A lawyer and a scientist reflect on 40 years of Roe v. Wade
Forty years ago Tuesday, our nation’s highest court ruled on Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision regarding a woman’s right to abortion. Video by IdahoOnYourSide.comvideo
Forty years ago Tuesday, our nation’s highest court ruled on Roe v. Wade---the landmark decision regarding a woman’s right to abortion.
“This ranks right up there with some of the most important decisions of the 20th century,” constitutional attorney John Runft said.
Legally, Roe v. Wade provided the Supreme Court with a unique conundrum.
“There was no real constitutional precedent for finding a liberty or a right,” Runft said.
According to Runft, many legal historians now view the ruling as somewhat of a surprise.
“The dissents were very strong,” he said.
Laws banning abortion existed before this country even enacted the 14th amendment the Supreme Court used in its ruling.
Textbooks in U.S. history classes across the nation now teach the holding, but most avoid how close it came to being overruled: In 1992, Justice Anothony Kennedy initially sided with the more conservative justices to annul Roe v. Wade, but then changed his mind.
“At the heart of liberty,” Runft read from Kennedy’s statement, “is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of the meaning of the universe and of the existence of life.”
After surviving that attack in 1992, Runft said he couldn't see any possibility of Roe v. Wade getting overruled in the future.
“I think it’s never going back,” Northwest Nazarene University biology professor Jennifer Chase agreed.
Chase researches fetal alcohol syndrome and teaches human biology at NNU, a Christian school.
“Probably the worst thing I have to do [occurs] in human biology class [when] we talk about partial birth abortion versus the regular abortion,” she said.
Forty years after a decision Runft compared in importance to Brown v. the Board of Education, Chase saw room for the conversation to continue.
“I think the whole thing is fresh in that life beginning is still a new question in how can we make it happen,” Chase said.
That dialogue is made possible by a landmark – positive for some, negative for others – in the realms of liberty and law, society and science.
“If you will,” Runft said, “an example of the Supreme Court of the United States creating law.”
“People should know what it is that we’re even talking about,” Chase said. “I mean, it’s not just an abstract word. There’s an actual process that takes place. I think it behooves us to kind of know what it is that we’re voting or fighting about.”