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Phil-osophically Speaking

Roe v. Wade at 40

It’s been 40 years since the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade universalizing abortion rights. The last reliable poll stated that 48 percent of the American people favor abortion and 44 percent are opposed. So Americans remain almost evenly divided over this most contentious issue. Having said that and recognizing that there are very decent people on both sides of the debate, there is no gainsaying that Roe v. Wade is one of the most execrable decisions in the annals of the U.S. Supreme Court .

On January 22, 1973, Justice Harry Blackmun, writing for the majority, stated: 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.” Reasonable enough —- the problem is that speculating upon it is exactly what the court did. Indeed, it did so with such a degree of rashness and bravura that one would have thought that the courts meditations on the subtleties before it, subsequently reified into law, was the very summit of human insight and understanding.  

The court ’s reasoning was hardly Solomonic when it defined, in anything but deathless prose, the mysteries of life’s beginnings: Up until 3 months, said the court, the human fetus is nothing more than a lump in the mother, as expendable as any unnatural growth. From 3- 6 months the court, with un-Thomistic precision further speculated that the fetus is something more than an appendage of the mother but declined  to say exactly what they thought it was. During the last 10 weeks of a normal pregnancy cycle, the court posited that the fetus is viable; “viable” being defined here as an entity that could live apart from the mother and therefore possibly be deserving of special consideration. Does this mean that the court is prescribing constitutional protections upon the fetus during the last 10 weeks? Absolutely not; it merely states that at this juncture the state may act on behalf of that entity to proscribe abortion practices. The court then proceeded to further embarrass itself by musing on the psychological suffering involved in an unwanted pregnancy as some kind of justification rather than exercising its critical function of judicial review, interpreting the law in light of the Constitution.

The salient question, mind you, is not whether the fetus is alive; elementary embryology established that a long time ago. Life is neither a philosophical concept nor a theological dogma. It’s a biological fact. The crucial point is whether the unborn has equal value to you and me? This is a more nettlesome proposition, at least in the abstract. In a more concrete sense, I don’t know any philosophical method to cut the subtle Gordian knot as to determine at exactly what moment life has equal value. It always seemed to me that it is something greater than a matter of chronology. At whatever point you designate the fetus as having equal value, it is then necessary to know why it did not have equal value an instant earlier, going back to the point of conception. It’s impossible to distinguish that kind of viability from one moment to the next, which is principally why I’m pro-life.

Nevertheless, a slight majority of the American people disagrees with that position. The question then becomes how a democratic republic decides emotionally charged issues when a consensus does not exist. There is no controversy about the rights of the born in this country (as opposed to China and elsewhere where often female infants do not possess the metaphysical equality of male infants and hence are disposable), only with the unborn is there division of opinion. In 1973, the Supreme Court sought to settle the issue simply by denying the American people the authority at the ballot box, via their elected representatives, to protect the basic rights of an entire class many believed to be a human being. 

What should have been left to the democratic process was instead determined by what Justice Byron White, one of the two dissenters in Roe’s 7-2 majority decision, called “an exercise of raw judicial power.” Even liberal jurists and law professors, who strongly favor abortion rights, noted Roe’s inelegant presumptions and its textual inexactitude as it related to the Constitution, since    conclusions of the 7-2 majority are not inferable from the language of the Constitution. 

The law of the land regarding abortion had sprung not from the counsels of the people, but by judicial fiat. Moreover, Roe came less than five years after Governor Ronald Reagan of California signed (a decision he later repented) the most liberal abortion law in the country. The court nevertheless nationalized an issue that should have been debated and voted upon by the voting constituencies in each state. By federalizing Roe v. Wade and then reinforcing it even more radically in Casey v. Pennsylvania, the issue became all the more polarizing as black robed jurists, unelected and virtually unimpeachable, arrogated dictatorial power unto itself. 

Henceforward, the national dialogue as a consequence of Roe became more vitriolic and scarred. There have been relentless attacks by pro-abortion groups as well as endless litigation regarding measures that the majority of voters in numerous states would favor: informed consent, parental involvement in cases involving minors and making the bloodcurdling practice of partial birth abortion illegal. The impact of this decision upon our political and cultural sensibilities has been very damaging and far more wounding than if abortion laws would have remained within the jurisdiction of the states.  

It has also administered a psychological wound to the national consciousness. The courts majority, try as it did, could not bottle up debate, smother disagreement and make irrelevant the technological testimony of prenatal life, photographically captured in living color, any more than Chief Justice Roger Taney could when he was the leading voice in the courts dreadful “Dred Scott” decision that determined the “negro” to have no rights a white man was not willing to recognize and made slavery, in affect, legal in all states. The national debate on abortion is loaded with the same moral gunpowder; unlike the poll tax it is neither bland nor bloodless, but is an issue that touches the deepest emotions and inflames the most profound passions. 

Decisions regarding life and death are subjects that define us as a civilization as well as a civilized people; it’s too vast and too important, cuts too wide a moral swath for people donning black robes to excogitate extra-constitutionally about, much less unilaterally impose their judgments upon a considerable portion of the population that thinks otherwise. These voices were not silenced and today echo in a Grand Canyon of dissent, which were never heard more loudly than on this 40th anniversary of a chilling act of judicial license.    


News

Last year Manhasset Park District Commissioner Mark Sauvigne was thinking about running for the office of Manhasset-Lakeville Fire & Water District Commissioner, but he sensed the timing wasn’t right. The district covers Manhasset and parts of Great Neck and north New Hyde Park. Commissioner terms are for three years.

 

“About a year ago I was approached by various members of the Manhasset Lakeville Fire Department, asking me if I would be interested in running for the office of the Fire/ Water

Commissioner,” said Sauvigne. “Although I was honored to be considered, I wasn’t sure the timing was right, so I put the decision off for a year. In the meantime, when the communication tower controversy occurred in October of 2013, I knew it was time to get involved.”

When it comes to fitness, getting off the couch is half the battle.

 

Plenty of people start each day with the best of intentions, but plans to eat healthy and get to the gym often fall by the wayside with even the most shoddy of excuses. But a New

Hyde Park native is bringing physical fitness to the front door with a mobile, personal traning regimen focusing on individualized one-on-one fitness, group sessions and corporate fitness. 


Sports

The students of Herricks High School were treated to a “Blast from the Past” as the Herricks High School Class of 1964 during this year’s Homecoming celebration.  Approximately 60 members of the class of 1964 arrived at the high school on homecoming day for a tour of their alma mater.  Most of these alumni had not been back to the high school since graduating 50 years ago.

 

All were impressed with the changes that have taken place and with the friendly demeanor of our high school students. One alumnus became teary eyed when he ventured out into the courtyard.

Despite a disappointing playoff loss against the Wantagh Warriors, Sewanhaka Indians Head Coach George Kasimatis, is pleased with his football team’s season. 

“I’m proud of my team,” he said. “But you are never satisfied unless you win the whole thing.”

 

The Indians faced a big challenge this year, moving up into Conference II left them as the new kids on the block, unfamiliar with the teams they would be going against. 

Kasimatis will have a tall task next year replacing graduating seniors, which made up most of his starting lineup. Kasimatis said most of the offensive line, such as Danny Gianotti, Adrian Gonzalez and Louis Segarra III, and the defensive line, such as Justin Alexandre, Peter LaTorre and Peter Militano are seniors, many of which have started multiple years for him. 


Calendar

Songfest - November 26

International Night - November 27

Blood Drive - November 29


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
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Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
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