states may sharply limit abortion practices. The 5-4 decision upholding a controversial Missouri abortion law stopped short of overturning the Court’s landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade case which legalized abortion on demand, but left the door open for further abortion restrictions.
The ruling in Webster vs. Reproductive Health Services upheld three state restrictions on abortion. The court ruled that states may forbid abortions in public hospitals or other taxpayer supported facilities, may forbid public employees to perform elective abortions, and may require viability tests for fetuses thought to be at least 20 weeks old.
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice William Rehnquist agreed with a lower court opinion which said testing for viability in second trimester abortions would place an additional financial burden on women seeking abortions.
But Rehnquist said the problem was not with the Missouri law, but with the “viability” standard set forth in Roe v. Wade. “Key elements” of the Roe decision are “not found in the text of the Constitution or in any place else one would expect to find a constitutional principle,” Rehnquist wrote in a stinging criticism of Roe. He added, “We do not see why the state’s interest in protecting potential human life should come into existence only at the point of viability.
Rehnquist suggested that the Court adopt a new standard for evaluating abortion restrictions, focusing on the government’s “interest in protecting potential human life.” Rehnquist noted that there was no need for the court to overturn Roe v. Wade, but recommended, “We would modify and narrow Roe and succeeding cases” given the opportunity.
Justice Antonin Scalia filed a separated but concurring opinion, stating there were “not only valid but compelling” reasons to overturn Roe. He chastised the Court for limiting itself to the “most stingy possible holding today” and called the Court’s action an “indecisive decision.”
Scalia further lambasted his colleagues for refusing to reconsider the Roe vs. Wade decision, concluding, “It thus appears that the mansion of constitutionalized abortion law, constructed overnight in Roe vs. Wade, must be disassembled doorjamb by doorjamb, and never entirely brought down, no matter how wrong it may be … We should decide now, and not insist that we be run into a corner before we grudgingly yield up our judgment.”
Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s views on abortion have been perceived as ambiguous, and her opinion in the Webster case did little to dispel that ambiguity. Her writing lacked some of the sharp criticism she has previously directed at Roe, but repeated her assertion that the Court’s current “trimester framework” is “problematic.”
O’Connor said that the Court was right in not revisiting Roe and said, “When the constitutional invalidity of a state’s abortion statute actually turns on the constitutional validity of Roe vs. Wade, there will be time enough to re-examine Roe. And to do so carefully.”
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun, who authored the Court’s majority decision in the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling, wrote, “I fear for the future. While for today, at least, the law of abortion stands undisturbed, the signs are very evident and very ominous, and a chill wind blows.”
Fearing that the ruling will invite the states to pass restrictive laws against abortion, Blackmun attacked the majority in Webster for cowardice, deception, disingenuousness and brute force. The ruling, he said, “is filled with winks, and nods, and knowing glances to those who would do away with Roe explicitly.”
A separate dissenting opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens concentrated on the Missouri statute’s preamble, which declared that life begins at conception. Stevens argued that the Missouri Legislature’s statement regarding the beginning of life is religious in nature, and therefore violates the First Amendment’s clause forbidding the establishment of religion.
Stevens wrote, “This conclusion does not, and could not, rest on the fact that the statement happens to coincide with the tenants of certain religions … or on the fact that the legislators who voted to enact it may have been motivated by certain religious considerations … Rather it rests on the fact that the preamble, an unequivocal endorsement of a religious tenant of some but by no means all Christian faiths, serves no identifiable secular purpose.”
The Court has three other abortion cases on its agenda for next session, two that involve parental notice when teens seek abortions, and one on a law requiring that abortion clinics be extensively equipped as medical facilities. Those cases are expected to define further the Court’s shifting attitude toward abortion.
Before it would completely overturn Roe vs. Wade, the Court would probably have to be faced with a law completely banning elective abortion – striking at the heart of Roe’s assertion that a woman has a constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy for any reason, at any time.
Forerunner - Home » The Forerunner Newspaper » Pro-life Articles
Your comments are welcome!
“Here I stand … I can do no other!”
With these immortal words, an unknown German monk sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the world.
The dramatic classic film of Martin Luther’s life was released in theaters worldwide in the 1950s and was nominated for two Oscars. A magnificent depiction of Luther and the forces at work in the surrounding society that resulted in his historic reform efforts, this film traces Luther’s life from a guilt-burdened monk to his eventual break with the Roman Catholic Church.
Running time: 105 minutes
Special offer: Order 5 or more for $5 each.
Watch a clip from Martin Luther.
$9.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
High Quality Paperback — 200 pages
A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism
Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner
The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.
Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.
Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981
Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House.
The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.
“… a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine
Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese
Running Time: 28 minutes
$17.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Download the Free Study Guide!
God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.
Speakers include: R.J. Rushdoony, George Grant, Howard Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!
Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:
1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?
Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.
Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!
Running Time: 240 minutes
Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
That Swiss Hermit Strikes Again!
Dr. Schaeffer, who was one of the most influential Christian thinkers in the twentieth century, shows that secular humanism has displaced the Judeo-Christian consensus that once defined our nation’s moral boundaries. Law, education, and medicine have all been reshaped for the worse as a consequence. America’s dominant worldview changed, Schaeffer charges, when Christians weren’t looking.
Schaeffer lists two reasons for evangelical indifference: a false concept of spirituality and fear. He calls on believers to stand against the tyranny and moral chaos that come when humanism reigns-and warns that believers may, at some point, be forced to make the hard choice between obeying God or Caesar. A Christian Manifesto is a thought-provoking and bracing Christian analysis of American culture and the obligation Christians have to engage the culture with the claims of Christ.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)