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Roe v. Wade part two

| Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This past weekend, the University’s Center for Ethics and Culture hosted its annual Evangelium Vitae Medal Dinner. Regrettably, the event was indoors and no roasted pig was to be found. On the other hand, there was stirring witness to the intrinsic value of every human being, regardless of age, stage of development or condition of dependency. More than 40 years after Roe v. Wade, the pro-life movement has not only survived but thrived. Indeed, it has even given birth to a daughter movement for marriage. This week, as the Supreme Court hears a case that may become Roe v. Wade II, daughter stands to learn much from mother in the way of wisdom and courage.

If the original Roe v. Wade is any precedent, the pro-marriage movement should not expect the Supreme Court to correctly identify the question at hand. In that case, the Court failed to grasp clearly that the controversy was about which human beings possess intrinsic value such that their lives deserve equal protection of the laws.

In the same way, given past jurisprudence, it would be remarkable for a Roe II decision to address the central point of contention. The marriage debate is not an inquiry as to whether human beings who experience same-sex attraction (or sexual attraction of whatever kind) possess inherent dignity. (Even if that proposition were not easily affirmable, the arguments of the pro-life movement settle the issue.) Rather, the marriage debate about whether there is intrinsic value in a comprehensive sexual (in other words, male-female) union inherently oriented toward the procreation and rearing of children. One side rejects marriage so defined as constraining and dishonest to one’s own feelings, and therefore, they seek to redefine (“extend”) it. The other side understands marriage to be a real good, a worthy project of human choice, something society should welcome and encourage (though never try to coerce).

When the original Roe v. Wade case was decided, the debate was expected to end. The justices thought history would vindicate their allegedly statesmanlike act. Pro-life advocates like Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rev. Jesse Jackson evolved with respect to their views on abortion, letting go of pro-life principles. To do otherwise, it was thought, would be to stand against the Constitution and to favor the prejudices of backward institutions like the pro-life Catholic Church over the real, personal good of women, who could not possess equal dignity without being utterly free to abort.

In the same way, if Roe II comes, it will be used to persuade pro-marriagers of the futility of their cause. Already, we hear a personified History has decided this question (though not, it seems, in a way that reason can articulate in arguments defining marriage). At the advent of Roe II, latter-day Stephen Douglases will say to support marriage is to oppose the Constitution, and this pseudo-Constitution’s avengers will ignore the principles of free speech and religious exercise the Founders revered.

The pro-life experience teaches pro-marriagers to expect difficulty should there be a Roe II, but at the same time, it teaches that hopeful courage is the best response. Clear thought and right action justify themselves, but they also tend to contrast well against the muddle that mistaken principles bring about: self-proclaimed feminists support aborting a female baby on the basis of sex? LGBT activists boycott self-identified LGBT business owners for holding the wrong views about family life or for meeting with a pro-marriage public official? Such actions are symptomatic of an advanced case of confusion, as the public can come to see.

In response, pro-marriagers should stand ready to provide truth-seekers a sort of seamless garment of respect for basic human goods. For it is necessary but not sufficient to stand unequivocally in support of human life against abortion. Unborn or born, a child has a right to life, but other rights too. Centrally important is the right to live in a family with his or her biological mother and biological father. All those who care for a child’s right to life in the womb should care for that same child’s right to be raised by the parents who brought him or her into the world (unless truly compelling circumstances call for the heroic love of adoptive parents). Protecting marriage as an inherently child-oriented institution is the best way to respect the full equality of every human being from the very start of his or her beautiful life.

Roe v. Wade II may come, or it may not. Company at the party of Supreme Court failures such as Dred Scott and Roe hangs in the balance. For the rest of us, whatever the justices on high may say, the fulfilling work of building a robustly pro-life, pro-marriage culture calls. Rest up this summer.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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  • what no really

    “Rather, the marriage debate about whether there is intrinsic value in a comprehensive sexual (in other words, male-female) union inherently oriented toward the procreation and rearing of children.”

    This is a really cute way to try to frame this in your own terms, but the US Supreme Court is not the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. And so it must follow, you know, Constitutional law. Which you don’t address here at all.

    Second, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you believe abortion is murder, or at least the taking of an innocent life. And gay marriage is akin to that? Yikes.

    And comparing it to Dred Scott? Seriously?

    • est1995

      *claps hands vigorously” YAAASSS!!!

    • NDaniels

      There is no correlation between denying that a man and woman have the ability and desire to exist in relationship as husband and wife due to ancestry/race, and denying that in order to be married, it is no longer necessary to exist in relationship as husband and wife, except that both denials deny the essence of being a husband and wife.

    • NDaniels

      Slavery, abortion, and redefining persons as objects of sexual desire/inclination/orientation, all objectify the human person and thus deny the truth about the essence of the human person.

  • Tom

    Notre Dame professors John Cavadini, Patrick Deneen and Mary Keys recently filed a Supreme Court amicus brief (Brief of 100 Scholars of Marriage) in the Obergefell case claiming, with absolutely no evidence, that “nearly 900,000 children of the next generation will be aborted” if the Court rules in favor of marriage equality. They should be ashamed of signing this brief, which contains pure demagoguery and no legitimate scholarship.

    For those interested, the brief can be found here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/ObergefellHodges/AmicusBriefs/14-556_100_Scholars_of_Marriage.pdf.

    • CL

      I just read the brief; thanks for pointing it out, Tom. I am appalled by the lack of rigor of the so-called “statistical analysis” of this brief; it’s a set of increasingly wild extrapolations based on other extrapolations. As a preliminary matter, many of their statistical methods are totally invalid; for example, their figure on page 15a purports to show a decrease in marriage rates in non-religious parts of Massachusetts compared to more religious parts of the state. This conclusion is based on two statistics measured in just two (!) different years, with no effort made to quantify yearly fluctuations in the data. This “analysis” would never withstand peer review–or even an introductory undergraduate class in statistics. Furthermore, the authors of the brief never seriously consider the possibility that there are many factors which influence marriage rates, such as the unemployment rate and changing social mores. For example, most people would probably be less likely to marry if they’re unemployed and struggling to find work. Also, it’s been widely reported that Millenials are delaying marriage more than previous generations, a trend which could drive down marriage rates. Tom is absolutely correct to deride this as “pure demagoguery.”

      As a recent ND Law grad with a background in statistics, I find it frightening that such a misleading and irredeemably flawed analysis could potentially influence our nation’s highest court as it decides such a landmark case.

  • est1995

    You defined marriage as “a comprehensive sexual (in other words, male-female) union inherently oriented toward the procreation and rearing of children.” This in your opinion justifies the denial of gay marriage, because gays cannot procreate. I am assuming that your tension is with their lack of procreative abilities since they can rear children. Anyways, the risk that you run with defining marriage this way is that you lack an explanation for why infertile heterosexual couples are still able to marry. Furthermore, calling your argument pro-marriage is a euphemism for anti-gay. If you are going to be anti-gay at least call it like it is.

    • NDaniels

      Persons are sons and daughters, they are not objects of sexual desire/inclination/orientation. Every man is free to choose a woman to be his wife, and every woman is free to choose a man to be her husband, as long as that particular man and woman have the ability and desire to exist in relationship as husband and wife. In tha attempt to extend marital benefits to persons who do not have the ability and desire to exist in relationship as husband and wife, you must begin by removing the necessary requirement for marriage which is the ability and desire to exist in relationship as husband and wife. Marriage cannot be both existing in relationship as husband and wife and not existing in relationship as husband and wife, simultaneously. If you extend marital benefits to some persons who do not have the ability or desire to exist in relationship as husband and wife, you must extend those same marital benefits to all persons who do not have the ability and desire to exist in relationship as husband and wife.
      P cannot be not P, simultaneously.

      http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/same-sex-marriage-and-the-persecution-of-christians-in-canada

      • João Pedro Santos

        “Persecution of Christians in Canada”
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FopyRHHlt3M

      • João Pedro Santos

        “Every man is free to choose a woman to be his wife, and every woman is free to choose a man to be her husband”
        Saying this is objectification. So people only exist to procreate?

        • NDaniels

          Joao, it is a self evident truth, that can be known through both Faith and reason, that only human persons can have both the ability and desire to exist in relationship as husband and wife. Love is ordered to the inherent personal and relational Dignity of the persons existing in a relationship of Love, which is why a man does not Love his wife, in the same manner as he Loves his daughter, or his son, or his mother, or his father, or a friend.

          Love, rightly ordered, can make everything new again, which is why it is necessary to orient ourselves to The Truth of Love Made Flesh.

  • Liz Hynes

    just to clarify.. the “heroic love” of adoptive parents can’t be given by a same-sex couple?

  • Mar

    So you’re saying that the pro-life movement is not only about protecting the lives of the unborn but also ensuring that once born he or she will be raised by a married heterosexual couple?

    Just because a child is born into a family with both a biological mother and father does not mean that that child has parents who are fit or acceptable guardians.

    Also, are only heterosexuals capable of the “heroic love” of adoption? If a homosexual couple were able to adopt, would their love be somehow less heroic or even not heroic at all?

    Finally, equating gay marriage to abortion, which is considered by those who are pro-life to be the killing of unborn children, is truly appalling.

  • NDaniels

    The question at hand is the truth about the inherent essence of the human person, who from the moment of conception, has been created in The Image of God, equal in Dignity, while being complementary as a son or daughter, Willed by God, worthy of Redemption. Persons, are in essence, not objects of sexual desire/inclination/orientation, we are sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers. It is not unjust discrimination to recognize the self-evident truth, that every son and daughter of a human person is a human person, and that only a man and woman can have the ability and desire to exist in relationship as husband and wife. There is no polarization in The Catholic Church, for every Catholic proclaims that God Is The Author of Love, Life, and Marriage.

  • João Pedro Santos

    Homophobia, the worst disease.