Abortion and the gun – the collapse of the middle ground in America
By Femi Olugbile
A few weeks ago, the Supreme Court of the United States of America came out with its long-anticipated judgement concerning one of the landmarks of judicial activism in the country, known as ‘Roe versus Wade’.
The story is that in 1969, a young lady named Norma McCorvey (aka ‘Jane Roe’), became pregnant with her third child. She did not want a third child, and she decided to abort the pregnancy. Unfortunately, she lived in Texas, a state where abortion was illegal. She filed a lawsuit against her district attorney, Henry Wade, who represented the State of Texas, on the grounds that the abortion law of Texas was unconstitutional. A US Federal Court heard the case and agreed with her.
The case was escalated to the Supreme Court. On the 22nd of January 1973, the court upheld ‘Roe’s’ submission, deciding that the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution provided a ‘right to privacy’ to a pregnant woman which gave her a ‘fundamental’ right to have an abortion if she so chose.
This judgement became the cornerstone of the ‘Pro-Choice’ movement.
People on the opposite side, the ‘Pro-Life’ camp, were passionately opposed to the judgement. Their emphasis was on the inalienable rights of the unborn baby.
The polarisation between the two extremes became a battle to the death. Between the two camps, there was no dialogue but only virulent attacks and sometimes open violence that led to loss of life. Abortion clinics were harassed, picketed, and torched; medical staff were killed.
As illustration of the extreme passions aroused, the State of Texas recently enacted a law that gave the right to ordinary citizens to prosecute anybody who was found to have aided any woman in procuring an abortion. This could be someone who gave financial assistance, or the Uber driver who drove the woman to the abortion clinic.
This was the context in which, on the 26th of June 2022, after months of speculation, the Supreme Court gave a ruling, overturning the provisions of Roe versus Wade.
930,000 abortions were performed throughout the USA in 2020. It is speculated that with the new Supreme Court ruling, many states would immediately move to ban abortion entirely. Protests broke out all over the country.
To hear the outrage of the Pro-Choice camp, judicial Armageddon has been unleashed on women, and they must pick up the gauntlet.
Anybody with a clear eye watching from the outside would be mystified by the sheer passion and venom deployed by the protagonists from both sides. They would wonder if the positions of the two camps are truly so far apart that they are totally irreconcilable.
The ‘pro-lifers’ recognise no exception – any killing of any baby in the womb is murder. The ‘baby’ may be deformed, unwanted, even unviable. It may be the result of criminal activity, such as rape or incest.
The crucial question: ‘When does a foetus become a person’, on which everything hinges, has been left without a satisfactory resolution, perhaps because it is ultimately a social and moral issue, defined by the values of the society itself, and not really a ‘medical’ issue.
In the aftermath of a recent Texas law tightening the ban on abortion, even a woman who has a spontaneous miscarriage, which may happen in up to one out of every eight pregnancies, would have difficulty getting a doctor to carry out a necessary medical evacuation procedure for her. It raises the spectre of a poor woman carrying about a dead foetus in her womb for days because doctors are afraid to break the law.
The Pro-Choice camp are not willing to recognize any ethical or moral reasons why society should stop women from getting rid of even the most advanced pregnancy, once it is her choice, and to them it is not the business of society to dictate to the woman what to do with her body.
All that is truly required is a frank, fulsome discussion involving all stakeholders, including political religious and medical experts, to fashion out a consensus. The divide may not be unbridgeable, with goodwill!
Moving on to guns, in the same country, 1.5 million deaths occurred because of guns between 1968 and 2017. There are more guns than people in America. Not generally known is the fact that of all gun deaths, 54% are suicides, while the rest are homicides.
‘Mass Shootings’ have become a regular part of American culture. A few weeks ago, in Uvalde, Texas, a young man with a high-powered gun entered a school and killed nineteen children and two teachers, wounding several others.
After every mass shooting, there is much handwringing on the part of government and public, and loud demands for ‘gun-control’. Some ‘common sense’ advocates would like to see a round table conversation between all stakeholders in the public domain to thrash out a consensus. But there are powerful political and ideological interests, such as the National Rifle Association, that will not let that happen. The possession of guns, they say, is a constitutional right.
It was not always like this. The founding ethos of America required constant deal-making. Even the wheels of the nation’s governmental structures are designed to turn only when there is a readiness for consensus.
Nothing illustrates the tragedy of present-day America more graphically than the dangerous collapse of the middle ground, creating a potential, believe it or not, for civil war.
A Tribute To Tobi Amusan, the World Champion hurdler
It was 3 am Nigerian time when your race was called.
You flew fly like the wind.
So happy. So proud.
When you cried, before the world
I cried with you,
Thinking we can all be so much better.