Magazine article The Human Life Review

Turning the World Around

Magazine article The Human Life Review

Turning the World Around

Article excerpt

"Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I shall move the world." Archimedes' bold request was never granted because no one could find either a lever long enough or a place for him to stand. He could never put his theory into practice. And just as well, for dislodging Planet Earth from its fixed orbit would have proved catastrophic. But times have changed!

The idea of moving the world fascinated me when I was very young and enjoyed listening to football games on the radio. The broadcaster, in an attempt to bring the listener visually closer to the game, would say, "Notre Dame will be moving the football from right to left on your radio dial." This did not enhance my identification with the game, however, but ushered in the fantastical thought of how I could move the world by simply moving my radio. If I turned it 180 degrees in either direction I would then cause Notre Dame, as well as the rest of the world, to be moving from left to right. It was a dizzying idea. My radio became my lever; my place to stand was on the floor next to my magical receiving set. What amazes me today is that broadcasters still indulge in this amusing and innocent fantasy.

I do know that in turning my radio around the only thing I affect is the radio and certainly not the world. But there is something that does turn the world, only not in the way old Archimedes had envisioned. The "world" in this instance is not the physical but the moral realm. And that "something" is abortion.

Back in 1973, at the time of Roe v. Wade, many naively believed that abortion was an event limited to the horizon of the woman and her private decision. The Blackmun Court agreed. Abortion, according to an unusual reading of the United States Constitution, was presumed to be a private matter, a "penumbra" of the "right to privacy" discovered by the Court in its 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut ruling, which legalized contraception. It soon became abundantly clear, however, that abortion was not restricted to the sphere of a woman's private choice. The question, nonetheless, remained concerning whether the father of the unborn child had a right to veto his wife's decision to abort. Three years after Roe, Planned Parenthood v. Danforth answered the question in the negative. The father has no such right. According to the Supreme Court, the State has "no constitutional authority to give the spouse unilaterally the ability to prohibit the wife from terminating her pregnancy when the State itself lacks that right." The abortion circle widened to include the father.

Attorney John C. Danforth thought he could save marriage from the sweep of abortion. In that same decision that bears his name, he argued courageously, but not successfully, that "marriage is an institution, the nature of which places limitations on the absolute individualism of its members." The Court ruled, however, that despite the fact that "joint consent" was required for a husband to get a vasectomy or a wife to procure a tubal ligation, or even for the married couple to dispose of property they co-owned, there would be no "joint consent" required for abortion, nor respect for fatherhood or marriage. The abortion tide was moving swiftly and claiming much along its path of destruction.

Abortion separated the mother from her unborn child. But this separation was merely a prelude to a series of additional separations that would shatter the family into a collection of isolated fragments. The father was separated from his child and thereby separated from his wife. Marital unity was compromised. If there were siblings, they too would be separated from their brothers or sisters. Grandparents would be separated from their unborn grandchildren. The extended family would lose its honor and its integrity. Abortion cut through the family and weakened the contribution the family would make to society.

Beyond marriage and the family, abortion would make significant inroads into the spheres of medicine, law, education, and politics. …

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