Remembering Roe at 40 Years

Dana Cody

I was in high school, prior to Roe. My then boyfriend’s friend told us his girlfriend had had an illegal abortion. This was my first exposure to the trauma of abortion, where I witnessed the grief of the child’s parents, the emotional toll on their lives, and the impact on their family and friends. Having found out about the abortion after the fact, I grieved but also felt strangely guilty.

Three years later, Roe v. Wade was decided. In Roe, and in its companion case Doe v. Bolton, the Supreme Court virtually invited every female in the United States of child-bearing age, along with anyone else at the periphery of the abortion decision, to join in the grief, guilt, and other emotional and mental consequences suffered by those exposed to abortion. However, the Supreme Court decision also sparked the first large-scale, nationwide public outcry against abortion. Dr. Monica Migliorino Miller documented the public chorus of disapproval by life advocates in her book, Abandoned: The Untold Story of the Abortion Wars.

This book is an invaluable resource for understanding the conflict between abortion proponents and abortion opponents, especially for those whose journey into pro-life advocacy took a little longer. My personal journey took almost twenty years, post-Roe. Though I had always seen abortion as a grave evil, it wasn’t until years later, when a fellow congregant stated she didn’t understand the “big deal” over abortion, that I finally became pro-active. The imprudent comment by my fellow congregant inspired the determination to fight abortion and never quit. The story told in Abandoned fills in the twenty years my indifference left empty.

In Abandoned, Dr. Miller recounts her own journey—into pro-life activism, which included peaceful, effective, and life-saving civil disobedience—that is, until the fateful day that the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE) took effect. FACE brought civil disobedience to a screeching halt and laid the groundwork for government officials to attempt to characterize any activity by life advocates as unlawful. Abandoned documents the change in law enforcement’s approach to dealing with abortion foes who expressed their opposition in various public fora. Post-FACE, the existence of a polite tolerance, almost protectiveness, of pro-life advocates by some law enforcement quickly vanished. Enter the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder, and an astronomical increase in federal prosecution of pro-life advocates. Dr. Miller and her colleagues sacrificed their liberty to protest abortion by participating in rescues prior to FACE. But Abandoned also gives a firsthand view of what U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia aptly describes as the “abortion distortion,” the special rules that have been applied to pro-life free speech activities.

One passage from Abandoned stands out, especially in light of the recent presidential election where the most pro-abortion president in history was re-elected. Dr. Miller recounts her encounter with Sister Mary, who—in a shocking departure from church teaching—worked at the Albany Medical Center, an abortion provider in the Chicago area. After an impassioned verbal exchange between Sister Mary and Dr. Miller about their respective beliefs concerning abortion, Dr. Miller came to this thoughtful conclusion:

Abortion was, after all, about something even bigger than “simply” the right to life. Sister Mary had revealed to me a whole new dimension to the abortion debate, born from a Nietzschean world—a world with no God of any kind and no moral standard. The prime value was human liberty and its exercise without restraint, and so, for Sister Mary abortion was a sacrament—Albany her shrine. (Abandoned, p. 77)

To my mind, Dr. Miller’s insight was spot-on. We have witnessed abortion become enshrined in our culture, available for any reason, at any time during pregnancy. So enshrined in our culture is abortion that employers shall pay for it upon government mandate or suffer financial penalties for failure to do so, religious liberty be damned.

I highly recommend Abandoned. In a time when it is easy for life advocates to become discouraged. Abandoned is an inspiration that will renew your resolve to keep struggling against the abortion advocates’ warped perception of human dignity and freedom.

Whether it takes another forty years or, as we all hope, many fewer, LLDF will continue to defend the free speech and other civil rights of pro-life advocates so that the essential message of life is heard at every level of our culture. As we say time and again, we couldn’t do it without your support! Thank you.

[For information on pro-life advance health care directives, please see Advance Medical Directives —Ed.]


Reprinted from Lifeline Vol. XXII, No. 1 (Winter 2013)