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America’s Consensus on Life


by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson

Like Supreme Court decisions that upheld slavery and segregation, Roe v. Wade is based upon a lie

Carl A. Anderson

IN MY REMARKS to this year’s March for Life, I highlighted two findings from this year’s Marist Poll on attitudes toward abortion. The first is that three in four Americans say abortion should be limited to — at most — the first three months of pregnancy. And that includes 6 in 10 who describe themselves as “pro-choice.”

The second is that about 2 in 3 Americans want the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade to be reinterpreted by the Court to allow states to restrict or ban abortion.

Both findings are consistent with what the Marist Poll has found for more than a decade: Strip away the labels often used in the abortion debate, and Americans by large numbers do not agree with the Supreme Court’s mandate of a “right” to abortion throughout pregnancy.

Pro-abortion extremists must be paying close attention. Recently, there has been a move in several states to lock in by statute abortion throughout pregnancy.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal (Feb. 8), Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York spoke out forcefully against the “horror” of this “extremism.” He predicted “a backlash across the country” against the “gruesome” logic that sanctions unrestricted abortion throughout pregnancy and even the killing of a baby born alive after abortion. (Pope Francis has used even stronger language in the past, saying abortion is equivalent to hiring a hit man.)

Cardinal Dolan placed such legislation in the context of the Supreme Court’s 1857 Dred Scott decision upholding slavery. There, the Court wrote that Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, were members of an “inferior class of human beings” who were “unfit to associate with the white race” and “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

While many Americans believed the Court’s decision had settled the slavery issue, others did not. The nation soon split along both partisan and geographical lines.

The Civil War would end slavery. But it did not put an end to the logic that produced it. Soon new laws embodied the view that African Americans were an inferior class of human beings “unfit to associate with the white race.” Again, the country split over geographical and partisan lines. And in another shameful decision, the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), by a vote of 7-to-1, upheld segregationist “Jim Crow” laws.

And again, many Americans thought the matter settled. It would take six more decades before the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the Congress’s passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would wipe away this stain on America’s laws.

Neither Dred Scott nor Roe v. Wade should have ever been considered “settled” law, because both decisions were based upon a lie — a lie that says there is an “inferior class of human beings” with “no rights” that we are “bound to respect.”

At the March for Life, I quoted one of America’s great abolitionist leaders, Wendell Phillips, who once stated, “One and God makes a majority.” I added that it also helps to have the American people on our side.

At the Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven, Conn., we display a photograph of Supreme Knight Luke Hart at the White House presenting President John F. Kennedy a copy of the Pledge of Allegiance. During the 1950s, the Knights of Columbus led the effort to have Congress add the words “under God” to the text.

When I am asked, “What do these words mean?” I answer they mean at least this: As President Kennedy said at his inauguration, as a nation we stand on the principle that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”

The great moral issues of our day should transcend partisan politics. This is occurring today regarding abortion. The Marist Poll survey finds majorities in both political parties reject such extreme late-term abortion laws.

One way to transcend partisanship is by insisting upon reality-based public policies. The approach of the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade does the opposite, with the Court stating that it did not have to “resolve the difficult question of when life begins.” But this is precisely the question that must be answered; otherwise, the public discussion loses its moral center.

There is bipartisan consensus among Americans on abortion. It is time that politics in Washington and elsewhere reflect not only that consensus but the reality of the child before birth.

Vivat Jesus!