Forty years ago, nine Supreme Court justices, appropriately dressed in black robes, delivered one of the most divisive rulings in modern history in a case styled Roe v. Wade.
In effect, the justices fashioned a new constitutional right to an abortion from the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.
"To reach its result, the court necessarily has had to find within the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment a right that was apparently completely unknown to the drafters of the Amendment," wrote Justice William Rehnquist in his dissenting opinion.
Much of the divisiveness was related to taking abortion regulations out of the hands of states.
However, it allowed states to set some abortion restrictions based on a somewhat ambiguous viability standard. The court defined viability as the point when the unborn child is "potentially able to live outside the mother’s womb," which it stated was between 24 and 28 weeks.
Since the ruling, 37 states, including Arkansas, have passed laws banning abortions based on viability.
The court’s standard was tenuous, at best, and probably not the only standard the court should have considered. A hundred years ago, a child born just a few weeks from full term had little chance of survival. Survival in that circumstance is almost routine today. Medical technology advancements may be moving the life standard even earlier than what the court determined.
A bill introduced by state Rep. Andy Mayberry, R-Hensley, will seek to join other states in banning abortion based on a different standard.
The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would ban abortion in Arkansas once the unborn child can experience pain. The bill mirrors bills already passed in some other states, including Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.
Technology now allows us to know more about the miracle of life, allowing us to see how babies develop inside their mother’s womb. Anyone who has seen the face of their child on an ultrasound has seen this miracle.
Doctors tell us that babies develop pain receptors called nociceptors by around 16 weeks. By 20 weeks, the receptors are connected to the baby’s brain and allow them to experience pain and react to stimulus. So real is the pain that doctors will administer anesthesia when having to perform surgery on unborn children.
That means that in abortions performed after that point, the child will experience a painfully agonizing death. Ultrasounds taken of the abortion procedure show the child moving away from the abortionist’s knife, struggling and sometimes even letting out what has been termed the silent scream.
Mayberry already has 55 cosponsors for his bill in the House, so it should easily pass that chamber if it can make it to the floor. He filed the same bill two years ago, but was unable to get it through committee after a deputy from Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office spoke against it. It should fare better this time.
Even though the issue of abortion has divided our nation, there should be some basic points of agreement. A barbaric practice to painfully end an unborn baby’s life in a torturistic manner should be one of them.
Jason Tolbert is an accountant and conservative political blogger. His blog — The Tolbert Report — is linked at ArkansasNews.com. His e-mail is jason@TolbertReport.com.