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Rearview Mirror

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January 2013

For some unknown reason, God didn’t put eyes in the back of our heads nor put our noggins on swivels.  Maybe He just didn’t like the look. Or perhaps it was because He wants us to mostly look ahead, not back.

But timely look behind us is useful, and even necessary. That’s why mirrors are a pretty amazing invention.  Drivers well know their importance.  They allow us to see what’s gaining on us, or Heaven forbid, what we just ran over in the night.  Mirrors help us to adjust our actions and make sensible decisions going forward.

History is a like a mirror.  Its purpose is far more than chronicling the big and small accomplishments of mankind. That can get awfully dry.  History gives us a rearview look so that we might assess the wisdom of our decisions.  Those who don’t learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  All too often, that has been the case.  We can be slow learners.

On January 22, we mark the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion right up to the moment of birth.  Now is a good time to look back at Roe.  With the skill of a career politician, the Court made an incredible promise to women: complete reproductive freedom.  State laws banning abortion were tossed.  Always free to become pregnant, women were freed to end their pregnancies.  Roe was the crown jewel of the sexual revolution and the start of an unprecedented social experiment with human lives.

Roe‘s starting point was the inability of doctors, theologians, and philosophers to reach a consensus about when life begins.  But that issue belongs to the scientists, and they recognize that human life begins at conception, when the fertilized egg soon starts it amazing growth process.  Sadly, by authorizing abortion the Court authorized killing.  Since 1973, over 55 million human beings have been legally killed.  That is the populations of metro New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Philadelphia, and part of Washington D.C. The death toll is staggering but not surprising.  Good law serves to inhibit harmful human conduct. Roe released the brake on killing unborn humans.  Bad conduct became acceptable.

Roe assumed that women would seek abortion for medical reasons or because of inability to cope with a child.  But all too often, legal abortion is used to deal with promiscuity, further career desires, control population growth, and to discriminate.  Abortion rates are disproportionately high in minority areas.  Some babies are even aborted because they are the wrong sex. This past year, Congress refused to ban sex-selection abortions.  Legal abortion has so cheapened life that some now claim that infanticide should be allowed.

The problem goes far beyond the killing of the unborn.  Roe tried to do the impossible: to separate a woman’s reproductive system from her whole self, a self that includes emotions, feelings, heart, soul, and conscience.  Abortion runs contrary to a woman’s loving and nurturing nature, for it involves the intentional death of her baby.  It conflicts with her sense of right and wrong.  Though the Court made abortion legal, it could not erase a post-abortive woman’s sense that something went dreadfully wrong.  Thousands, perhaps millions, of women have been eaten alive by guilt, anger, self-loathing, depression, broken relationships, suicidal desires, sexual promiscuity or aversion, and substance abuse.

Roe could not even deliver on the claim that abortion was safe. Abortion can damage organs and cause difficulties with future pregnancies or sterility. It exposes women to the violent acts of sexual partners who want their so-called “right” to an abortion-women be damned. And although women no longer die from illegal abortion, they do die from legal abortion.   A procedure designed to take life cannot be made truly safe for anyone.  Moreover, multiple studies have linked abortion with an increased risk of breast cancer.  Rather than funding this research, we fund destructive human embryo studies, an effort that has been an abysmal failure.

Roe has hurt us economically.  The unborn would have been entrepreneurs, workers, and consumers-people we desperately need.  The Social Security shortfall exists because not enough people pay into the system. Yet we have given as much as $487 million tax dollars annually to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion mill.  It only makes matters worse.

Politically, legal abortion is the big white elephant in the room.  Every appointment of a Supreme Court justice is a lengthy, expensive, and painful process. Political dialogue has turned downright nasty, and compromise on any issue has become virtually impossible.  It is all because Roe squelched the possibility of a meaningful national debate on the dignity of human life.  Roe may be the Court’s biggest disservice to American democracy in its history.

In the 40 years since Roe, we have steadily built a culture drenched in sex and steeped in violence.  It has so deadened our souls that we even corrupt our children with it.  We have made ourselves false gods willing to sacrifice the unborn at the altar of our pleasure or self-fulfillment.  We measure the value of human life by how it fits into our plans rather than God’s plan.  We have embraced violence as the solution to life’s problem, even those of our own making.  Life has become cheap, stripped of its dignity. Having demanded the blood of innocents, we are left with a culture is awash in it.  God allows us to have what we choose, even when it is bad.

It’s been said that nation willing to kill its own children is a nation without a future. We need to see where we’ve been-and what we’ve run over.  And if we move the mirror just so, we’ll see ourselves smack in the middle.  It’s not a pretty sight.  It shouldn’t be.

Paul Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on pro-life topics.  He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, and have six kids.

©  2013 Paul V. Esposito.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.  Comments?  Visit us at

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