Truth about Roe

The retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has propelled Roe v. Wade more prominently into public discourse. As the confirmation process for his replacement moves forward, pro-abortion groups are spreading misinformation about Roe as they raise alarms about its purported demise.

The Novena for the Legal Protection of Human Life, which began Aug. 3 and runs through Sept. 28, urges our prayer and fasting for the intention that this change in the Supreme Court will bring our nation closer to the day when every human being is protected in law and welcomed in life. It also seeks to dispel the misinformation spread by pro-abortion groups by sharing accurate facts about Roe.

Here are a few of those facts:

Roe and Doe legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.

Many people don’t realize that Roe v. Wade legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. Roe says abortions may not be restricted at all during the first three months, and in the second three months may be regulated only for the mother’s health. After fetal “viability,” Roe allows abortion to be prohibited, but still mandates an exception for the woman’s life or health.

But in Roe’s companion case, Doe v. Bolton, the court defined “health” to include “all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being” of the mother. In most states, this is broad enough to permit virtually any abortion in the seventh, eighth or ninth months of pregnancy if any of these reasons is invoked.

If Roe is overturned, the democratic process — not the courts — will determine abortion policy.

Before Roe, all states permitted abortions necessary to save the mother’s life, and some permitted abortion in additional circumstances. But Roe deemed any prohibition on abortion as unconstitutional.

If Roe is overturned, policy decisions about abortion will be made by the citizens of each state through the democratic process, rather than by courts. Some states will place limits on abortion, and others will likely have few limits.

Roe’s extreme abortion license is not widely supported.

Abortion advocates claim that Roe enjoys broad public support, and some recent polls seem to provide evidence for this claim. But most polls don’t explain Roe’s extreme abortion license, and some misrepresent it. For example, a 2016 Pew Research Center poll claimed 69 percent of Americans favor Roe v. Wade and 28 percent oppose it. But the poll wrongly described Roe as establishing “a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, at least in the first three months of pregnancy.” The fact is, Roe made abortion legal through all nine months of pregnancy and for virtually any reason.

The vast majority of Americans oppose the policy of nearly unlimited abortion dictated by Roe, and most believe abortion should not be legal for the reasons it is most often performed. A May 2018 Gallup poll shows that 65 percent of Americans said abortion should be illegal in the second trimester and 81 percent said abortion should be illegal in the last trimester. A 2018 Marist poll shows that a majority of women said either that abortion should never be permitted (9 percent of respondents) or permitted only in cases of rape, incest and to save the woman’s life (42 percent).

Readers can easily share these and other facts about Roe with their elected representatives and others who need to hear the truth.

Schleppenbach is associate director of the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For information on how you can join in the bishops’ pro-life activities, visit www.usccb.org/prolife.