U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris hosted a virtual meeting with abortion providers on May 19 and in her televised opening remarks said, "The right to privacy that forms the basis of Roe is the same right to privacy that protects the right to use contraception, and the right to marry the person you love, including a person of the same sex.
"Overturning Roe opens the door to restricting those rights."
Weeks earlier, President Joe Biden opined, "It would mean that every other decision related to the notion of privacy is thrown into question."
He was speaking about the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision the Supreme Court is apparently going to issue overruling the landmark abortion decisions Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Biden went on to say that LGBTQ children could end up segregated in our schools.
Supporters of legal abortion apparently all got the memo calling on them to make the argument that striking down the so-called "constitutional right to abortion" would endanger other "privacy rights" the high court has recognized.
Might the court, as Harris suggested, strike down the right to use contraceptives, as recognized in two different decisions just a handful of years before Roe?
What about the right to marry whomever one chooses, or rights regarding the education of one’s children?
The argument is addressed head-on in the leaked draft opinion of Justice Samuel Alito, and in fact was even addressed in Roe itself.
And the core of the response is simple: The Supreme Court has acknowledged multiple times that abortion is a unique act. It is sui generis, because unlike any of the other privacy rights, it involves a second life.
Hence, it sets off a balancing of interests, which Justice Alito’s draft opinion argues is best left to legislatures.
In Roe v. Wade the high court found, "The pregnant woman cannot be isolated in her privacy. She carries an embryo and, later, a fetus… The situation therefore is inherently different from marital intimacy, or bedroom possession of obscene material, or marriage, or procreation, or education” (Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 159, emphasis added).
When the Supreme Court upheld the Hyde Amendment, in Harris v. McRae (1980), that opinion explained why it is constitutional for the government to fund other medical procedures but not abortion: "Abortion is inherently different from other medical procedures, because no other procedure involves the purposeful termination of a potential life" (Harris v. McRae, 448 U.S. 297, 325, emphasis added).
And in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the landmark 1992 abortion decision upholding Roe, the point is made again: "Abortion is a unique act. It is an act fraught with consequences for others" including "the life or potential life that is aborted" (Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833, 852, emphasis added).
It’s actually good for the abortion debate that abortion supporters are raising this particular argument, because it reveals a key characteristic of most pro-abortion rights arguments: They are not actually arguments about abortion.
To say a woman has "reproductive rights" or should not "be forced to bring a child into the world" are actually points with which anti-abortion people agree, if we were talking only about the woman.
But the choice to bring a child into the world is quite different from the choice to throw a child out of the world.
This brings us to what we in the anti-abortion movement consider a massive blind spot to the heart of our argument.
We believe in privacy.
We believe in bodily autonomy, as the COVID vaccine arguments have demonstrated.
We also believe bodily autonomy begins at fertilization.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., has been known over the years to round up other Democrats in Congress and issue statements when a pope visits America or when the Catholic bishops discuss abortion. "We are committed to making real the basic principles that are at the heart of Catholic social teaching: helping the poor and disadvantaged, protecting the most vulnerable among us," the Democrats’ 2006 statement said when Pope Benedict visited the United States.
The problem is that the signers vote in favor of legal abortion, hence denying protection to the most vulnerable among us.
Again, abortion is a unique act.
As long as our discussions, statements, votes, and court decisions ignore this point, the so-called "debate" in this country will never be real.
A discussion that drops the second life out of the equation right from the start can never resolve the question of what rights that second life has.
The District Court that blocked Mississippi’s law at issue in the Dobbs case didn’t even consider the medical evidence about the unborn child. It only asked whether the ban was pre-viability.
If the court removes that viability boundary in Dobbs, not only will that help future court deliberations consider that second life, but it may also help Americans around the kitchen table and the water cooler to have a more productive discussion on abortion.
Rather than being short-circuited by the pre-emptive conclusion that "it’s a woman’s Constitutional right," maybe the discussion can have a different starting point: Abortion is a unique act. A second life is ended.
Fr. Frank Pavone is one of the most prominent anti-abortion leaders globally. Read Fr. Frank Pavone Reports — More Here.
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