The End of Roe

Chamba SanchezBy Chamba SanchezSeptember 5, 2021
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From L.A. to Boston to New York, the pro-choice folks are up in arms denouncing the Texas legislature’s assault on women’s rights. However, abortion is still legal in Texas if it is performed within six weeks of a woman’s pregnancy. The so-called “Texas Heartbeat Act” was a victory for the pro-life groups in this country who want to end abortions. These pro-life groups see the Texas legislation and the denial of the Supreme Court to stop it as the beginning of the end of Roe vs. Wade.

Texas has provoked an uproar that even President Biden joined the chorus of those denouncing the law.  He denounced the Texas law as an utter constitutional violation of women’s Constitutional rights. The President called it “extreme.” Furthermore, Speaker Nancy Pelosi promises swift action on the House of Representatives. The speaker intends to “codify” Roe v. Wade so that states cannot modify it or touch it.

Roe v. Wade Landmark case of 1973 gave the Constitutional right to women to have abortions until a fetus is viable, which usually takes place at the 23rd or 24th week of pregnancy.

Viability is the central point of contention after the Texas legislature cut the number of weeks of pregnancy to six. It is simply the question of where life begins. Human embryologists, philosophers, bioethicists, and theologians are getting ready to revisit the unending debate of when a fetus becomes a person, “does that take place at fertilization, at birth, or somewhere in between?”

The pundits and Constitutional Scholars argue that the Texas law is just about procedures and not a wholesale elimination of rights for women seeking to have an abortion. That might be true, but progressives fret about the collateral effect of this law. The law provides impetus to other states to enact something similar or more extreme.

Let us dive into what happened in Texas this week: In May, the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 8. The Act went into effect at midnight on September 1, 2021.

In the early hours of Sept. 2-Thursday morning, the US Supreme Court gave a low blow to pro-choice groups by denying an appeal that would have put a hold on the legislation enacted into law. Many read this Supreme Court’s action as a strong signal that the demise of Roe v. Wade is near. It is argued that at least 80% of all abortion clinics in Texas will have to close soon if this law is fully implemented.

Texas’ “Heartbeat Act” encourages anyone to sue doctors who violate the law, even if individuals have no connections to the woman having the abortion. A thoughtful and dangerous approach used, as government representatives will not enforce the law but solely “through civil lawsuits filed by private individuals.” In other words, it is residents who will be enforcing this new law. “A doctrine that is known as “sovereign immunity.” It is not clear how this maneuvering makes this Texas law less unconstitutional. Chief Justice Roberts, who joined the liberal justices in the court, denounced the approach used by Texas. The US Supreme Court will have another chance this fall.  They will hear a big abortion case from Mississippi, which bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Religion is at the core of this abortion debate. The concept that life begins at conception comes straight from the scriptures. We also have that Sixth Commandment, “You shall not murder.” Deeply religious individuals take this commandment as an obligation to protect all human life. They believe that stopping abortions will accomplish that endeavor.

Some history here, in 1620, English settlers who intended to lay anchor in northern Virginia ended up in “Massachusetts instead, near Cape Cod, outside of Virginia’s jurisdiction.” They immediately endeavored to organize a community that “could ensure a functioning social structure.” They came up with “the Mayflower Pact.” The very first line of the said document reads, “In the name of God, amen.” In 1787, the colonies agreed to embrace the Consitution to provide the colonies with a centralized government. Nevertheless, there was no mention of God in this Constitution. The first three words of the Constitution: “We the people.” What happened to God?

The framers of the Constitution understood that their newly assembled “civil body politic” must believe in the God of reason. Religion had to be left to people living in the colonies. They had to decide whether to believe or not to believe in God. Hamilton and Madison did not want religion to be part of the civic conversations leading to public policies. These framers understood that when religion injects into public policy dialogues, it will make the process of governing very difficult.

Thomas Jefferson conceptualized it better when he wrote a “letter to the Danbury Baptist Association.”  In this letter, Jefferson argued that  when the American people adopted the establishment clause in the Constitution, they built a “wall of separation between the church and state.”

The rallying cry from the pro-choice folks is that the government should not decide about a woman’s body. It is an utter violation of woman’s rights and equal protection under the law-both are protected under the fourth and the fourteen amendments, respectively. Women’s groups relentlessly argue that women cannot exercise full citizenship if they do not control their reproductive system. Indeed, throughout history, women were just mothers and could not become professors, lawyers, or any other profession they would choose; these women’s groups insist.

Conservative-pro-life groups in this country are telling pro-choice groups, “you want to talk about constitutional rights. Bring it on!” They immediately point out the ultrasound that shows a fetus with a heartbeat and ask what about this fetus with a heartbeat’s Constitutional rights? From that point on, tensions start to rise, and the conversation becomes destructive and apoplectic.

Social groups have been waging culture wars against one another in the last twenty years.  Societal disagreement about homosexuality, multiculturism, racism, and abortion has become more pronounced since Trump won the presidency. Indeed, the struggle for values and practices has been a fierce all-out war among these groups. It is a struggle for the soul of this nation.

Yes, these meaningful conversations must take place but as long as we do not overlook other essential societal problems. We can not forget that we are still not out of the woods with the COVD-19 virus and that we have 45 million people living in poverty, education is on life support, and inequities in the allocation of resources is profound.

Thank you for reading.

Chamba Sanchez


Photo Credit: The picture was purchased from Bigstock

Sources consulted.

Diaz, Jaclyn. “Texas Law That Bans Abortion Before Many Women Know They’re Pregnant Takes Effect.”  NPR 1 Sept. 2021.
McKenzie, Robert Tracy. “Five myths about the Pilgrims.” The Washington Post 22 Nov. 2013.
Savage, David, and Molly Hennessy. “Texas abortion ban goes into effect.” Los Angeles Times 2 Sept. 2021
Serwer, Adam.  “Five Justices Did This Because They Could.” The Atlantic 2 Sept. 2021.
Schwartzman, Micah, Richard Schragger, and Nelson Tebbe. “The Separation of Church and State Is Breaking Down Under Trump.” The Atlantic 29 June 2020.
Strauss, Elissa.  “When Does Life Begin? It’s Not So Simple.” 4 April 2017.
Zhan, Sarah. “Why Science Can’t Say When a Baby’s Life Begins.”  WIRED 2 October 2015.

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