Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

November 12, 2012

STUMPTALK: Repealing Roe v. Wade

By Phillip Chesser
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — A little while back on these pages a contributor wrote that Mitt Romney, should he become president, “would repeal Roe v. Wade.” Civics 101: the President can’t repeal Supreme Court decisions. He can only appoint Court Justices, and as anyone knows, that’s a gamble. For example, in 1992 the Court heard Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which provided the best opportunity yet to overturn Roe. The muddled final decision did not. Justices appointed by ostensibly conservative presidents did no harm to Roe. In fact, they might have strengthened it. Moreover, as the recent decision on ObamaCare shows, the current conservative Court majority cannot be relied upon to do the right thing.

Another way to overturn Roe is by Constitutional amendment. In the early days following the decision opponents drafted several human life amendments, none of which went very far. That’s because amending the Constitution is a difficult process, requiring two thirds majorities in both Houses of Congress and ratification by three quarters of fifty states’ legislatures. Also it’s theoretically possible for Congress to limit the Court’s jurisdiction, but most Congresses have been loath to do so.

So it’s not likely that any president can do much to overturn Roe. Furthermore, even if the president did succeed in appointing a compliant Court, any such Court would have to wait for the appropriate case, not as easy as some might think. But suppose all of the above happened: a compliant Court hears the proper case and reverses of Roe v. Wade. What then? Would the writer’s “Baltimore City … coat hanger” return? No, it would not. In matters of abortion the nation would return to the status quo ante; that is, the situation that obtained before Roe: some states would permit abortion, some would enact restrictions, and a few would make it illegal. Looking at the current political landscape, one can predict which states would be pro abortion and which pro-life. A woman wanting an abortion but living in a red pro-life state would in many cases be able to drive just a few miles to an abortion clinic in a blue state and have the procedure done there. That’s what women did before Roe.

It’s likely then that permissive abortion will continue in the United States for many years regardless of the White House occupant. Most pro life realists acknowledge this and see changing hearts as the best way to win the battle against abortion. In the culture of death — Pope John Paul II’s phrase — that has developed in the West since the end of World War II, where many see pregnancy as a disease, motherhood as a curse, and children as prohibitively expensive and troublesome (too many children and one can’t buy the adult toys he wants), the fight against abortion remains difficult and is fought mostly by the holy and faithful remnant. Nonetheless the battle is not over.

All the card carrying members of the culture of death can rest easy for now. Of course, this is not all there is to it.

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Stumptalk is published weekly in the Crossville Chronicle. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. To contact Stumptalk, email coordinator Phil Billington at