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A splendid example of begging the question

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By Jim Flynn

The continuing abortion conflict received nationwide press attention only three days after the new administration took office in Washington.

On the 36th anniversary of Rowe v. Wade, anti-abortion forces rallied thousands to the nation’s capitol to restate their opposition. A smaller group of pro-abortionists held their rally a few blocks away at the Supreme Court building. In a spirit of impartiality, the justices didn’t wave hello to either group.

Surveys indicate the pros and cons of the abortion argument have split the nation down the middle. It’s a tug-of-war with very little budge.

The present day abortion battle began with a case called Griswold v. Connecticut. In 1879 Connecticut passed an anti-contraception law, which was seldom enforced for years thereafter. It prohibited the sale or use of contraceptives.

In 1962, Planned Parenthood opened a birth control clinic in New Haven.

The director, Estelle Griswold, and a Yale physician were convicted and fined under the contraceptives statute. The state appeals courts upheld the convictions.

In 1965, by a vote of 7-2 the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the convictions and invalidated the Connecticut statute. The most cogent comment in the case was made by Justice Potter Stewart, who called the statute “an uncommonly silly law.”

The Griswold case was an example of what happens when religionists of any persuasion have sufficient influence in a legislative body to have their particular beliefs made law. In Griswold, the Supreme Court said it was none of the state’s business how humans were or were not making babies.

Further, the Griswold opinion said there are natural rights which do not need to be spelled out specifically in our Constitution, personal privacy being one of them. The Griswold case let the privacy genie out of the bottle.

After Griswold and several piggy-back cases which followed, Rowe v. Wade became inevitable. Stated simply, in Rowe the court said the State of Texas had no valid interest in regulating a woman’s pregnancy decisions. Thus abortion became a privacy right in 1973.

Following the new privacy right came the spectacle of millions of legal abortions, only a few of which were for any purposes other than after-conception birth control.

Since then the abortion issue has spawned a vocabulary of euphemisms to justify and discredit arguments pro and con – unintended pregnancies, freedom of choice, right to life, reproductive health, informed choices, and family planning.

There have been some 300 human life amendments introduced in Congress over the years since Rowe v. Wade, not one of which has come to a vote. Chances of getting a right to life amendment through two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of the states is as likely as snow in Key West.

That leaves the abortion opponents with two options, nibbling at the edges through state legislation or getting the right case before the right Supreme Court. Even if such a case were to come along, we doubt the justices will touch the hot stove if they can find a way to avoid the heat.

Contemplating the worst of all possibilities for abortion opponents, President Obama has said if Congress passes a Freedom of Choice Act, he will sign it, effectively blocking state interference in abortion issues.

Ever wonder how the nation came to this impasse? Abortions were talked about openly as far back as colonial days and were even advertised in the 1700s. Women helped each other abort pregnancies with no more backlash than a bit of local gossip. Churches showed little interest in the subject for centuries.

Until the late 1800s, abortion was still legal everywhere in the U.S. By 1962, after years of pressure by the mostly male American Medical Association, abortions were banned or restricted in every state.

Congress has never had the conviction or courage to say a fetus in utero is a person entitled to Constitutional protection. So when the women’s liberation movement came along in the 1960s, females pushed aside government and the AMA, and claimed an exclusive right to decide what goes into and comes out of their bodies.

Except for a lot of sound and fury, that’s the rest of the story – so far.

Jim Flynn was formerly a corporate counsel, served in military intelligence during the Korean War, and once aspired to be a newspaper columnist.