In 1972 I was in Ron Boutwell’s speech class at Southwest Baptist College. I began my persuasive speech with the following: “In 1963, Mrs. Finkbine became pregnant.”
My topic was, “Why the United States Should Legalize Abortion.” I told the story of a married woman who became pregnant and took the drug Thalidomide. This drug had been promoted as a treatment for morning sickness.
Soon after, there were numerous reports of thalidomide causing serious birth defects. Like other women who were confronted with this news, Ms Finkbine, who did not want to deliver a severely deformed child, sought an abortion but was unable to obtain one legally in the state where she lived. .
I then advocated for the legalization of abortion. Little did I know that abortion would become one of the most debated issues of our time. I just thought it was an interesting topic; it seemed to me that women who wanted to terminate a pregnancy should have access to legal abortions. Other students apparently didn’t know it was a controversial topic. No one applauded my speech, but there were no boos or critical remarks either. It was apparently considered another boring speech from a classmate. I got a grade of A. I’m not sure a student from Southwest or any Southern Baptist college today can give that talk.
In May I graduated and this fall I continued my graduate studies. In 1973, I was in “Philosophical Research”. The idea was to ask a question, a question that could not be answered by empirical research. Students gathered information on both sides of the issue, presented the arguments, and reached a conclusion based on the weight of evidence.
I had found the work I had done for the undergraduate abortion discourse quite interesting, so I used the philosophical research assignment as an opportunity to dig deeper into this topic. Shortly before the deadline for my article/presentation, the Supreme Court released its decision in Roe v. Wade. My first thought was, “Well, they sure ruined my article,” followed closely by, “That fixes the problem. Abortion is legal; more controversy.
I was wrong on both counts. Both the paper I submitted and the presentation I gave went well; a grade of A on both. The Roe v. Wade also generated interest in my article and a positive response among other students in the class. Far from eliminating controversy, the decision galvanized anti-abortion activists.
In Roe v. Wade, Justice Blackman noted that “the Constitution does not explicitly mention any right to privacy”. He noted, however, that the Court has repeatedly “recognized that a right to privacy…exists under the Constitution.” These decisions also specify that this right “extends to a certain extent to activities related to marriage, … to procreation, … to contraception, … and to the upbringing of children…” He stated: “We (the Court ) therefore conclude that the right to respect for private life includes the decision to have an abortion.
The 1989 decision Webster v. Reproductive Health Care confirmed that states can regulate abortion care. In the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court upheld the constitutional right to have an abortion, but changed Roe’s quarterly framework to a viability analysis. Since then, nearly 50 years of precedent have upheld the constitutional right of women to choose to have an abortion.
During their confirmation hearings, the three recently confirmed Supreme Court justices appointed by President Trump were asked about abortion and the observance of precedent. By their testimony under oath, one was led to believe that the constitutional right to abortion was guaranteed. For example, during the confirmation hearings, Judge Kavanaugh indicated that Roe v. Wade was established law, stating that it was an important precedent that has been reaffirmed many times over the past 45 years. During his confirmation hearings, Judge Gorsuch recognized Roe v. Wade “is United States Supreme Court precedent” and said “It has been repeatedly reaffirmed…”. Justice Comey-Barrett said Roe was not a super precedent “…But that doesn’t mean that deer should be cancelled….
Based on precedent and what those judges said in their confirmation hearings, it might have seemed reasonable to bet that those judges would back Roe v Wade. Obviously that didn’t happen. By a vote of 6 to 3, the Court upheld a Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The Court also took another giant step and, by a 5-4 vote, overturned Roe versus Wade, with all three Trump nominees voting by majority.
Since the court’s ruling, at least 13 states have implemented restrictive abortion bans, with more states expected to follow. Texas has one of the most restrictive bans on abortions. It prohibits all abortions; not after so many weeks of pregnancy, but all the abortions. Exceptions; to save the woman’s life or to avoid “serious risk of substantial impairment of a major bodily function”. The removal of “a still unborn child whose death was caused by a spontaneous abortion” or the removal of an ectopic pregnancy are also permitted. What about a 10-year-old girl, pregnant by her stepfather or another relative? No exception for her. Even though there is a provision to save the woman’s life, make no mistake, women and girls will die.
Some people may believe this is a pro-life law. It’s not. It’s Republican law on forced births. Instead of allowing women and their doctors to make abortion decisions, our mostly male Republican legislators and our male Republican Governor made the decision for them. It’s simple. If you think women shouldn’t have a say in deciding whether to have an abortion or carry a pregnancy to term, then vote Republican. If you think women should have a voice, make decisions about their own health, have some control over their own bodies, then vote Democrat. Also let the candidates you vote for know that you expect them to promote legislation that will overturn the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban.
Editor’s note: The guest column above was written by Rio Grande Valley resident Michael Young. Young earned his Ph.D. from Texas A&M in Health Education. He served over 40 years at the university level as a faculty member and administrator (Dean of Research) before retiring from academic employment in 2015. Much of his work has focused on adolescent health , including adolescent sexuality, sex education and drug education. He is the co-author of award-winning curriculums including the Sex Can Wait curriculum series and the drug education curriculum Keep A Clear Mind. Young is currently CEO of the Center for Evidence-Based Programming. He and his wife Carol live on South Padre Island. Young can be reached by email via: [email protected].
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