Last year I wrote about Newsweek’s 1975 cover on “Abortion and the Law,” featuring a sixteen week old child on its cover. I asked rhetorically, “Do we know less in 2018 than what Newsweek knew in 1975?” What the Newsweek cover underscores is that we have known since before Roe v. Wade that what develops in the womb is a human being; a member of the human family.
At the March for Life a few weeks ago, I saw a woman who had the Life magazine cover below blown up onto a placard. Life ran this cover story featuring a human child at 18 weeks a full decade prior to that Newsweek cover. Life showed America the human child in the womb in vivid detail some eight years prior to seven men on the U.S. Supreme Court handing down Roe and what became in practice an unlimited right to end developing human life:
In Roe, those seven Supreme Court justices describe the Texas law they’re striking:
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.
“We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.”
It’s as true today as it was when Life ran this cover story in April 1965 that what confronts us are not medical or scientific questions but are, rather, political, cultural, and social questions about whether we’re willing to support mothers facing unexpected pregnancies with life-affirming choices, and whether we are interested in protecting human life at every age and in every circumstance. If America can look at a member of the human family, as we did collectively with Life’s April 1965 cover, and later conclude Yes, abortion is an acceptable social policy and at the same time pretend that the “question of when life begins” is simply too difficult to resolve while simultaneously making it moot by introducing abortion, then we can dehumanize in a literal sense any other human individual or community—aged, disabled, psychologically unwell, whatever.
It is the corrosive and dehumanizing logic at the heart of Roe that lets someone like Gov. Andrew Cuomo celebrate the just-legalized violent ending of human life up to the very moment of birth in New York, or Virginia Delegate Kathy Tran to call for abortion even as a woman is in labor.
This is not close to the only issue that Americans should engage with, but it is absolutely a moral and political issue that requires having the courage to choose a side and state forthrightly and explicitly what you endorse.