Pandora’s Box

On the thirty-third anniversary of the tragic Roe v. Wade decision there’s bad—and some good—news. Today marks the thirty-third anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision—a day Americans should mark with sadness and shame. Forty million babies have been sacrificed on the altar of personal choice and autonomy. When Roe came down, many of us argued that it was the beginning of a slippery slope—that once we devalued life in the womb we would devalue—and endanger—life at all stages. After all, we had just established, as a matter of law and social priority, that individual choice trumps even the right to life. Tragically, we’ve been proven right. The so-called “right to choose” has led to Supreme Court decisions like Lawrence that held that it’s discriminatory for states to legislate against sodomy. As Justice Scalia put it, “This opens the flood gates for gay marriage and makes it impossible for any morals legislation to be enacted.” He’s right. Who can say the common good demands the preservation of traditional marriage when personal choice is exalted to the summum bonum of society and is constitutionally protected? The worst post-Roe decision was Casey v. Planned Parenthood, in which Justice Kennedy wrote: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Taken literally, these words make it impossible to legislate any determination of the common good, because inevitably, the individual has the right to decide for himself the meaning of life. It is individualism run amok. And this week more damage was done.  John Ashcroft, when he was Attorney General, tried to stop Oregon from allowing doctors from assisting in patient suicide by invoked federal drug laws.  This week the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision, held that the federal government cannot bar the dispensing of controlled substances for assisted suicide in the face of a state provision permitting it. Thankfully, this is a limited decision. The Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the assisted suicide—except by implication.  But it suggests that six justices are sympathetic to it. But if assisted suicide is ever permitted, it will soon become mandatory as it has in Holland. I don’t like to be an alarmist, but unless we do something—such as getting more justices like Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas on the court—we will soon have Dutch-style euthanasia in America. The good news also came from the Court. On Thursday it unanimously ruled that a New Hampshire law requiring parental notification if a teenager is seeking an abortion can stand.  An exception must be added for medical emergencies, but on principle, parental notification passed muster.  Alleluia! On this anniversary of Roe v. Wade, Christians must resolve to go on fighting, not only on behalf of the unborn, but on a broader question: Does our society have the capacity to rule itself according to what is the common good, adhering to its founding principles of the protection of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Or will it be swept up in the notion that the only thing that matters is that individuals can choose for themselves what they want. We mustn’t give up this struggle.  We must resolve to fight smarter and harder—for as long as it takes.


Chuck Colson



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