NRL News

What’s Airing on Pro-Life Perspective Today: “Roe: More Than Its Author Intended?” Part 5

by | Jan 27, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

It is no mere academic exercise to attempt to work through the twists and turns that over the space of a year turned a “moderate” abortion decision into the abortion on demand verdict that Justice Harry Blackmun gave an unsuspecting nation on January 22, 1973. Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton unleashed killing machinery that has taken the lives of over 54 million unborn babies.

Using an exemplary analysis written in 2005, National Right to Life President and Pro-Life Perspective Host Carol Tobias has offered us important insights this week into the evolution of Roe, using the fine work of Los Angeles Times reporter David Savage. If you missed any episodes, you can listen to them at

There is no universal consensus, but based on Blackmun’s own papers, it appears that in 1972 (as Mrs. Tobias explains) the language of the “original opinion would have struck down the law in Texas and the laws in 30 other states as well, but it apparently would have allowed states to revise their abortion laws.” Without getting too deep in the machinations of Warren Burger, the Chief Justice pushed for a delay, ”and the majority voted to put off a decision on the abortion cases until the fall.”

Unfortunately, Blackmun went back to his native Minnesota over the summer where he worked in the Mayo Clinic’s library. For whatever combination of reasons, Blackmun came back to the Court with a draft that was long on an [inaccurate] history of abortion laws but short on constitutional analysis.

It was so flimsy that scholars who self-identified as “pro-choice” were honest enough to admit (as did Yale Professor John Hart Ely in a scathing law review article) that Roe “is not constitutional law and gives almost no sense of an obligation to try to be.”

Mrs. Tobias concludes with this astute criticism:

“Roe has left a legacy of pain and anguish for the women who have abortions.  This decision usurped our rights as citizens to vote on this matter.  Still, whatever Justice Blackmun’s original design in writing Roe the way he did, he continued to support the decision in its entirety even after its scope became better known and well-established.”

You can read Mr. Savage’s article at  And if you’ve missed any of this week’s episodes, go to

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Categories: Roe v. Wade