Ending Roe v. Wade Wouldn't End Abortionby Mark Hatfield, The Washington Post, July 2, 1989
Those hoping for a significant curtailment of abortion on demand by way of a favorable ruling of the United States Supreme Court in the Webster case should look elsewhere. Not even an outright reversal of Roe v. Wade will accomplish that goal, toward which so many of us have struggled. If there is one lesson that I have learned after almost 40 years in politics, it is this: you can't replace something with nothing. There are millions of abortions in America each year because many pregnant women face a terrible choice. Time and again a pregnant woman must decide whether to kill her own baby or bring that baby into a society that will punish both of them for the unwanted pregnancy. For this reason, abortion commands a measure of public sympathy, and public opinion tends to attempt to balance these concerns and find the greater good. Unfortunately, what is derived is, in fact, a lesser evil. At work is a moral relativism that argues that a quick killing of the baby before birth is more humane than a slow killing of the child in slums or communities where being a single or teen-age mother means at least a decade of suffering. A pregnant mother looking out at a society that prefers possessions to persons must make that painful choice. When staring out at a country full of faces of the homeless, the elderly poor, the handicapped and others enduring lives of hardship, is it any wonder so many women choose the "quick fix"? To that fearful mother the decision to abort appears almost merciful in the face of the numbing disparity between the haves and have-nots, between those who can compete and those who can't keep up.
To believe that a reversal of Roe v. Wade will end abortion is to ignore what drives the abortion decision: materialism. Materialism makes the decision for the poor mother who can't make ends meet, and it makes the decision for the young mother who must choose between her future independence and a child. When things are more important than people, you end up with a society that will do little to help the mother or welcome the baby. This same society turns its back on the homeless and the drug-addicted and the mentally disturbed and the poor foreigner. Abortion is the ugly byproduct of a throwaway society where human life is depreciated each day by the arms race, the success race and the mad dash toward the electric chair. Nothing coming out of the courts or the legislatures has reversed this discouraging trend, which has worsened since abortion on demand was legalized in 1973.
The solution will not be found so easily. You can't replace something with nothing. An end to abortion will only come the hard way, when society can offer the pregnant mother a viable alternative to a life of deprivation for a baby born into poverty or born with a handicap, in addition to the adoption alternative. It is precisely for these children and not for mothers using abortion as a means of birth control that there is public support for some abortions. As long as America is comfortable with its scrap heap of dead and dying "unwanteds," abortion will seem humane. It is incumbent upon those demanding a greater respect for life in America, especially our churches and synagogues, to begin shaping a society and sponsoring programs that protect the weakest among us: our unborn children, our poor, our uneducated, our infirm and our elderly.
A materialistic nation can not be a kind and gentle nation. Those who have died because of abortion and those living and dying on the margins of society are testimony to this. As long as a mother can freely take the life of her child, America will never be at peace. But as long as abortion is portrayed as a lesser evil, the abortion clinics will stay in business. Those of us dedicated to the prolife cause should endeavor to give pregnant mothers a choice that is not one among evils but rather one among goods.
The writer is a Republican senator from Oregon.