Teaching About Roe v. Wade

Ten Weeks - Right in the Middle of the Average Age for Abortion

This week for history, Big Girl and I are going to follow up her lessons on the three branches of government with a lesson on Roe v. Wade and what the Church teaches about abortion.  We’re actually starting with the Catechism so she’s got a better formation on the issue (though she is, as all children are, naturally pro-life).  In preparation for it, I actually read the entire Roe v. Wade decision.  I wanted to link to it from here, since it was in relation to our homeschool, but the entire post can be found at my other blog, The Catholic Soccer Mom, where I tend to leave my politics.  Here’s a sample, in case you want to decide from it whether or not you’d like to read the whole thing.  (I promise I didn’t put up the entire text of Roe, though I did link to it and used excerpts.)

… I’ll say right up front that I’m not a lawyer, I’m not trained in law at all, and I am reading this completely as a layman.  I struggled to get into the actual decision and with the legal terminology at times.  My eyes were glazing over in the first three sections.  But once I got into the decision, that’s when I really felt like my brain was broken.  I’d read that it’s a rambling decision, that it’s a real stretch for Blackmun to come up with this right to privacy, that he was really looking for a reason to overturn from the get-go.  I honestly wondered if it was perhaps the people reading it (pro-lifers), even though I am staunchly pro-life myself.  I tried to just read the decision, knowing that I would never be completely neutral on the issue at hand.

So what follows are my margin notes on Roe.  I’ll copy and paste from the decision, then put my notes after each selection in red.  The text I used for the decision was found here, though since it’s a Supreme Court decision, you can obviously find it in a lot of places.  (I used that link because it had both the decision and the dissent, which I’m also planning on reading this weekend.  Fun for me, huh?)  Any underlining is my own emphasis.

We forthwith acknowledge our awareness of the sensitive and emotional nature of the abortion controversy, of the vigorous opposing views, even among physicians, and of the deep and seemingly absolute convictions that the subject inspires. One’s philosophy, one’s experiences, one’s exposure to the raw edges of human existence, one’s religious training, one’s attitudes toward life and family and their values, and the moral standards one establishes and seeks to observe, are all likely to influence and to color one’s thinking and conclusions about abortion.

In addition, population growth, pollution, poverty, and racial overtones tend to complicate and not to simplify the problem.

How do these things relate to whether or not it’s constitutional? Pollution & poverty??

Our task, of course, is to resolve the issue by constitutional measurement, free of emotion and of predilection. We seek earnestly to do this, and, because we do, we have inquired into, and in this opinion place some emphasis upon, medical and medical-legal history and what that history reveals about man’s attitudes toward the abortion procedure over the centuries. We bear in mind, too, Mr. Justice Holmes’ admonition in his now-vindicated dissent in Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45, 76 (1905):

Attitudes are not in the Constitution —> This already breaks w/ what he’s said they’re about to do.

Jane Roe, 4 a single woman who was residing in Dallas County, Texas, instituted this federal action in March 1970 against the District Attorney of the county. She sought a declaratory judgment that the Texas criminal abortion statutes were unconstitutional on their face, and an injunction restraining the defendant from enforcing the statutes.

From what I understand, Norma McCorvey actually was not aware of this case at first.  It was filed “on her behalf” and yet without her knowledge.  I could be remembering that incorrectly, and if so, please feel free to let me know; I’m recalling a story about it from her book Roe No More.

She claimed that the Texas statutes were unconstitutionally vague and that they abridged her right of personal privacy, protected by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments. By an amendment to her complaint Roe purported to sue “on behalf of herself and all other women” similarly situated. …

…He alleged that, as a consequence, the statutes were vague and uncertain, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and that they violated his own and his patients’ rights to privacy in the doctor-patient relationship and his own right to practice medicine, rights he claimed were guaranteed by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments.

Wha…??? Here’s a summary I have of those amendments:

The rest can be found here.

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