A lesson in democracy – pro-choice; anti-Roe

By Se Young Lee

The recent confirmation hearings of Chief Justice John Roberts and soon-to-be Associate Justice Samuel Alito have been portrayed as the endgame by mainstream press, Democrats, Republicans and the various political groups that have claimed a stake in the fate of Roe v. Wade. If this were true, the inevitable confirmation of Alito seems to mark the end to all abortions in the U.S., a remarkable turnaround considering the watershed 7-2 ruling was delivered only 32 years ago. But these assumptions ignore what should be the most important component of the American political system, public opinion.

Pro-choice activists and the Democrats continue to cling to Roe v. Wade as if it were a sacrament. In fact, Roe v. Wade has been one of the biggest disasters in the history of the Supreme Court and has severely damaged American jurisprudence. Even though the majority opinion for Roe v. Wade, recognizing the implicit right of privacy that made abortion legal, was backed by a big majority in the court, the ruling has not only failed in settling the constitutional debate over “the woman’s right to choose” but has instead given special interest groups, legislators and the executive the perfect way to hold the high court hostage. When senators call for a justice who will defend the constitution, they are really looking to pack the Supreme Court with a justice who holds the same opinion about Roe v. Wade as they do.

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One of the biggest reasons for these developments lies in the fundamental fragility of Roe v. Wade. The notion of “the right to privacy,” first espoused by Justice William Douglas in a 1965 opinion on Griswold v. Connecticut, stands on the “penumbras” and “emanations” of the Bill of Rights. Reliance on such abstract and vague language and legal basis made the current siege against “activist judges” inevitable.

But the fundamental problem is that the decision had the effect, intentional or not, of disenfranchising the American public from reaching its own conclusions on whether abortion should be allowed – and, if so, to what extent. The difference between many developed nations and the U.S. in regards to abortion is that the other states reached a decision through legislation, either by a direct referendum or vote by those who were directly elected to make laws. Even Italy, a nation where the Catholic faith is deeply entrenched within its society, recognizes the right to abort. And in most of these nations, the losers have accepted the result as legitimate and moved on. Americans have not been given that chance.

It is difficult to understand why the Democrats, the supposed party of the people, have not made an appeal to the legislators to decide the matter on what they should be voting in accordance with the will of the people. Various polls in recent years have consistently shown that the public is willing to accept some form of legalized abortion. What is also of interest is that the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll showed that 66 percent of the public would not like to see the Supreme Court completely overturn Roe v. Wade.

At this point, Roe v. Wade will do nothing but cause further controversy that will poison the judiciary and further fragment an already divided nation that has struggled to reconcile the cultural, religious, political, racial and socioeconomic differences that exist. Too much is at stake for American jurisprudence as a whole for senators to continue to waste time arguing about questions about abortion that will obviously be unanswered.

It’s time for congress to put the question before those whose collective opinions matter the most. Mandate from a God is irrelevant, since human civilization has yet to determine which one is real in the first place. It is time for those who claim mandate from the American public to prove it.

Se Young Lee is a junior in Communications. His column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at [email protected]