• Roe v Wade's divisive past and divisive future

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  • Last week marked the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, perhaps the most controversial Supreme Court decision in American History. It may be that the votes are now present on the Supreme Court to overturn the decision. Protests were held all over the country by those who fervently want the decision to be reversed.
    I drove by two such protests in the past week. Protestors were standing in very cold weather, a testament to their fervent beliefs about the sanctity of life.
    Several hundred thousand people protested in Washington seeking a reversal of Roe v. Wade. Since the freedom of choice to have an abortion is based on a right of privacy that is based on the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, it would be interesting to see how a new decision would dismantle the right of privacy.
    As we look back on its history, those who oppose Roe v. Wade would want to point to the countless pregnancies that were terminated. Those who support a right of choice hail the decision as a victory for women’s rights.
    Roe v. Wade was decided at a time when women did not have the rights they do now. It is ironic that in the last week, the Pentagon has stated that it will now allow women in combat, which is perhaps one of the last areas in which women were not equal. We live in a time when many women who strongly oppose abortion are strong supporters of women’s rights.
    Yet, even with the expansion of women’s rights, an attempt to close a loophole in the 1963 Equal Pay Act was blocked by Republicans in 2012. That law would have required employers to prove that differences in pay were related to job performance, not gender, and would prevent employers from forbidding employees from sharing salary information with each other; the law would also have allowed women to sue if they were discriminated against.
    Thus, the march for women’s rights continues.
    Missouri has been at the forefront of laws restricting abortion. In 1986, Section 188.205 was enacted which makes it “unlawful for any public funds to be expended for the purpose of performing or assisting an abortion, not necessary to save the life of the mother, or for the purpose of encouraging or counseling a woman to have an abortion not necessary to save her life.” There is an entire chapter in the Revised Statutes of Missouri entitled “Regulation of Abortions.” There is a provision that requires a physician to perform an abortion. Although in 2007, a law was passed extending that provision to any person who holds current ministerial or tocological certification by an organization accredited by the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA). Physicians who perform abortions must have malpractice insurance in Missouri.
    In 1986, the Missouri legislature passed a law stating that the life of each human being begins at conception, that unborn children have a protectable interest in life, health and well-being, and that natural parents of unborn children have protectable interests in the life, health and well-being of their unborn child. In addition, the law states that the laws of Missouri shall be interpreted and construed to acknowledge on behalf of the unborn child at every stage of development all the rights, privileges and immunities available to other citizens subject only to the Constitution of the United States and decisional interpretations of the Constitution.
    Page 2 of 2 - This law essentially states that life begins at conception to the extent the United States Supreme Court says it does.
    Roe v. Wade may be overturned in the near future, but that will not end the controversy over abortion. I have often thought that perhaps we should have a national referendum on the issue. Let’s see what the people want. The problem with such a referendum is that this is a very complex issue. Some are opposed to abortion under any circumstances, even in the case of rape and incest. Others think that there should be an exception for rape or incest. Others would favor abortion to save the mother’s life, while others would yet oppose any abortion. Many would oppose third trimester abortions, yet be in favor of upholding the right of women to have an abortion in the first trimester. Others are in favor of preserving the right of choice, yet want no federal or state money spent to pay for abortion.
    I doubt I will be here 35 years from now, but I suspect that when they recognize the 75th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we will still be fighting over this issue, even if Roe v. Wade is reversed.
    Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence. Email him at bbuckley@wagblaw.com

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