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Justice Harry Blackmun (1908-1999) of the U.S. Supreme Court. City of Saint Paul Communications Services / YouTube.
Daniel John Sobieski

Opinion, ,

The Supreme Court in 1973 knew personhood could kill Roe v. Wade

Daniel John Sobieski

June 10, 2019 (American Thinker) — I have often said that said that if ultrasound pictures of the unborn had been available in 1973, the Roe v. Wade decision would have been quite different. It is hard to talk about "lumps of tissue" and "collections of cells" when one can actually see a leg kicking, a hand reaching, a mouth sucking. Or listening to a heartbeat.

Since then, four decades of medical advances have changed the meaning of the word "viable" when applied to the unborn. They should also have changed the meaning of the word "human." Consider the case of the world's tiniest baby born recently weighing just over eight ounces. As the Atlanta Journal Constitution recently reported:

The world's tiniest surviving baby, weighing just 8.6 ounces when she was born in December, went home this month as a healthy 5-pound infant.

The baby, nicknamed Saybie by medical staffers at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital in San Diego, was born there at just over 23 weeks' gestation. Her mother had developed preeclampsia, and doctors decided to perform an emergency cesarean section, according to hospital officials

Saybie, separated from her mother's body, now enjoys the full constitutional protections of personhood. If her mother had not developed her condition, Saybie could have been legally aborted. The question must be answered of when Saybie became a human being. Our humanity and human rights should not be dependent on technology. Pro-abortion advocates are unwilling or unable to define either when life begins or by what mysterious process merely passing through the birth canal bestows humanity and human rights upon us.

This is why Democrats are apoplectic about bills banning abortion when a heartbeat is detected. They fear such bills as attempts to "roll back" Roe v. Wade. If the Supreme Court ever rules that such bans are constitutional, Roe v. Wade is dead, repealed by the establishment of personhood.

Supreme Court justice Harry Blackmun feared such an eventuality in writing the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade:

"We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer." [p. 160]

Man's knowledge has developed in the last four decades to the point where life-saving procedures can be performed on the unborn. We are now at the point where that question of when human life can and must be answered, as Justice Blackmun feared it would be one day, ending Roe:

The appellee and certain amici argue that the fetus is a "person" within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment. In support of this, they outline at length and in detail the well known facts of fetal development. If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument. [p. 156]

This is why Democrats also oppose requiring that a mother requesting an abortion view an ultrasound of her unborn child, which strips away the pro-abortion myth that abortion is of no more consequence than the removal of a mole. Advances in medical technology have shifted the abortion debate in the pro-life direction, and even the liberal media have started to notice.

As Patrina Mosley, Director of Life, Culture, and Women's Advocacy for the Family Research Council, notes:

What Roe. v Wade [sic] couldn't predict was the advancement of scientific technology capable of detecting the intricate design inherent in the unborn child and the astonishing level of development taking place earlier and earlier in the womb[.] ...

In addition, we are now seeing that early-stage embryos with abnormalities can still develop into healthy babies if given the chance to live. Thanks to 4D ultrasound technology, we can see an unborn child at 14 weeks respond to the sound of music. Previously, many believed a baby in the womb could not hear music until 26 weeks.

At 20 weeks we can scientifically prove that a baby has developed a mature enough nervous system to feel pain. The Marist Poll indicates that 63 percent of Americans now support a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, and 17 states have already enacted some form of a "Pain-Capable bill" to protect unborn children who are able to feel pain from the brutal abortion methods used at this stage.

Even MSNBC "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough recently had to admit: "You are seeing poll numbers move on abortion for banning abortions after 20 weeks." He went on:

"Why? Because for the past decade, younger Americans have been going in and they have been seeing 3-D imagery where they can look into the womb. If some activist said, 'Your child is a lump,' I must tell you, I've had four kids, I've never once had a doctor go to me, 'we've got your lump, let me show you your lump, look at your lump's profile.' This is an example of science, technology changing that is going to change the politics of abortion. This is an issue that culturally is going to change. Americans, younger voters are going to become more conservative on abortion because they see their child very early on in the womb."

Science is indeed changing the politics of abortion. Blackmun's fears are being realized. The "suggestion of personhood" is being established, and Roe v. Wade will soon join the Dred Scott decision on the ash heap of bad legal precedent. 

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor's Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine, and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.

Published with permission from the American Thinker.

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