Gavel PHOTO:Getty Images
In all lands and in all societies, laws including what lawyers call the grundnorm, are made to engender peace and harmony, order and predictability through regulation of behaviour in relationships of whatever kind. Laws are to uphold societal values. They are to check arbitrariness and lawlessness. The United States Supreme Court ruling on abortion overturning a 50-year decision for long widely quoted came like a thunderbolt. The issue of pregnancy termination has been an age-long controversy and intensely debated. Until this judgment, women in the United States have regarded abortion as a constitutional right. This is drummed unceasingly into the ears of the Establishment and pro-life crusaders. But the abortionists movements have been unrelenting. The situation is such that no one who cares about life and values can sit on the fence.
When the U.S. Court made its pronouncement last week Friday, it was natural for pro-life advocates to clap and jump up in triumphal ecstasy. Coming as it did in the world in the grip of loose living and licentiousness, it is easy to pass it as the be-all-and end-all Case Law. The Supreme Court shot down the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which made abortion a constitutional right. My first reaction to the ruling was, and still is, that a countless number of women, indeed, millions of women in the United States have the Supreme Court to thank for saving them from themselves. I dare say all women in the free world whose countries may wish to domesticate the pronouncement similarly owe that court an unquantifiable debt of thankfulness. They may not realise it now until they close their eyes here on earth and open them in the Beyond!
It is a giant stride in the promotion and protection of intrinsic and extrinsic societal values, above all, protection of life itself. It has the potential to force mankind familiar with the pronouncement into a rethink and reflection. For those who are open, into deep contemplation. The implication of the ruling is that each state may now go ahead to determine its own abortion laws. The American apex court held, according to reports, that Roe v. Wade decision that allowed pregnancy of between 24 and 28 weeks to be terminated even, “before foetus would be viable outside the womb was wrongly decided because the U.S. constitution makes no specific mention of abortion rights.”
The Court went on: “Abortion presents a profound moral question. The constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each state from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division…We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled.” Returning the subject to the states, the Court said it was time to heed the constitution.
According to an online report, the Supreme Court on the day it made pronouncement on Roe v. Wade in 1973, also decided another case, Doe v. Bolton in which its opinion on Roe v.Wade was modified. In that one, the Supreme Court ruled that a woman’s right to abortion could not be limited by the state if abortion was sought for reasons of maternal health. The court, it is said, defined health as “all factors –physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age—relevant to the wellbeing of the patient.” The health exception expanded the right to abortion for any reason through all three trimester of pregnancy, says the report.
Commentators say Roe’s challenge was based on the idea that state laws were unconstitutionally vague and they abridged her right of personal privacy, a right previously undiscovered until five years earlier. The court ruled then in a 7-2 decision that the “right to privacy” is fundamental and protects a woman’s choice whether to have an abortion. The court also noted that right could be balanced against the government’s interests in protecting women’s health and protecting “the potentiality of human life.”
It is just as well that the Supreme Court has thrown the issue to the states to decide. It is reported that no fewer than 26 states have lined up already to take off from there, to outlaw or restrict acts of termination of pregnancy. All said, however, how far last Friday’s pronouncement can go to stem and calm the abortion heat waves sweeping through America and all free world remains to be seen. In any case, the Court did not prohibit abortion. All it said was that the Constitution of the United States does not grant nor prohibit constitutional rights on abortion. Thus the controversy will continue until mankind avail themselves of the enlightenment of higher knowledge spreading on earth today, on life and existence and what the Will of the Creator is in all these matters and more.
Can it be for nothing that we feel a pang of conscience, we are horrified and disgusted when there are reports of termination of life whether through banditry, terrorism or abortion? It must be a severely limited person, and one suffering from severe comprehension and cognitive impairment about life and principles governing it that would look at his fellow men in the face and terminate his life or shatter the promise of a would-be great scientist being encased in what is recognised as foetus in a woman’s womb. Foetus has life. I first wrote on the subject of abortion in 1993 and again in October last year, about eight months ago, when the State of Texas prohibited abortion within her territory with effect from September of the same year, 2021. I seek the indulgence of the reader to refresh our memory:
Captioned: “Irresolvable abortion heat Waves”, the column read: “If there is any subject that is divisive in the free world today and which shows no signs of ever abating in cacophony and, indeed, ever being resolved, it is the matter of abortion. It is a subject over which the conservatives agonise. In the camp of the progressives, it is vexatious that even libertarians who brandish banners of fundamental human rights shrink and recoil once it is an issue bordering on abortion. The Church is confused. Although the Roman Catholic Church rejects abortion, it believes that the soul enters foetus in the 12th week of pregnancy. Commercial instincts stand in the way of several doctors to give abortion a wide berth. Indeed, for a great many of them the answer is both yes and no. So the free world is polarised between pro-life advocates and abortionists.
For the protagonists, the latest vexation was triggered by the State of Texas banning abortion almost altogether within her frontiers with effect from last month, precisely September 1, 2021. The battleline remains as in old times. The armoury, too, boasts of no new arguments in weaponry. For the abortion advocates why should they not be able to do whatever they wish with their bodies? They contend that any frowning at abortion is callous and uncivilized. They find it provocative the state should have a say on the matter at all. It is even more so that the 2013 restrictions on abortion under Rick Perry as governor were thought severe; the 2021 law is regarded as toughest. While 2013 law signed by Perry bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the latest law put the restrictions at six weeks after pregnancy. Abortion campaigners, predictably up in arms, say most women may not even be aware of their new status within the stipulated six weeks. They wasted no time in pouring onto the streets carrying placards and heading for the courts, some for the Supreme Court of the United States urging it to suspend the law in the meantime. The Supreme Court in a narrow split of 5-4 declined.
The New York Times online reported in 2013 the signing of the Bill into law as follows: “Six months after declaring his goal to make abortion at any stage ‘a thing of the past,’ Governor Rick Perry signed a Bill into law Thursday giving Texas some of the toughest restrictions on abortion in the country. Surrounded by Republican legislators and abortion opponents in an auditorium at Texas capitol in Austin, Mr. Perry said they were celebrating and cementing ‘the foundation which the culture of life in Texas is built upon.’ “As he spoke”, the newspaper continues, “the chants and shouts of ‘Shame! Shame!” by Bill’s opponents, gathered outside the auditorium, could be heard.”
The stringent aspect of the law required that abortion clinics be licensed as “ambulatory surgery centres,” but abortion rights advocate and Democrats said the requirements would lead to costly renovations or relocations to meet the architectural and equipment standards; the rest would have to close down or relocate. They went to court, and the court struck down part of the law, a ruling to which the governor reacted promptly and was quoted as saying: “We will continue fighting to implement the laws passed by duly elected officials of the state, laws that reflect the will and values of Texas.”
Governor Greg Abboit, signing the new 2021 Bill into even tighter law, said: “Our Creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion. The legislature worked together on a bipartisan basis to pass a Bill that I am about to sign that ensures that life of every unborn child who has a heartbeat will be saved from the ravages of abortion.”
The twist in the new statute is that it makes judicial intervention complex and unattractive as it pushes the responsibility to enforce the law to private citizens. They are the ones to sue abortion providers, doctors, nurses and sponsors who may have footed the bills to procure it. The private citizen does not have to be connected to a lady who had an abortion before he can sue. The law makers, it is reasoned, hope to get round the legal tangle which has tied up abortion restrictions in court. Because no official of state is involved in enforcing the law, the attorney-general is insulated from any suit because as commentators put it, he has no role in enforcing the statute.
I am fascinated and indeed touched by the pronouncements of the two governors placing emphasis on sanctity of life—of even the unborn child—and on the will and value the people of Texas hold dear. In the developing countries such as ours, the abortion advocates argue that many young girls and women who do not want the babies they are carrying are still dying in the hands of quack doctors simply because society will not accept that the matter concerns their lives and bodies not anyone else’s. On this account, they want abortion legalised so that women can always walk unafraid into a hospital and have it properly done with. They also say that there ought to be no argument to start with because of want of proven evidence that the bone of contention, the foetus, is a human being.
The pro-life forces countercharge that: an abortion seeker is one who cannot stand up to a responsibility consciously assumed whose weakness the abortionist forces seek to indulge rather than tame, because that also is a line of least resistance, the easy way out, always of little worth. Pro-lifers in this perspective see themselves as the friends of society because they canvass responsibility and ennoblement. They contend that abortion abuses womanhood because, while men do not mind women taking the pill or having an abortion, there is hardly any man who would take a male pill or agree to vasectomy which would resolve the issue of unwanted baby trauma once and for all, and perhaps better than any other means. Indeed, they have since this argument gone beyond mere rhetoric to actually attempt to prove that what is destroyed during abortion, foetus, is a human being in the making.
As far back as 1993 when this column first waded into this subject of abortion, the pro-life campaigners had distributed free in Nigeria video tapes of what was titled ‘The silent Scream.’ The video was supposed to show the scream of foetus as the abortionist gynaecologist chases the little one in the womb with his lethal instruments, reaches out for it, grabs it and…( I wish to refrain from giving the grim details in the video, of the battle of gynaecologist and the struggling of the foetus with the intruder). Suffice it to refer us to the voice of the presenter, Bernard N. Nathanson, a gynaecologist and repentant abortionist who takes the viewer through ultra sound scan, into the dark and safe recess of the womb where a foetus rests peacefully. As captured by this column at the time, Nathanson’s voice breaks out: “Now all we see are simply the child’s fragments, the pieces of tissue which document living defenceless human being. In this pathetic sight of human rubble, we discern a head..leg still attached. The head is located and having been located is grabbed…”
Many people who saw the video were deeply moved. It was then suggested that women who ask for an abortion be shown the video before the operation. It was believed they would be so touched like Bernard Nathanson, the presenter that they would change their minds, as some women said they would have done, even from the narration alone, had they the opportunity. One of the women who suffered ‘psychological hurt’ said she was not told earlier of the physical dangers of an abortion. Now, when she thinks of her deformed womb, ‘all I can do is cry.’ Another was shocked after the operation when she saw what was to be her baby. She recalled: “I cried so constantly and so deeply. I think the women movement has been terribly deceived by what abortion means.”
Nathanson, in the footage to ‘Silent Scream’, another pro-life video titled the ‘Eclipse of Reason’, agrees: “Abortion, all abortion, is violence. And violence is an impermissible alternative in the world of reason.” And as he argues in ‘Silent Scream’, “the destruction of a living human being is no solution to a social problem. I don’t believe that a resort to such violence is an admission of scientific, even ethical impoverishment. Somehow, I refuse to believe that Americans can’t devise a better solution rather than a resort to violence.”
The beyond the earthly consequences of abortion will be discussed next week. The U.S. Supreme Court that shot down the Roe v. Wade half a century decision has courageously saved abortionists from themselves, but only if they invite themselves into deep reflection and contemplation, and seek knowledge.
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