The political and cultural fallout from Roe v. Wade.
Editors’ note: In a prescient excerpt from his 2019 book Dark Agenda: The War to Destroy Christian America, David Horowitz examines the faulty logic underpinning the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe. v. Wade, made by a far-left activist court seeking to legislate from the bench to enact progressive policies. He traces the Court’s decision in Roe to the earlier decision in Griswold v. Connecticut in which the Court suddenly discovered a Constitutional “right to privacy” hiding in the “penumbras” and “emanations” of the Bill of Rights, and then claimed that within that unspecified “right to privacy” lurked the highly specific right to birth control–and then later, in Roe, to abortion. Fifty years later, as the Court prepares to finally reject this cumbersome and illogical line of reasoning, Horowitz’s analysis of these historical missteps is essential reading.
“Penumbras” and “Emanations”
Defending the 1879 Connecticut contraception law, and opposing the radicals, stood the Catholic Church, a formidable power in the state. The Catholic case rested on its view that the use of contraception had a harmful effect on individuals and families. The church asserted that, by detaching sex from childbearing, contraception degraded marriage “since the husband and wife who indulge in any form of this practice come to have a lower idea of married life.”
The radicals knew they had potential allies in the liberal justices who had earlier abolished school prayer without a clear precedent. And they were excited at the prospect, once again, of achieving a revolutionary goal simultaneously in all fifty states. Consequently, the Planned Parenthood legal team began developing a “constitutional” argument they could take to the Supreme Court. The argument they came up with claimed that the Connecticut law violated a constitutional “right to privacy.”
There was no such constitutional right. There is no mention in the Constitution of a right to privacy. Nor does the Constitution refer to sexual relations between men and women. But the legal team knew that the Court had played fast and loose with the Constitution in the prayer cases and pressed ahead. The plaintiff lawyers filed suit against the Connecticut law and proceeded to make their right-to-privacy argument.
The Issue Is Revolution
The Roe v. Wade decision was a logical extension of the fight over contraception. Leftists generally viewed abortion as simply another form of birth control, and another advance on the road to “women’s liberation.” But there’s obviously a profound difference between abortion and contraception. Abortion involves another party: the unborn child.
Outside the Catholic community, Griswold and other rulings on contraception had provoked very little controversy. The Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, by contrast, divided the entire nation because it involved the sanctity of life itself. The abortion controversy created intensely passionate political factions on the left and right, whose battles are still raging nearly half a century later.
Saul Alinsky, the radical organizer and mentor of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, used to ask his new followers why they wanted to become community organizers. They would respond with idealistic claims that they wanted to help the poor and oppressed. Then Alinsky would scream at them like a Marine Corps drill instructor, “No! You want to organize for power!” That’s the way the SDS radicals at the University of Texas approached the abortion issue—as a means to power, or, in Margaret Sanger’s words, to remake the world. As a writer in the 1960s radical SDS publication New Left Notes put it, “The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.”
Freedom from Responsibility
What Christians experienced as a war against their families, their communities, and their values was the result of the left’s “transformative” agendas. The motivating ideas of the leftist offensive brooked no compromise. If the right to abortion was part of a plan to replace traditional religion and its values in ways that would affect “not only thinking on abortion but the whole spectrum of moral questions,” what room was there for compromise with their religious opponents? It was a prescription for conflicts that were irreconcilable.
The radical position left opponents with no moral ground to occupy. Thus, the feminist claim that abortion rights must be viewed “within the wide context of the oppression of women in sexual hierarchical society” cast opponents of abortion as “oppressors.” This removed those who disagreed with the feminist view from the community of voices concerned about the welfare of women. It dismissed their arguments without considering them. They were “sexist” and “anti-woman.” If opponents of abortion are viewed as antiwoman, their concerns for the 60 million babies that have been aborted since Roe v. Wade are morally tainted.