The prequel and aftershocks of Roe vs. Wade

THE CORNER ORACLE - Andrew J. Masigan - The Philippine Star

Norma Leah Nelson was born in Louisiana in 1947. Later in her childhood, the Nelsons moved to Houston where Norma’s father worked as a TV repairman. When Norma was 13, her father abandoned the family and left the care of Norma and her elder brother to their mother. Mom, Mary Gautreaux, was a Protestant/charismatic Christian who was also a raging alcoholic. The family struggled financially amid a home life marked by violence and disorder.

Norma began to engage in crimes as early as ten years old. Her first heist involved robbing a gas station when she ran away from home. Years later, she duped a hotel into renting her a room where she engaged in drugs, alcohol and lesbian activities. Unable to pay, she was put into police custody and declared a “ward of the state.” The courts sent her to the State School for Girls in Texas.

After high school, she lived with her mother’s cousin. While under his care, he allegedly raped her successively. When Norma reported the abuse to her mother, mom declared her a liar and did nothing to alleviate the trauma.

Norma married Woody McCorvey when she was 16. She later left him after he assaulted her. She moved back to her mother’s house and there, gave birth to her first daughter, Melissa. It was then that Norma fell deeper into drug and alcohol addiction. As she partied her way through her late teens, she left the care of Melissa to her mother. Fed up, mom reported her to the police as having abandoned her child. Mom filed and won custody over Melissa and subsequently banished Norma from the family home.

The following year, Norma McCorvey became pregnant out of wedlock and gave birth to her second child, Jennifer. Jennifer was given up for adoption. Two years later, she was pregnant again but this time, intended to abort the baby. It was 1969 then and the state of Texas outlawed abortion. Norma decided to challenge the state.

Norma McCorvey was given a fictitious name to protect her identity, Jane Roe. She was challenged in court by a local official, Henry Wade.

Such is the backstory to the Roe vs. Wade case.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled that women have the right to an abortion up to the first three months of pregnancy. Some states even allowed abortion up to the end of the second trimester, subject to certain restrictions. Abortion has since been legal in America.

But in a controversial decision last June 24, the American Supreme Court overturned the decision of Roe vs. Wade, saying that the right to an abortion was “not deeply rooted in this nation’s history or tradition, hence, was not considered a right when the Due Process Clause was ratified in 1868.”

With this, the legality of abortion is now left to the states. Sixteen states plus Washington DC have laws that protect the right to an abortion. Nine states, mostly in the south, have banned abortion even before the Roe vs. Wade overturn. Thirteen states have trigger laws that will ban abortion in the event Roe vs. Wade is overturned.

The SC’s decision has divided America.

Most Republicans and pro-life advocates have declared the overturn a victory for the sanctity of life.

But liberals don’t see it the same way. They see it as an affront to women’s freedom to do as they please with their bodies. It encroaches on the rights of men too as parents (men and women) have the right to form their own families.

Women’s groups argue that desperate pregnant women deserve the right to a clean, safe and medically supervised abortion. It is not a religious issue – it is a human right and health care issue. The SC’s decision will not end abortion but will only end safe abortions, they claim.

How do I feel about it all? Look, I maintain Christian values but I am also practical and cognizant of the realities of life. That said, abortion cannot be taken as an issue of wrong and right per se. There are many gradients of “rightness” in real life situations.

Yes, I support the ban on abortion – but only if the cause of pregnancy is over-zealousness and/or the failure to use contraception. However, I am in favor of a woman’s rights to abort if the pregnancy puts the mother or child in danger or conception was a result of rape or incest.

Bearing a child out of rape or incest never ends well for the mother and child. It brings with it psychological, emotional and physical consequences that both must bear for the rest of their lives. In my opinion, the state or courts have no right to consign both mother and child to a life of anguish while it sits on its high moral chair, unaffected by the suffering.

But beyond the moral issue is the politics behind it. Back in the 1980’s, the Republican platform adopted a strong anti-abortion position. Since then, quashing the right to an abortion has been akin to the advancement of the republican agenda.

Roe vs. Wade is a vindication for the Republicans after a 1992 case where the right to an abortion was affirmed by the SC in the Planned Parenthood vs. Casey case.

As an outside observer, I question the hypocrisy of the pro-life Republicans.  While they speak high-handedly about the sanctity of life, they are also the ones who support the cult of gun ownership where thousands of lives are uselessly taken by random gun attacks and open shootings. They also stand in the way of universal health care. The contradiction of the Republicans on these issues puts to question whether they are indeed pro life or simply flexing their political muscle.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @aj_masigan


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