Roe “Arbitrary” says Blackmun

WASHINGTON, D.C. (EP) – The Washington Post reports that an internal memorandum written while the Supreme Court was considering the Roe vs. Wade case shows that the Court used “arbitrary” criteria in reaching its landmark abortion decision.

In a January 22 feature, the Post quoted a Supreme Court memorandum from Associate Justice Harry Blackmun, who authored Roe vs. Wade. In the memorandum, Blackmun acknowledged that he was using “arbitrary” judgment when determining how far into a pregnancy unrestricted abortion should be allowed.

The memo, found at the Library of Congress in the personal papers of the late Justice William O. Douglas, dates to November 21, l973. In it, Blackmun said the first-trimester cutoff for unrestricted abortion “is arbitrary.” He argued, “But perhaps any other selected point, such as quickening or viability [of the unborn child], is equally arbitrary.”

The Post noted that although the Blackmun memo calls the cutoff arbitrary, his Roe vs. Wade decision calls a woman’s right to abortion “compelling,” and said it prevails up to approximately the end of the first trimester.”

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