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Voices Online Edition
Vol. XXVII, No. 3
Michaelmas 2012

Four Decades after Roe v. Wade

by Bebe Kennedy

It has been nearly forty years since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision gave women the legal right to an abortion effectively throughout all nine months of pregnancy. The tragic outcome: more than 53 million children have been aborted in our country, and other anti-life practices have become accepted.

The “right” to abortion remains the most controversial of these practices. Another troublesome procedure is “in vitro” fertilization (IVF, literally, fertilization “in glass”). This procedure combines the mother’s eggs and the father’s sperm in a Petri dish to form embryos — living human beings. After the embryos are implanted in the mother’s uterus, those that remain are frozen, saved for possible future implantation, used for stem-cell research, or discarded. Embryos deemed imperfect or unfit in any way are destroyed by the IVF practitioners to increase the probability of the delivery of a perfect baby. Tragically and ironically, for each successful IVF pregnancy, many embryos die.

Technology continues on its bizarre, unseemly path. An article, “Assembling the Global Baby,” in the Wall Street Journal (December 10, 2010) reported on an “international network of surrogate mothers and egg and sperm donors, a new industry to produce children…” The article described a company that searches the world for client donors. An example was given wherein a Bulgarian woman expected to deliver a baby “whose biological mother is that of an anonymous European egg donor, whose father is Italian, and whose birth is being orchestrated from Los Angeles.” The baby was to be adopted on the day of its birth by the Italian sperm donor and his wife. Producing babies has become a business, with babies as commercial commodities.

But the complexity of such arrangements did not stop there. In the same article we read that a homosexual and his partner planned on having two children, one from each of two surrogate pregnancies in India. Complications arose when both women became pregnant with twins, so it was decided to abort one baby from each woman. The decision was euphemistically labeled a “reduction,” rather than an abortion. We have indeed arrived in a “brave new world.”

In 1949 Dr. Leo Alexander, reflecting upon Nazi crimes at the Nuremberg Tribunal, testified that there “[has been] a subtle shift in emphasis in basic attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as a life not worthy to be lived.” Many years ago I remember discussing Dr. Alexander’s testimony with a colleague in education who was horrified by the euthanasia practices that took place in Nazi Germany. He firmly believed that such a movement could never take place in our country — yet we now know that seriously ill senior citizens are potentially at risk with the cost- and quality-of-life-based movement.

The dominoes are falling. The list of commonplace procedures would have been unthinkable until late in the 20th century: abortion-inducing contraceptives, IVF, surrogate motherhood, “fetus reduction” abortion, sex-selection abortion, embryonic stem-cell research, sterilization, partial-birth abortion. Not to mention the grave developments in end-of-life treatments — euthanasia and assisted suicide. Embryonic stem-cell research always results in the death of the embryo. Three states have already passed laws allowing assisted suicide.

It is clear that during the last few decades there has been a steady and gradual conditioning toward the acceptance of anti-life practices. Such unethical acts would have been regarded with horror prior to the initiation of the culture of death. And now we are sliding further down the slippery slope. For example, it is estimated that the loss of life through abortion-inducing drugs (abortifacients) is in the millions per year. (A precise determination of the number of annual abortions is difficult, if not impossible, because only surgical abortions are included in the statistics, not those caused by drugs.)

One thing the past forty years have taught us: every society that does not consider human life as its most fundamental value, that adopts what some have called the “contraceptive mentality” toward the creation of new human life — will succumb not only to legalizing abortion, but will ultimately come to regard human lives of others almost as a commodity — to be manipulated, disposed of, bought, and sold at one’s convenience.

Early this year the US Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate concerning the Affordable Care Act that requires contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs to be provided in the insurance offered to employees of religious institutions — in clear violation of the right to religious liberty. It is encouraging to Catholics to know that our bishops have been vigorous and public in their opposition to this attempt to curtail religious freedom. In addition to filing lawsuits challenging the health care law, the bishops have called for prayer. For example, the “Fortnight for Freedom” called for two weeks of prayer — and other resources are provided on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website:

In spite of such drastic changes in our society, the cause for life remains alive. There are approximately 45 opponents of abortion in the House of Representatives, including the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, who stated “There is no cause more noble that the defense of human life.”

Noteworthy is the significant decline in the number of abortion facilities — from nearly 2200 in 1991 to the current total of approximately 682. Also, pregnancy resource centers, which enable women to choose in favor of life and offer guidance with personal problems, are increasing in number and now exceed 4000. (Source: Pro-life Action League - And we observe that many youth have enthusiastically taken on the cause for life.

Above all, we must pray and make sacrifices for the return of respect for life at all stages of development. And, trust that Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Unborn, will intercede for us.


Bebe Kennedy is a retired public high school counselor from St. Louis who taught in the behavioral studies department at a local university. She has written for professional journals and has lectured widely on adolescent sexuality and pro-life issues.

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