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Culture of Death Watch


The Wicked Witch

by James G. Bruen, Jr.


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is right: the decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, which upheld a statutory ban on partial-birth abortions, “dishonors our precedent.” That makes her apoplectic, even though she recognizes the ban “saves not a single fetus from destruction.” Carhart, she says, is “alarming,” it “cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this Court,” a woman’s right to an abortion. Hopefully, she is right on that also. Only time will tell whether Carhart began the undermining of Roe v. Wade or whether it is instead an aberration.

The five Catholic Justices constituted the majority in Carhart, with Justice Anthony Kennedy authoring the opinion of the Court. Justice Ginsburg, a Jew, wrote the dissent, in which all of the other non-Catholic members of the Court joined. The two opinions reflect widely disparate views on woman as mother. When Justice Kennedy invokes “the bond of love the mother has for her child” as an “ultimate expression” of “the respect for human life,” Justice Ginsburg carps that “this way of thinking reflects ancient notions of women’s place in the family … – ideas that have long since been discredited.” She even gripes that in Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion “a fetus is described as an ‘unborn child,’ and as a ‘baby.’”

Now, the bond of love of a mother for her child is surely an ancient concept. That bond is rooted in nature, and it has never been and cannot be discredited. Despite the efforts of fanatics such as Rousseau and communists, it has persisted over the centuries and across cultures. And it will persist despite the efforts of feminists such as Justice Ginsburg, an abortion zealot who formerly litigated for the ACLU’s women’s rights project.

That bond of love exists in its most sublime form between Christ and His mother, a relationship most honored within the Catholic tradition. Artistic representations of the Madonna and Child attempt to portray that bond and enjoy a revered position in Catholic iconography. When Justice Ginsburg belittles the belief that “the paramount destiny and mission of women are to fulfill the noble and benign offices of wife and mother,” she strikes at the Blessed Virgin, the inherent dignity of woman, the proper relationships between husband and wife, the proper relationship between mother and child, and Catholicism’s teaching on the family. If the family is truly the domestic church, Justice Ginsburg is out to destroy that church.

That destruction, she implies, is mandated by the Constitution – or at least by opinions of the Supreme Court that apply, interpret, and often torture the provisions of the Constitution.  Women should no longer be “regarded as the center of home and family life,” she says, quoting from an earlier Supreme Court decision on abortion. The Court’s opinions, she insists, require a focus only on the woman who wants an abortion, not on the mother-child relationship or the family. “Thus,” she writes, “legal challenges to undue restrictions on abortion procedures … center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course.”

The Carhart majority, Justice Ginsburg points out, “admits that ‘moral concerns’ are at work” in its justification of the ban on partial-birth abortion, and this makes her bitter.  “By allowing such concerns to carry the day and case, overriding fundamental rights, the Court dishonors our precedent.” She then cites earlier Supreme Court decisions endorsing abortion and sodomy as establishing that the state cannot legislate morality, the view she expounds. Her stated preference for “autonomy,” not morality, though, is actually an endorsement of immorality or amorality.

“One wonders how long a line that saves no fetus from destruction will hold in face of the Court’s ‘moral concerns,’” she writes, because the “Court’s hostility to the right Roe and Casey secured is not concealed.” It’s a good question, but the threat to the continued vitality of those abortion cases is not as real as she intimates. The five Catholic Justices cannot be counted on to vote as a bloc to overturn Roe v. Wade. Indeed, it would be quite surprising if they did. And it is highly unlikely that Justice Ginsburg or her cohorts in dissent in Carhart will suddenly abandon the Court-created right to abort.

Justice Ginsburg’s words and views are those of a shrew capable of much evil. And, by and large, that evil remains the law of the land. In appearance, she resembles The Wizard of Oz’s Wicked Witch of the West, a resemblance that seems especially apt, for, as G.K. Chesterton observed in The Everlasting Man, “people would understand better the popular fury against the witches, if they remembered that the malice most commonly attributed to them was preventing births.”CW

James G. Bruen, Jr. is an attorney.

This article was published in the June 2007 issue of Culture Wars.

Speed Bump, an e-book by James G. Bruen, Jr. Five flash fiction stories, published originally in the American Chesterton Society's Gilbert Magazine. Each stands alone; together they also constitute a single narrative. Speed Bump is a story of neighborhood, solidarity, and struggle against oppressive government; inspired by G. K. Chesterton's The Napoleon of Notting Hill and his The Man Who Knew Too Much.. Read More/Buy

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