NRL News

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

by | Jan 26, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun

On the week of the anniversary of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, National Right to Life President and Pro-Life Perspective Host Carol Tobias is mining an exceptionally thorough 2005 article written by Los Angeles Times reporter David Savage for clues about where the thinking of Roe author Justice Harry Blackmun was during the process the culminated with a genuinely radical opinion. That story was made possible when the Library of Congress released the papers of Justice Blackmun.

Today Mrs. Tobias outlines a portion of the intra-court history behind Roe. For example, when the abortion statutes of Texas (the Roe decision) and Georgia (the companion case, Doe v. Bolton) came before the High Court in December 1971, the Court was in disarray, due to the retirements of two justices. The two Nixon-appointed successors–Lewis F. Powell and William Rehnquist – “would not join the court until January and thus would not participate in abortion deliberations that term,” Mrs. Tobias explains.

Chief Justice Warren Burger assigned both cases to Blackmun who wrote “a first and tentative draft” for Roe vs. Wade in mid-May. One of the most fascinating historical questions is how what appeared initially to be a less than total rejection of abortion laws would culminate eight months later in the dismantling of the abortion statutes of all 50 states. (Equally intriguing is how Blackmun, who just prior to Roe proposed to issue a news release to say that the decision did not equal abortion on demand, became an ardent even strident proponent of exactly that conclusion in the years to come.)

More tomorrow on this important question of just what Justice Blackmun intended. If you’ve missed Parts One or Two, be sure to listen at And please pass the link along using your social networks.

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Categories: Roe v. Wade