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Roe v. Wade turns 32.

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade (read the full-text of the decision: here), the U.S. Supreme Court case that recognized abortion as a Constitutionally protected right and overturned several state laws prohibiting abortion.

According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice advocacy group, whose mission is "to protect the reproductive choices of all women and men in the United States and throughout the world," from 1973, when the Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade, to 2000, more than 39 million legal abortions occurred in the United States. With roughly 1.3 million abortions annually, WILLisms.com estimates that in the United States close to 45 million abortions have been performed since Roe v. Wade.

Over the years, pro-life and pro-choice groups have battled a rhetorical war for the hearts and minds of Americans, using slogans such as these:



But, does it? Does abortion stop a beating heart? Some pro-choice groups like to portray all pro-lifers as being far-right, religious zealots, relying exclusively on faith and morals to oppose abortion. If, however, science and medicine can prove that abortion takes a viable life, the political and legal equation changes rapidly. A pro-life coalition made up of both the religious and scientific communities would mark a profound shift in abortion politics in the United States.

As technology continues to advance, the scientific and medical community has a perpetually greater understanding of pre-natal development. G.E.'s 4-D Ultrasound, for example, is changing the way people think about unborn babies:


One still-emerging theory about abortions is what The Wall Street Journal calls "The Roe Effect." Essentially, according to this theory, America is producing more Republicans and less Democrats, more conservatives and less liberals, because while "Republicans have fewer abortions than their proportion of the population, Democrats have more than their proportion of the population. Democrats account for 30% more abortions than Republicans."

New York Times columnist David Brooks picked up on this phenomenon, calling it "natalism," in a December 2004 editorial:

"George Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility rates, and 25 of the top 26. John Kerry won the 16 states with the lowest rates."

Additionally, states with the lowest rates of abortion are all Republican-leaning:

South Dakota (6.4 per 1,000 women), Utah (6.6/1,000), North Dakota (6.9/1,000), Kentucky (7.5/1,000), West Virginia (7.9/1,000) and Idaho (9.9/1,000).

South Dakota-
Bush: 60%
Kerry: 38%

Bush: 72%
Kerry: 26%

North Dakota-
Bush: 63%
Kerry: 36%

Bush: 60%
Kerry: 40%

West Virginia-
Bush: 56%
Kerry: 43%

Bush: 68%
Kerry: 30%

The states with the highest rates of abortion are mostly Democrat-leaning:

New York has the highest abortion rate (38.1 per 1,000 women) followed by New Jersey (36.5/1,000), Maryland (32.5/1,000), California (31.1/1,000), Nevada (30.6/1,000) and Florida (29.9/1,000). The abortion rate in Washington, D.C. is 39.7/1,000.

New York-
Bush: 40%
Kerry: 58%

New Jersey-
Bush: 46%
Kerry: 53%

Bush: 43%
Kerry: 56%

Bush: 44%
Kerry: 54%

Bush: 50%
Kerry: 48%

Bush: 52%
Kerry: 47%

Washington, D.C.-
Bush: 9%
Kerry: 89%

Perhaps because Democrats are more likely than Republicans to have abortions, and the greatest influence on one's partisanship is parental influence, American society is becoming more pro-life. Indeed, a Pace University study indicates that younger voters in 2004 were more pro-life (54%) than pro-choice (43%). The Pace poll matches other polls that show Americans becoming more pro-life over the years.

A January 2004 Zogby poll indicated that "by a 53% to 36% margin, the public supports the statement, 'Abortion destroys a human life and is manslaughter.'"

Additionally, an October 2003 Washington Post-ABC News poll found that a majority of Americans believe abortion is "morally unacceptable."



32 years after Roe v. Wade, and the abortion debate rages on. In 2005, however, the real policy debate over abortion focuses not on whether abortion should be banned entirely or not, but rather whether partial birth abortion should be legal, whether parents of minors seeking abortions ought to be notified, whether the government should fund abortions, and other peripheral political issues. These "fine-tuning" decisions on the abortion issue typically favor Republicans at the ballot box. Overturning Roe v. Wade outright could hurt Republicans politically, and help the currently politically handicapped Democrats.

As The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto notes, the incoming Senate minority leader Harry Reid, himself a pro-life Mormon from Nevada, believes "it would be pretty difficult for everybody" if the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 ruling.

"Actually," Mr. Taranto argues, "it would be far more difficult for the Republicans, for the continued existence of Roe allows the GOP to have it both ways on abortion while forcing the Democrats to take politically untenable positions." Indeed, currently, Democrats are forced to defend taxpayer-funded abortions, abortions for kids, and partial-birth abortions. Take away Roe v. Wade and the calculus changes drastically.

Liberal interest groups commonly assert that if Republicans are elected, Roe v. Wade will surely be overturned. WILLisms.com recognizes that these kinds of comments have been made, year after year, without coming true, and they are unlikely to come true at any point in the near future. Indeed, the inflammatory nature of the pro-choice groups' comments has more to do with fundraising than actual policy concerns.

The average age of justices on the Supreme Court is near an all-time high, thus President Bush will have a chance to nominate anywhere from one to four new justices over the next four years. Chief Justice William Rehnquist is the most likely to resign first, due to his ailing health. Incidentally, Rehnquist does not support the majority holding of Roe v. Wade, so even if President Bush replaces him with a staunchly pro-life justice, it will not affect the balance of the court.

WILLisms.com makes one prediction for President Bush's 2nd term you can take to the bank: NARAL, NOW, Planned Parenthood, and other pro-choice groups will claim, probably erroneously, that Bush's nominees are intent on overturning Roe v. Wade. Overturning Roe v. Wade, by the way, would not immediately make abortion illegal, but it would send the issue back to the political arena and almost certainly ramp up the rhetoric to a fever pitch.

Tomorrow WILLisms.com will comment on the inauguration of Viktor Yushchenko in Ukraine. Stay tuned.

Posted by Will Franklin · 22 January 2005 06:17 PM