Special to WorldTribune.com
By Bill Juneau
As the law stands today in the United States, a pregnant woman is entitled to obtain an abortion at her request, at any time and for any reason. So permissive is the existing federal law that a woman can call for and receive an abortion and the killing of her kicking fetus as she is being wheeled into the delivery room from her hospital bed.
Ending the life of the fetus in those final moments before the head leaves the womb is considered “murder” by millions, but under current federal law, late term abortions are legal and proper.
In 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade, concluded that abortions are no longer forbidden, and henceforth will be allowed with Constitutional protection. The Constitution is deemed to recognize a woman’s “right to choose” what happens to her own body.
Lost in the hysteria is the fact that the current debate about the existence of Roe v Wade is not really about outlawing abortion, it is more of a legalistic ruling about whether abortion should be a constitutional right or a state protected right. For right to lifers, the overthrow of the decision is unlikely to provide complete satisfaction.
The Roe decision has always been divisive in the United States. One side celebrated freedom for a woman to get pregnant, and the ability to abort the developing baby at anytime, if so desired. Other millions believe that life begins at conception, and that abortion amounts to murder. In the following 49 years, 63 million abortions were performed in America, but not without public outcries and the bombing of abortion clinics.
Some states have enacted legislation setting time, place and manner checks on the performance of abortions, but other states like Illinois, New York, Maine, Vermont, Virginia and Rhode Island have ignored meaningful restrictions. The lack of restrictions allow these states to provide abortion “safe havens,” for mothers wanting termination of their pregnancy without any slowing of the procedure.
The controversy and dissent over abortions has simmered for decades, occasionally boiling over as it is now, with the nine justices of the Supreme Court revisiting the Roe v. Wade opinion which had always been the target of scholarly legal criticism.
Just days ago, the controversy erupted with a new explosion of headlines and on-air comments and chatter on social networks after a draft opinion of the case under analysis was leaked and given to the media.
Though not representing the final disposition of the matter, the draft shot down the Roe v. Wade decision as “egregiously wrong from the start.” The 87-page draft also contained a lengthy analysis as to why abortions have no genesis in the Constitution and it ordered that the question of abortions be addressed in the future by individual states.
The draft opinion, which apparently had been stolen by a clerk to one of the justices and given to Politico, a media company, had been written by Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative member of the court.
The contention among justices is that the draft was misappropriated by a person or persons with access to the the guarded halls of the court and the judges’ chambers. Each of the nine Supreme Court justices have four clerks, and some secretaries, and typists. The job of clerk to a Supreme Court justice is a coveted one and their access to draft opinions and conversations is acceptable and trusted.
Chief Justice John Roberts has ordered an investigation with directions that the person or party responsible for the theft of the draft opinion be identified and punished as appropriate. Roberts described the purloining of the draft opinion as an “egregious betrayal of trust.” It is the first time for such a betrayal in 250 years, the chief justice said.
The 1973 opinion in Roe v. Wade was written by the late Justice Harry Blackmun, and adopted in a 7 to 2 vote. Dissenting were Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Associate Justice Byron White.
The Roe court recognized that the word “abortion” is not mentioned in the constitution, but found that it was an issue which could be addressed by a woman who possessed a “right to choose.” The “right to choose” was said to be implicit in the right of privacy which all citizens possess, and while not specifically stated, is contained in the first 10 amendments. One legal professor has said that the court saw the privacy right as existing in the “arching penumbra” of the Bill of Rights which grants basic rights to all Americans.
In other cases which followed Roe, the rights allowing for an abortion were said to exist pursuant to the word “liberty” in the 14th amendment. In his draft, Justice Alito also analyzed and dismissed the “liberty” argument as a reason to allow abortions under the U.S Constitution.
Reportedly, radical abortion supporters are going to the private homes of the justices on the court who they presume will endorse the draft from Justice Alito. Their conduct is grossly improper and a violation of law, and police will be on hand to arrest participants breaking the law.
Justice Roberts also has emphasized that the draft opinion is not the opinion of the court. The final decision and the final opinion is expected to be announced in late June or July. He said also that the commotion which has occurred will not interfere or influence the court’s analysis and final opinion.
Bill Juneau worked for 25 years as a reporter and night city editor at the Chicago Tribune. Subsequently he became a partner in a law firm and also served as a village prosecutor and as a consultant to the Cook County Circuit Court and to the Cook County Medical Examiner. He is currently writing columns and the ‘Florida Bill‘ blog.