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A Tough Boat to Roe: A federal appeals-court judge on legal abortion's terminal obstacles

Shannen W. Coffin

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It took the woman formerly -- and perhaps forever -- known as Jane Roe to bring to light the biggest problem facing today's defenders of abortion. A recent attempt by Norma McCorvey to re-open her original lawsuit which successfully challenged Texas's criminal prohibition on abortion -- the suit that became Roe v. Wade -- was rejected this week by a federal appeals court in New Orleans. So while Roe v. Wade and its offspring still jealously guard abortion "without excuse and without apology," as its most ardent supporters would have it, a separate opinion in McCorvey's recent case shows that the law is having one hell of a time keeping ahead of the facts. As Judge Edith Jones poignantly writes in McCorvey v. Hill, major advances in both "hard and social science" since the 1973 Roe decision make the case for constitutional protection of abortion increasingly difficult to maintain with a straight face.

Sometime in the last decade or so, Norma McCorvey realized that she had been an unfortunate pawn in the battle over abortion rights and switched sides in the debate, recently describing herself "one hundred percent pro-life." Convinced that the decision that bore her pseudonym was a travesty of law, she filed a motion last year to re-open the original decision, declaring at the time: "I deeply regret the damage my original case caused women. I want the Supreme Court to examine the evidence and have a spirit of justice for women and children." McCorvey and her lawyers submitted in support of her motion the sworn testimony of more than one thousand women who had had abortions and claimed to have suffered long-term emotional damages and damaged interpersonal relationships as a result of their "choice." McCorvey's new suit, filed 30 years after the original decision, never had much of a chance, since it sought to reestablish criminal laws that had long since been removed from Texas's books. It is not surprising then that the court of appeals held that the case should be dismissed.

Read the entire article on the National Review website.

Posted: 9/17/04



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