Tuesday, June 17, 2003

"Jane Roe" changes her mind

Let me first say that I'm not what you'd call an "abortion supporter." I've never liked the procedure, but feel that criminalization of it would only lead to the deaths of young women in back alleys and bathrooms. I think that addressing the causes of abortion -- lack of education, poverty, etc. -- are a better way to decrease the number of abortions performed every year. (Also, if you're a married abortion opponent and you aren't raising at least one adopted child, you really don't deserve being listened to.) Having said that, let's look at the sad case of Norma McCorvey, the woman also known as "Jane Roe" in the 1973 SCOTUS decision of Roe v. Wade.

McCorvey recently filed an affidavit asking that the decision be overturned. Her reason? She simply didn't understand what abortion was when she became a party to the case.

Everyone should read the affidavit. Nowhere in it does she argue with the actual findings of the court (it is only an affidavit, of course), but, instead, tells a sad tale of a woman who was used to further someone else's political agenda. While I can't argue with the facts of her personal story (and she wasn't the only plaintiff), it seems that her whole argument boils down to this: I made a decision that I no longer agree with and no one else should have the right to make that decision. I find that kind of mindset reprehensible.

Even if Ms. McCorvey didn't know the realities of abortion, she had given birth to two children prior to the child she calls "the Roe baby." She certainly understood, then, the mechanism by which she kept getting pregnant. After the case, she went on to work in "abortion clinics" for years. She could handle the "violent act" of abortion for so long, she writes, because she was "drunk or stoned much of the time," even, she suggests, while assisting in abortion procedures.

This is a terrible spokesperson for the conservative call to "personal responsibility," seeming to suggest that ignorance and substance abuse excuse whatever actions one might want to commit.

The truth is that, no matter what Ms. McCorvey thought or thinks about abortion, the Roe v. Wade decision was decided without her actual assistance and hinged on matters of law so delicately considered that even Rehnquist (who dissented) has had difficulty arguing with it since. The right to privacy proceeded Roe v. Wade by 80 years (Union Pacific R. Co. v. Botsford, 1891) and the changing of one person's mind (or her being used by outsiders for yet another political purpose) should not have any bearing on that ruling.


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