Abortion Decision

January 21, 2000

Twenty-seven years ago the Supreme Court ruled in Roe vs. Wade and began a tradition of drawing lines. In that famous case, the justices opted for biological criteria in their definition of a "person" in Roe v. Wade. The Court chose the idea of viability and allowed for the possibility that states could outlaw abortions performed after a child was viable. But viability was an arbitrary criterion, and there was no biological reason why the line couldn't be drawn much later.

As if to prove that, Dr. Francis Crick suggested in the British journal Nature that if "a child were considered to be legally born when two days old, it could be examined to see whether it was an ‘acceptable member of human society.'" Obviously this is not only an argument for abortion; it is an argument for infanticide.

Other line-drawers suggested a cultural criterion for personhood. Ashley Montagu, for example, argued that "a newborn baby is not truly human until he or she is molded by cultural influences later." Again, this is more than just an argument for abortion. It is also an argument for infanticide.

And Joseph Fletcher argued in his book Humanhood that "humans without some minimum of intelligence or mental capacity are not persons, no matter how many of these organs are active, no matter how spontaneous their living processes are." This is not only an argument for abortion and infanticide; it is also adequate justification for euthanasia.

So this is the legacy of this infamous Supreme Court decision. Once the justices began drawing lines, others drew them in unexpected and dangerous ways. In the end, Roe v. Wade didn't just legalize abortion; it started the moral slide to other issues like infanticide and euthanasia.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.