There’s a whole lot of hysteria regarding the future of abortion in the United States due to the pending confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh onto the Supreme Court of the United States. Roe v. Wade is frequently criticized on a number of grounds, but here, only one issue shall be tackled. Leftists are concerned that Kavanaugh’s confirmation is the main reason abortion would ever be threatened in the United States, but what they should really be concerned about is consensus in the scientific research community.
Pro-abortion activists famously enjoy accusing pro-life advocates of “thrusting their own religious choices” on others when advocating for protecting the unborn as a part of the law. While faith certainly plays a role in the opinions of many pro-lifers, it is the scientific evidence that compels us to reject abortion.
Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, over forty-five years ago. Part of the decision states:
Texas urges that, apart from the Fourteenth Amendment, life begins at conception and is present throughout pregnancy, and that, therefore, the State has a compelling interest in protecting that life from and after conception. We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.
That decision-making might have sufficed for some in 1973, but the reasoning is no longer sufficient because those trained in the disciplines of medicine, the most qualified to scientifically validate such questions, have come to a general consensus regarding the heartbeat of the unborn.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists affirms that generally by week 6, the heartbeat can be detected via ultrasound. Granted, this is a rather timid estimate, as research from the British Heart Foundation at the University of Oxford indicates that the heartbeat begins just 16 days after conception. Nonetheless, it is widely affirmed that by week 6, a heartbeat is detectable.
Current abortion laws in the United States vary, but the most liberal allow abortion into the third trimester, while many states ban abortion after 20 weeks of gestation, but still with exceptions for the life of the mother.
In response to Roe: it is now in 2018 widely acknowledged and accepted that the heartbeat is at the very least detectable by an ultrasound around 6 weeks. The Court need not speculate as to the beginning of life.
The reality is, Roe could be challenged or diluted on a number of grounds, through decisions regarding abortion procedures themselves and individual states’ own restrictions. Furthermore, as Joshua Craddock points out in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, when the 14th Amendment was ratified, many of the states had laws criminalizing abortion, so it is reasonable to conclude that many considered the unborn to be of personhood. There is also the glaring fact that the right to an abortion occurs nowhere in the Constitution.
From a legal standpoint, Roe v. Wade could be challenged based on scientific consensus to restrict abortion to at least when the heartbeat is detected. From a moral and common-sense standpoint, we know that the fetus is a new person, and the difference of a few weeks should not actually matter in the decision to protect him or her.