Geoffrey R. Stone on “Sex and the Constitution: The Road to Roe”

Geoffrey R. Stone on “Sex and the Constitution: The Road to Roe”

Articles, Blog , , 0 Comments


And today we have a lecture by Geoff Stone a return visit; I’m not surprised to see so many of you here for it. Geoff has been a great supporter of the Franke Institute from the beginning. We were just talking about his being in the provost’s office in the early years of the Franke Institute when his support was absolutely crucial for the Institute getting going. We tried to time this lecture with the publication of a monumental new book that he has in progress and that has introducer, or has in her hands, you’ll hear more about it with her, the timing is just off, but there is the one advanced copy to show around. But here to do the formal honors of introduction for Geoff is Jane Dailey, Professor of History at the University of Chicago, Jane. [applause] Thank you Jim, I’m really glad to be here. I think there are probably two or three people in this room who do not know who Geoff Stone is so I’m not going to spend a lot of time introducing him. I will tell you that he is the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School where he joined the faculty in 1973. He is also a graduate of the Law School. We think it’s been about 40 years since he taught undergraduates for the first time which is something that he’s doing this year in the college, teaching a wonderfully popular class on the 1st amendment. Among Professor Stone’s achievements is his first book, Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime which is also a work of history, and which won many, many prizes. I’m sure that many of you are familiar with it. It seems to be more and more relevant every passing day. Pertinent to this book, Sex and the Constitution is an experience that went back very far in Geoff’s life when he clerked, had the honor to clerk, for Supreme Court of the United States Justice Willam R? J! I always get that wrong. William J. Brennan. In a pivotal year for the supreme court, and for this book. This book is extremely heavy. [laughter] It also has a long title. It is: ‘Sex and the Constitution: Sex, Religion and Law from America’s Origins to the 21st Century.’ It took about 10 years to write from start to finish. It is a work, literally, of monumental proportions and achievement. And Professor Stone will speak to us today on the topic of abortion, sex and the constitution: the road to Roe. Geoff. [applause] Thank you. I’m delighted to be here. I’ve always been a fan of the Franke Institute. As Jim said, I was around more or less from the beginning, and it’s done just amazing work over the years, and Jim has been a terrific Director. And it adds real value to the University and to the Chicago community. And as Jane Dailey said, I’m talking a bit about what’s in this book. The book covers a broad range of issues, contraception, abortion, obscenity gay rights, same-sex marriage and so on. And tries to put it in a broad historical context, to understand how those issues have evolved over time, and how religion has played a central role in framing the law. And today what I’ll do is talk about the issue of Roe. And as Jane said, this is something which was personal for me, because the year I was a law clerk to Justice Brennan was the year of Roe vs. Wade. So I was there at the time that the case was handed down. So for the past four decades, one of the most contentious and bitterly divisive issues in American politics has been the continuing vitality of Roe v. Wade. Opponents of Roe maintain that the court invented a constitutional right out of whole cloth, without any legitimate justification. Supporters of Roe maintain that it was a perfectly sound decision that correctly recognized a fundamental constitutional right. Now whether one agrees or disagrees with Roe, contemporary understandings of the decision, and of its historical origins, are often confused and incomplete. The story of how we got to Roe, like the story of how we got to Brown vs. Board of Education, or how we got to Obergefell v. Hodges, the same-sex marriage decision, is important to remember. For it gives both content and context to the debates of the present. So let us begin at the beginning. At the time our constitution was drafted, abortion was often relied upon by single and widowed women to avoid the consequences of illegitimate births. In that era, contrary to what many people today assume, abortion before quickening, that is, before the point at which the woman could feel movement, typically about 4.5 months, was perfectly legal. Indeed, this had been the unbroken state of the law at least as far back as the ancient Greeks. The ancient Hippocratic treatise Diseases of Women, for example, recommended a number of abortifacients to people. Plato commended abortion as an important means of insuring population stability. And Aristotle advocated abortion as long as it occurred prior to quickening. Although the church in the middle ages condemned abortion as a sin, the law did not treat abortion as a crime. To the contrary, those who did not share the faith were perfectly free under the law, to do as they pleased. Abortion was also common and legal in England in the years leading up to the American Revolution. As Lady Caroline Fox wrote to her husband in the 1740s upon learning that she was pregnant for the 3rd time in as many years, “I’m certainly breeding. I took a great deal of Physick yesterday in the hopes of sending it away.” Soon thereafter she wrote her husband that she’d been successful, noting: “Is not that clever?” At this time, a wide variety of female pills were readily available in London for the purpose of inducing abortion. The most popular of these pills, John Hopper’s Pill, contained a high dose of ferrous sulfate. At least some of these pills were effective. Either by directly affecting the uterus, or by mildly poisoning the pregnant woman. The American colonies embraced the same approach to abortion as the English Common Law. And abortion before quickening was both common and legal in the American Colonies. Moreover, even abortion after quickening was almost never punished. Now over the course of the 19th century, abortion became ever more common. This was evident in the fact that the birthrate in the United States fell dramatically from 1800 to 1900. In the colonial era, the average family had 9 children. By 1900, that number was only 3. The reason for the change was clear. In the agrarian world of the 18th century, children were an important economic asset. But by the end of the 19th century, with greater urbanization and industrialization, children were increasingly seen as a potential financial burden that could cause a family’s economic ruin. Thus, for most families, birth control had become essential. And because contraception at this time was generally unreliable, abortion was seen as a critical way of managing family size. Indeed, by the middle of the 19th century, approximately 20% of all pregnancies ended in abortion. At this time, abortifacients were readily available from mail order firms. Daily newspapers regularly ran ads for abortifacients, and those who provided abortion services did so quite openly. The flamboyant Ann Lohman Restell of New York, for example, who was popularly known as Madame Restell, maintained a highly profitable abortion business serving a genteel, middle and upper class clientele. She touted her celebrated powers to married ladies. And like many of her competitors, she broadly advertised her services in the penny press of the day. To give you a sense of the times, here’s an example of one of her widely distributed advertisements: “To married women: is it but too well known that the families of the married often increase beyond what the happiness of those who give them birth would dictate? In how many instances the hardworking father and more especially the mother of a poor family remain slaves, without their lives, urging at the oar of incessant labor, toiling to live, living but to toil? Is it desirable, then, for parents to increase their families, regardless of consequences to themselves or the wellbeing of their offspring, When a simple, easy, healthy and certain remedy is within our control?” The general acceptance of abortion as an appropriate method of managing family size began to change, however, in the latter part of the 19th century. Two factors in particular contributed to this shift. First, religious perspectives on abortion began to change during the evangelical explosion of the second Great Awakening. The traditional protestant conception of the fetus assumed that it was not a human life until the point of quickening. Abandoning that view, evangelicals during the second Great Awakening began to preach that a separate, distinct, and precious life came into being at the very moment of conception. Second, medical professionals in this era increasingly came to the view, based partly on religion and partly on half-baked science, that human life begins at conception. A professor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, for example, published a pamphlet in which he confidently asserted that newly conceived embryos can think and can perceive right and wrong. [laughter] And in the late 1850s, the Boston doctor and religious moralist Horatio Storer initiated a concerted physician’s crusade against abortion. Storer decried the growing frequency of abortion, and maintained that the primary cause of this phenomenon was the general demoralization of women. And that widespread ignorance of the true character of abortion was a problem. Storer insisted that many women who have an abortion become confirmed invalids and develop serious and often fatal organic disease. He added that some women who have an abortion die, either immediately or shortly thereafter as a result of the moral shock from the very thought of what they’ve done. While many others are driven to insanity. Storer charged that children born to a woman after she’s had an abortion are frequently deformed and diseased, and that they too therefore bear the burden of their mother’s heinous act. Storer emphatically rejected the notion that a woman should decide this question for herself. Because, he explained, during pregnancy a woman’s mind is prone to severe derangement. As a result of Storer’s campaign, in 1859 the newly founded American Medical Association adopted a resolution condemning abortion in every stage of gestation except when necessary to save the life of the woman. Over the next several decades, the AMA, working hand in hand with religious moralists, during the late 19th century social purity movement, launched an aggressive and successful campaign to rid the nation not only of abortion, but of contraception as well. As the leading voices of this movement explained, the sole purpose of women is to produce children. And women must therefore remain within their god-given sphere. By the end of the 19th C. in a complete reversal of the world of the framers, every state had enacted legislation prohibiting the distribution of any product designed for purposes of contraception, and every state had enacted legislation prohibiting abortion in any stage of pregnancy unless doctors certified that the abortion was necessary to save the life of the woman. Thus for the first time in Western history, abortion was unlawful, even before quickening and women who sought abortions were now themselves subject to prosecution. Opponents of birth control insisted that the issue was simple. If a woman didn’t want to get pregnant, then she shouldn’t do anything that might get her pregnant. That’s what it came down to. But despite the threat of severe criminal sanctions, the medical profession’s often perverse warnings about the dangers of abortion, and the preaching of religious moralists, women in the late 19th C. continued to seek abortions in record numbers. Indeed, by the turn of the 20th C., approximately 2 million women had illegal abortions each year. And almost 1/3 of all pregnancies ended in abortion. Now, though, for the first time in history, these abortions had to be performed illegally. In secret and in unsafe conditions. And by much less reliable practitioners than in the past. By the 1950s, with improvements in contraception, which was now increasingly but still not universally legal, the number of unwanted pregnancies gradually declined. But even then, approximately 1 million women each year resorted to illegal abortions. The vast majority of these women continued to turn either to self-induced abortion or to the dark and often forbidding world of the back-alley abortion. Women who resorted to self-abortion typically relied on such methods as throwing themselves down a flight of stairs or ingesting, douching with, or inserting into themselves a chilling variety of chemicals and toxins, ranging from bleach to turpentine to gunpowder. Knitting needles, crochet hooks, scissors and coat hangers were among the tools most commonly used by women who attempted to self-abort. Approximately 30% of all illegal abortions at this time were self-induced. Women who sought abortions from back-alley abortionists encountered similar horrors. To find someone to perform an illegal abortion, women often had to rely on tips from elevator operators, taxi cab drivers, salesmen, and the like. Because of the clandestine nature of the illegal abortions, the very process of finding an abortionist was dangerous and terrifying. Women who sought such abortions were often blindfolded, driven to remote areas and passed off to people they did not know and could not even see during the process. Such abortions were performed not only in secret offices and hotel rooms, but also in dank bathrooms, in the back seats of cars, and literally in back alleys. The vast majority of these abortions were performed by rank amateurs, including elevator operators, prostitutes, barbers, and unskilled laborers. In the 1960s, an average of more than 200 women died each year as a result of botched, illegal abortions. And in addition to those who died in the course of illegal abortions, many thousands more suffered serious illness or injury. The stories of women who suffered through this nightmare are legion. One woman recalled that her fellow college student who had had an illegal abortion was too frightened to tell anyone what she had done. She locked herself in the bathroom in her dorm room and quietly bled to death. In another incident, 28 year old Geraldine Santoro bled to death on the floor of a Connecticut hotel room after she and her former lover attempted an abortion on their own. The former lover, who had no medical experience, used a textbook and some borrowed tools. When things went terribly wrong, he fled and Santoro died alone. The occasional visibility of such incidents led some religious organizations that had previously been silent on abortion to address the issue more directly. Protestant churches varied in their opinions. The United Methodist Church, for example, acknowledged the sanctity of unborn human life, but nonetheless proclaimed that because we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and wellbeing of the woman for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy, we support the removal of abortion from the criminal code. Similarly in 1968, the American Baptist Convention came to the conclusion that abortion should be a matter of responsible, personal decision. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, insisted that abortion was always and unequivocally forbidden. Even when necessary to save the life of the woman. This led politics of abortion to play out in interesting ways. Because Catholics had traditionally identified with the Democratic party, and because Catholics were more likely than others to oppose abortion, Republicans at this time were more pro-abortion than Democrats. Although we often forget this fact, it’s interesting to recall that in early 1972 59% of Democrats and 68% of Republicans thought that the decision to have an abortion should be made solely by a woman and her physician. Indeed, Republican politicians spearheaded some of the earliest efforts to liberalize abortion laws. Barry Goldwater, for example, one of the Republican party’s conservative icons, supported abortion rights, as did Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York. And in 1967, California Governor Ronald Reagan signed a bill liberalizing that state’s abortion laws. But because of other, more liberal elements in the Democratic party, the Democratic party itself was officially more pro-abortion than the Republican party. Seeing an opportunity to draw disaffected Catholic voters away from the Democrats, Republican leaders began to move towards a more anti-abortion stance. They knew that if they could succeed in this effort they could bring about a profound shift in American politics. The strategy was clearly evident in President Richard Nixon’s policies during the 1972 election. With the clear sense of the political ramifications of the abortion issue, Nixon embraced an anti-abortion stance in a strategic effort to draw Catholics into the Republican camp. Nixon knew what he was doing. In the 1972 election, large numbers of Catholics were prepared to cast single issue votes on the issue of abortion, voted Republican for the first time in their lives, helping Nixon to win an overwhelming victory in that year’s presidential election. At roughly the same time, the rising voice of the women’s movement began to shape public discourse on abortion. In February of 1969, for example, Betty Friedan, the founding President of the National Organization for Women delivered a rousing address in Chicago in what was billed as the first national conference on abortion laws. Friedan declared that there is no freedom, no equality possible for women unless we assert and demand the control over our own bodies, over our own reproductive processes. At the end of the conference, the participants founded the National Association of Repeal of Abortion Laws. NARAL on the premise that what was needed was a complete overhaul of America’s abortion laws. Recognizing the basic human right of a woman to control her own reproduction, NARAL declared that it was dedicated to the elimination of all laws that would compel a woman to bear a child against her will. Later that year, Planned Parenthood and the American Public Health Association also called for the repeal of America’s abortion laws, and declared abortion to be a fundamental personal right of the woman. As these organizations moved to the forefront of national debate, the law began to change. In 1970, 4 states: Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, and New York, for the first time legalized abortion in the first trimester. Thus, restoring the law to more or less what it had been at the time that our constitution was adopted. Opponents of these laws, however, quickly mobilized their forces. Adding fuel to the fire at this moment, in early 1972, Congress approved the Equal Rights Amendment and submitted it to the states for ratification. This immediately led religious and conservative activists to tie the issue of abortion to even larger conflicts about the appropriate role of women in American society and to the meaning of so-called family values. Suddenly, the legislative progress on abortion that had begun only a few years earlier ground to a halt. Despite growing and clear majority support for legalizing abortion, no state legislature now acted on that view. Several factors contributed to this legislative paralysis, but the most important was that the initial round of pro-abortion legislative victories energized abortion opponents, and they organized with extraordinary effectiveness. Those opposed to abortion threatened to act as single issue voters and they communicated that intention to elected officials with perfect clarity. Legislators knew all too well that although a substantial majority of their citizens supported legalizing abortion, when election day rolled around, committed single issue voters could effectively vote them out of office. Faced with this sudden paralysis in the legislative arena, pro-choice advocates began, for the first time, to think about challenging the constitutionality of anti-abortion laws in the courts. Initially this seemed like a long shot. Because, in the words of New York Times columnist Linda Greenhouse, “The idea of a constitutional right of abortion seemed somewhat illusory. But with legislative change effectively blocked, the courts now seemed the only realistic alternative.” In 1970, after the Connecticut legislature repeatedly refused to amend its 19th C. anti-abortion statute, a group of women activists formed a new organization, Women Vs. Connecticut to challenge the constitutionality of the Connecticut law. “We want control over our own bodies,” they declared. “We are tired of being pressured to have children or not to have children. It is our decision.” Six weeks after Women Vs. Connecticut filed its complaint in federal court on behalf of 858 women plaintiffs, the federal court held the Connecticut law unconstitutional. Judge Edward Lombard, a conservative Eisenhower appointee, held that in this law, Connecticut trespasses unjustifiably on the personal privacy and liberty of its female citizens in violation of the constitution. And that the state’s purported interest in banning abortion are insufficient to take from the woman the decision that she, as the appropriate decision-maker must be free to choose. Cases challenging abortion, anti-abortion laws now started popping up everywhere. In Georgia, a group of 24 plaintiffs, including doctors, nurses, social workers, and members of the clergy, challenged the constitutionality of Georgia’s anti-abortion statute. And the federal court in Georgia also held the statute unconstitutional, explaining that the constitutional concept of personal liberty embodies a right of privacy that is broad enough to include the decision to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. At roughly the same time in Texas, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, recent graduates of the University of Texas Law School, teamed up with the plaintiff, identified only as Jane Roe, to challenge the Texas anti-abortion statutes. On June 17th 1970, the federal court in Texas held that the Texas law violated the fundamental right of women to decide for themselves whether or not to have children. A year later, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it would hear the case of Roe vs. Wade. Now many Americans today think of Roe vs. Wade as a radical, left-wing decision. But that was not at all the view at the time. By 1973, a substantial majority of Americans supported the right of a woman to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. And Gallup poll showed that 2 out of 3 Americans think abortion should be a matter of decision solely between a woman and her physician. Moreover, as we’ve seen, the lower courts were already moving sharply in a direction that anticipated the decision in Roe. In an overwhelming 7 to 2 decision, the Supreme Court held that these lower courts were correct and that the constitution did indeed guarantee a woman’s right to decide for herself whether or not to bear a child. Strikingly, 3 of the 4 justices appointed to the court by Richard Nixon, who had dedicated himself to appointing conservative justices, joined the decision. Indeed, without their support, Roe would have come out the other way. That Warren Burger, Harry Blackmun and Lewis Powell, new to the court, joined Justices Douglas, Brennan, Stewart and Marshall in Roe speaks volumes about the mainstream nature of the decision at the time. The plain and simple fact is that at the time Roe was decided, the justices did not view the abortion issue as posing a particularly divisive ideological question. Although the Justices certainly understood the stakes, and knew that it was a tricky legal question, none of them imagined that Roe would later come to be a central flashpoint of American politics. This understanding of Roe is consistent with both the news coverage at the time and the public reaction to the decision. Because Lyndon Johnson died on the same day that the court announced its decision in Roe, newspapers, magazines, and news shows treated Roe as only a secondary headline. US News and World Report, for example, did not even mention Roe on the front page of that week’s issue. As the editors observed 40 years later, “the far reaching effects of the decision simply weren’t evident at the time.” This view was also consistent with the editorials and commentary about Roe, which were overwhelmingly approving. Even newspapers in traditionally conservative states took this view. The Atlantic Constitution, for example, characterized the decision as “realistic and appropriate.” The Houston Chronicle called it “sound.” And the San Antonio Light gushed that “although the ruling was not perfect, it is as close to it as humanly possible.” Moreover, the American people clearly endorsed the decision. In polls taken at the time, only 41% of Americans disapproved of the decision in Roe. And to put that in perspective, it’s useful to compare the public’s reaction to Roe with its reaction to other, more controversial decisions. In 1962, for example, after the Supreme Court held prayer in public schools unconstitutional, 79% of Americans disapproved of the decision. In 1967, after the court held laws prohibiting interracial marriage unconstitutional, 72% of Americans disapproved. And in 2010, after the Supreme Court held laws limiting corporate campaign expenditures unconstitutional, 80% of Americans disapproved. But only 41% of Americans disagreed with Roe. An additional measure of just how uncontroversial Roe was at the time is the fact that when President Gerald Ford nominated John Paul Stevens to succeed Justice Douglas in 1975, 2 years after Roe, not a single senator asked Stevens a question about Roe or about his views on abortion. It just wasn’t important. Even most evangelicals did not challenge the decision at this time. For in 1973, most evangelicals still regarded abortion as a Catholic issue. The one group that did strongly condemn Roe from the very moment of the decision were Catholics. [whoops] Sorry about that. who disapproved of the decision by a margin of 56 to 40%. Even that’s surprising. Indeed, within days of the decision, 1,000s of telegrams and letters of protest from Catholics began pouring into the court. Many of the letters from Catholic school students, which were form letters, denouncing the Justices as murderers and as butchers. The vast majority of these letters were addressed either to Justice Blackmun, the author of the court’s opinion, or to Justice Brennan, the court’s only Catholic justice, for whom, as I noted, I was serving as a law clerk at the time. Now I’ll depart from text and tell you two anecdotes about that moment and about those letters. The first is that the Supreme Court is not used to getting letters. [laughter] And so as the staff brought in boxes upon boxes, piled up in the hallways, of these letters, nobody actually wanted to go through them. It wasn’t worth it. So late at night, the only people who were going through the boxes were the law clerks, who had flown out to interview with law firms, for jobs after they were finished clerking, and expected reimbursement checks from the firms for their expenses. And so they were sitting there at 2 O’Clock going through the letters looking for their damn checks! [laughter] Now Justice Brennan took the view that he was not going to read the letters. He regarded it as inappropriate to read letters that were not part of the judicial process. Justice Harry Blackmun on the other hand, who was new to the court, did choose to read the letters, and he in fact read, so far as I’m aware, all of the ones that were addressed to him. Thousands of them. And I came upon him at a moment that was quite accidental, but I happen to choose to believe quite revealing. It was about 1 in the morning, and I went into Blackmun’s chambers looking for one of his law clerks, because he and I were working on a case together, and all the lights were out in the chambers except for a reading light on Blackmun’s desk, and the clerk I was looking for was gone. But there was Blackmun with a pile of these letters there, and just in the reading light, he was reading these letters. And I watched him for awhile, and it was very touching. And later I came to the view that I had observed the moment in which Harry Blackmun gave up his conservative views. That as he read those letters, I suspect for the first time in his life, he felt what it was like to be demonized, and to be hated. And Blackmun was the kind of person who registered that, and who thought about it, and I believe that over the years, as he became a more thoughtful and more liberal justice, that that moment probably had a real impact on him. Ok, so to return to the story, as we know of course, Roe eventually emerged into a bitterly divisive issue. But this did not happen until the end of the decade. As the culture wars exploded in the United States over such issues as the Equal Rights Amendment, gay rights, obscenity, and women’s liberation. Thus, in particular inflaming the Evangelical community. By this time, polls showed that more than 1/3 of all Americans identified themselves as Born Again. Evangelicals had become the nation’s largest religious demographic. When the Reverend Jerry Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1979, he brought together for the first time the many disparate elements of Christian Fundamentalism into a single, unified political movement. Falwell explained that Roe had awakened him from his slumber, and he preached that if Evangelicals worked together, they had the power to take control of the national government. The Moral Majority raised huge amounts of money to support political candidates and in state after state, its members wrested control of the state Republican apparatus from party regulars. By the summer of 1980, Republican leaders were treating Falwell, more than any other religious figure in American history, like the leader of a powerful political constituency. The Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson boasted that the evangelical community now has enough votes to run the country. And in his pursuit of the presidency, Ronald Reagan now called for a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe V. Wade and promised to appoint pro-life judges at every level of the judiciary. Thus ushering in a historic era of judicial nominations to the Supreme Court and to the federal courts shaped in no small part by religious conceptions of constitutional law. With Reagan’s election, James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, proclaimed that Evangelicals had finally come home, and that home was the White House. In the years since 1980, a succession of Republican Presidents have sought to appoint Supreme Court Justices who would overturn Roe V. Wade. Interestingly, though, 3 of those 7 Justices, Sandra Day O’Conner, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter disappointed those who appointed them, demonstrating both a respect for precedent and an understanding of the fundamental right at issue in Roe, O’Conner, Kennedy, and Souter consistently reaffirmed the core decision in Roe, despite repeated efforts to overturn the decision. Having learned this lesson though, Republican Presidents have grown ever more determined not to replicate that mistake. And with the appointment of Justices like Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, and Samuel Alito, the Court has now come several times within a hair’s breath of eviscerating Roe. So where are we today? Well if President Obama’s nominee Chief Judge Merrick Garland had been confirmed by the Senate, as he should have been, that would have pretty much locked Roe into place for the foreseeable future. For there would then have been 6 Justices on the Court who support a woman’s right to decide for herself whether or not to bear a child. Largely to prevent that outcome, however, senate Republicans, in an unconscionable abuse of authority, refused to even consider Merrick Garland’s nomination, in the hope that an anti-abortion Republican would win the White House in 2016. If Judge Neil Gorsuch is confirmed by the Senate, that will put the Court back where it was before Justice Scalia’s death. That is, the Court will once again be divided 5 to 4, but with still 5 in favor of continuing Roe V. Wade. But what if the 3 oldest Justices on the court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, or Steven Breyer, should leave the Court for health or other reasons, in the next few years? And if Donald Trump then appoints another committed conservative to the Court, there will then be 5 Justices who will likely vote to overrule Roe V. Wade. In the United States today, 30% of all women have at least 1 abortion during their lives. And approximately one million legal abortions are performed in the United States annually. If Roe is overruled, some states will no doubt legalize abortion as a matter of state law, but most will not. Think of the Electoral College. If this comes to pass, hundreds of thousands of women, mostly poor and minority, will once again be thrown year after year into the dark and dangerous world of back-alley abortions. So what then is the takeaway of this talk? Well, other than hoping to incite your curiosity to buy my book, [laughter] it’s to make clear that a world where abortion is illegal is not the state of nature. From the ancient world until the late 19th C., abortion was readily and legally available to women. It was only the illegitimate infusion of religious dogma into our secular law that changed all this. And especially in a nation dedicated to the separation of church and state, this is truly a tragedy, and it is a tragedy waiting once again to happen. Thank you. [applause]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *