Norma McCorvey passed away at an assisted-living facility in Katy Texas on February 18, 2017. She was 69 years old. By all objective measures, Ms. McCorvey had a difficult life; reform school, a teenage marriage that ended in divorce, an out-of-wedlock birth, financial hardship, and drug and alcohol addiction. She was 22, unwed and struggling when she discovered she was pregnant for the third time. Unable to get a legal abortion in Texas, attorneys, Linda Coffee and Sarah Weddington, took her case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The Court’s Roe v. Wade decision in January 1973, legalized abortion in the United States. Norma McCorvey was Jane Roe.
Later in life, Ms. McCorvey had a change of heart. She became a born-again Christian, then a Roman Catholic, and a staunch pro-life advocate. Her conversion like her court ruling, remains mired in controversy, with each side of the abortion debate accusing the other side of exploiting her.
The abortion debate is contentious and emotional because it pits two fundamental human rights against each other; the right to life and the right to choose. The most fundamental and basic of all human rights is the right to life. It is an absolute right, meaning it is unconditional, there are no restrictions or limitations on it; no one can infringe upon or deny another person the right to life. However, the right to choose is not an absolute right because it is conditional. We are free to choose unless our choices infringe upon the rights of another person. When that occurs, our freedom of choice is limited or restricted. This is the crux of the abortion debate; balancing a woman’s right to choose against an unborn’s right to life.
The right to have an abortion is not an absolute right, as Roe v. Wade acknowledges the State can regulate or prohibit an abortion after the point at which the life inside the womb becomes viable. “Viability,” is the actual term used in the Court’s decision. But what does that mean? “Viability” is the theoretical point in time where life can survive outside the womb, albeit with assistance. The problem with “viability” is that it isn’t an absolute. There are an infinite number of variables that determine the “viability” of a human life, including the quality of prenatal care and the ability to pay for that care. We can’t use “viability” as the determinant because it is too uncertain and discriminatory. The determinant, the factor we must use in order to resolve the conflict of rights is, when does human life begin?
The human gestation period, from conception to natural birth is forty weeks. The restriction clause of Roe v. Wade implies that there is a point during those forty-weeks when the life developing inside the womb becomes a human life, and that it’s at this point where the unborn’s absolute right to life supersedes the woman’s conditional right to choose.
So, when does that occur? When does, a life developing inside a womb become a human life?
I don’t know. I know that at the instant of conception, a new life is created. I know this because it meets the definition of life. It’s a singled cell organism that takes in nourishment and metabolizes it. It grows, reproduces and functions. So, it’s a life, but is it a human life? I don’t know. However, I do know that it contains human DNA, so without question it is a life of human origin. So, you could say it is a human life, but is a human life a person? Does life of human origin developing inside the womb have human rights? I don’t know, but that’s the question we need to answer, isn’t it?
Abortion is and will continue to be an extremely controversial and divisive issue. I like most people, have my own opinions and beliefs. However, I’m really not interested in opinions. I’m interested in the truth. Unfortunately, most people don’t seem to be all that interested in the truth. They really don’t want those questions asked, much less answered. Try to broach the subject, try to have an honest debate or discussion about abortion, and you will be shouted down and vilified. Why? Is it because they’re afraid of what the answers might be? Do they prefer ignorance to truth? Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s not an excuse. Eventually, we are all going to have to face the truth. Whether it’s struggling with our own conscience, or standing before our creator, the truth will be revealed and we will be judged. The controversy will not end until we can answer those questions. Well, at least for Norma McCovery, the controversy is over, may she rest in peace.