This article is written by guest author Camille Pauley, President of Healing the Culture.
Perhaps you’ve heard the adage: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
That phrase, often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, came to mind as I listened to the oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This case tests the constitutionality of a Mississippi law that disallows most abortions after the preborn child has reached a gestational age of 15 weeks. The Dobbs case forces the high court to revisit its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision which created a national entitlement to abortion.
Most remarkable was the fact that even the justices who support abortion did not attempt to offer a coherent intellectual defense of how Roe was decided. Instead, their defense amounted to an argument that, regardless of its spurious legal reasoning, Roe created a de facto “right” to abortion that people have relied on for nearly 50 years. To overturn it now would be highly disruptive to people who have organized their lives based on the reality that abortion will always be widely available and easily accessible.
The fallacy of this argument was quickly pounced on by other justices, who pointed out the Supreme Court’s previous shameful decisions that supported slavery and segregation in schools. Shameful or not, it’s accurate to say that in our recent past, tens of millions of people “relied” on these abhorrent rulings. They organized cultural and economic institutions that were dependent on court-approved racism. When these precedents were later overturned, there is no doubt it disrupted a certain way of life. Yet it was a way of life based on systematically depriving an entire class of human beings of their natural rights.
Institutionalized racism “fooled” Americans for many decades, but the lie could not be sustained forever. Communism once fooled millions of people in Russia and Eastern Europe, yet it eventually collapsed when it became apparent that the entire edifice was built on a foundation of lies. Similarly, the Roe v. Wade decision is based on reprehensible falsehoods that cannot be sustained for much longer, because they defy the most basic principles of logic, ethics, and justice.
Three Reasons Why Roe v. Wade Is Doomed
Here are three reasons, among many others, why Roe is doomed to be thrown on the ash heap of history.
- Roe violates principles of logic
There are several logical fallacies in Roe, but I will focus on just one: it violates the Principle of Objective Evidence. This axiom tells us that for a claim to be considered reasonable, you must provide evidence that can be verified by others.
However, the Supreme Court ignored this rule on the most important issue at stake in Roe – when does human life begin? The case concerned a Texas abortion law, and the state’s position, as summarized by Justice Blackmun’s majority opinion, was straightforward: “Texas urges that… life begins at conception and is present throughout pregnancy, and that, therefore, the State has a compelling interest in protecting that life from and after conception.”
Instead of honestly evaluating this factual claim, Justice Blackmun and his colleagues in the majority decided it would be convenient to ignore it:
“We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”
A recent survey of more than 5,500 biologists from over a thousand academic institutions posed the question of when human life begins, and the overwhelming majority—96 percent—stated that human life begins at fertilization (conception), when sperm and egg unite to form a genetically unique human zygote, capable of self-directed development. While this survey was conducted in 2021, it merely confirms a biological reality that was well-known even in 1973, when Justice Blackmun was pretending that the beginning of human life was a deep mystery. It is painfully obvious that Roe had to ignore scientific evidence to reach the conclusion the justices wanted.
- Roe violates principles of ethics
The Roe decision established a trimester framework whereby the rights of the preborn child were linked to viability – that is, on the possibility of the child being able to survive outside of the womb. In other words, the preborn child is entitled to legal protection only if she has attained a certain level of physical development.
This violates an ethical precept known as the Principle of Full Human Potential. This principle teaches us that we cannot judge the intrinsic worth of an individual or group by the development they have achieved at a particular point in time, but rather on what they are capable of achieving at their highest potential.
In the 16th century, Spanish colonists in the New World justified enslaving the Native Americans because they were seen to be less than human due to their primitive civilization. But civilizations, just like individual persons, do not progress toward their full potential on the same timeline. We could easily conclude that two-year-old children aren’t human beings, if we measure their worth based on their current physical or mental achievements. The same could be said of many disabled and elderly persons. This is the ethical quagmire that underlies Roe, and it doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.
- Roe violates principles of justice
The majority in Roe argued that abortion was protected under the constitution because a woman has a “right to privacy” which somehow emanates from the “liberty right” contained in the constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment: “nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
However, this conclusion violates the Principle of the Hierarchy of Rights. This teaches us that when two natural rights appear to conflict—such as the life right of a preborn child and the liberty right of her mother—then the more fundamental right should prevail. A right is considered more fundamental when it is a necessary condition for the very possibility of another right to exist. If someone kills you, thus depriving you of your right to life, then your liberty right is a moot point. You cannot exercise your liberty right if you’re dead. Thus, the right to life is always the most fundamental because it is the necessary condition for the other natural rights (liberty and property) to exist. Applied to abortion, we can never say that another person’s rights to liberty or property create a justification to deprive a preborn child of his right to life. This turns the hierarchy of rights upside down and makes civilized life impossible.
Aside from the three discussed above, there are several other principles of logic, ethics, and justice that are violated by the Roe v. Wade decision. You can read about them by clicking here. The more we learn about the unprincipled and fraudulent way Roe was decided, the clearer it becomes that this ruling is on the wrong side of the history. Like racism and communism, it has fooled too many people for too long. But now its day of reckoning has arrived, and it’s withering under scrutiny. You can’t fool all the people all the time.
About The Author: Camille Pauley is Co-Founder and President of Healing the Culture, a non-profit organization that evangelizes and converts people to be deeply, authentically, and permanently pro-life. Founded in 2003 with Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., Ph.D., using his unique curriculum to change hearts and minds and build a culture of life, Healing the Culture has grown into an internationally recognized organization with tremendous influence in the cultural battle over abortion and euthanasia. Camille has over 25 years of experience as a professional pro-life advocate and has inspired, trained, and educated millions on effectively defending the sanctity of human life.