Saturday, January 22, 1983
The Michigan Daily
Wade: Ten years later
By Richard Carelli
WASHINGTON - It began with an un-
married woman, known only as "Jane Roe,"
who was too poor to leave Texas to end her un-
wanted pregnancy. So she stayed home and
gave birth. Then she challenged the state law
that outlawed the abortion she would have
a Jane Roe didn't know it when she went to
court, but she was setting off a social ear-
thquake that is still shaking America 10 years
IT WAS A decade ago that Justice Harry
Blackmun, a quiet, meticulous conservative
from Minnesota, used Jane Roe's appeal to
.,write the Supreme Court's majority opinion
legalizing abortion. He said it was a "no-win
case," and he was right.
Since the court's ruling, by a 7-2 vote, was
announced Jan. 22, 1973, American women
-*have had 10 million lawful abortions. In recent
years, the rate has been one abortion for every
Statistical studies indicate that before 1973,
American women underwent 200,000 to 1
"million illegal abortions annually.
THE RANCOROUS legal and moral debate
over the issue continues unabated a decade
later-in church pulpits, editorial pages, the
halls of Congress, even in the White House Oval
'Letters by the tens of thousands, more than
the Supreme Court has gotten on any decision
before or since, have descended on the justices.
Most of them are critical, and most are ad-
dressed to Blackmun.
He still gets eight or 10 letters a day and,
ignoring the advice of his colleagues, he reads
them all. Blackmun says he's been called a
"Butcher of Dachau," a "Pontius Pilate," a
"King Herod" who murders innocent babes.
BLACKMUN TOLD A television interviewer
in 1974 that the decision he wrote "will be
regarded as one of the worst mistakes in the
court's history or one of its great decisions, a
turning point." He never doubted it would be
"I still think it's a correct decision," he said
recently in a rare, for-the-record interview
with The Associated Press. "We were deciding
a constitutional issue, not a moral one."
He added, somewhat ruefully, "We all pick
up tags. I'll carry this one to my grave."
JANET BENSHOOF, director of the
American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive
Freedom Project, said it was the most impor-
tant decision in Supreme Court history for
women. "They no longer are criminals for con-
trolling their own reproduction," she said.
On the other side - the "pro-life" side - is
Nellie Gray. She has organized a Jan. 22 march
on Washington every year since 1974 to protest
the decision. "It's murder, pure and simple,"
she said. "Abortion means killing babies."
The abortion decision, including a companion
case and two appendices, consumes 104 pages
of the Supreme Court's official reports. It tells
little, however, about the Dallas County woman
who took the fictitious name of "Jane Doe" to
pursue her legal battle against the Texas anti-
THE STATE PROHIBITED any woman
from ending her pregnancy unless it
threatened her-life. Jane Roe did not want a
baby. She could have traveled to Mexico, Puer-
to Rico, New York or a few other states for an
abortion, but she couldn't afford to leave home.
Rather than have an illegal abortion, she
gave birth and put the baby up for adoption.
Lawyers eager to challenge the state law took
up her cause, and she sued Texas authorities in
1970. She lost in a federal trial court but won in
the Supreme Court.
Blackmun's opinion, in 52 pages with 67 foot-
notes, focused on a woman's constitutional
right to privacy. He said that included the right
to end an unwanted pregnancy.
THE OPINION acknowledged, at the same
time, that states have legitimate interests in
protecting health and "potential life."
To balance those competing state and in-
dividual interests, Blackmun crafted a
remarkable formula that reflected his
background as an honors student in
mathematics at Harvard University and chief
counsel for the Mayo Clinic, the renowned
medical center at Rochester, Minn.
The formula embodied in his opinion was
A woman's decision to have an abortion in
the first three months of her pregnancy-must
be left to her and her doctor. The states can
require only that medical procedures be
carried out by a licensed physician.
THE STATES MAY interfere, through
varying forms of regulation, to protect a
woman's health only in the second trimester of
pregnancy. They nay not take steps to protect
the life of the fetus until the final three months.
Justice Byron White, in a dissenting opinion
for himself and Justice William Rehnquist,
said: "The court simply fashions and announ-
ces a new constitutional right for pregnant
mothers and, with scarcely any reason or
authority for its action, invests that right with
sufficient substance to override most existing
state abortion statutes."
White's criticism was supported by some
legal scholars who, in an ironic twist, leveled a
charge of "judicial activism" against a high
court that included four justices nominated by
President Richard Nixon for their conservative
inclinations. One of the four was Blackman.
ANTI-ABORTION forces thus far have failed
in their attempts to undo the 1973 decision. Two
measures aimed at achieving that goal - one
by amending the Constitution and the other by
declaring a fetus a "person" - have fQoun-
dered in Congress.
National opinion polls indicate that most
Americans support abortion rights. In an
Associated Press-NBC News poll last year, 77
percent of the people responding said they
agreed with the statement that "the decision to
have an abortion should be left to the woman
and her physician."
If the anti-abortion movement represents a
minority, however, it is a vocal and active
minority that has kept the issue on the Supreme
A SUCCESSION of cases has required the
justices to decide whether proposed state and
federal regulation complies with the 1973
guidelines. Each new case underscores the
commitment and zeal of the people on both
sides of the debate.
"It's that kind of an issue," Blackmun said in
the interview. "Fifty years from now, depen-
ding on the fate of the proposed constitutional
amendment, abortion probably will not be as
great a legal issue. I think it will continue to be
a moral issue, however."
In the years since the initial ruling, the
Supreme Court has tried to fine-tune its 1973
decision. By July, the court will be asked again
to clarify how far government authorities can
go in making abortions more difficult to ob-
PRO-CHOICE FORCES have charged their
foes with using "legislative mischief" to undo
the 1973 decision, and they say that the up-
coming court decisions will bear greatly on the
future of their fight.
For its part, the Reagan administration is
asking the high court to give "heavy deferen-
ce" to the efforts of state and local governmen-
ts to regulate abortions.
That approach, says the ACLU's Benshoof,
"would result in absolute chaos," with "every
judge in the country ....ruling on personal
DANIEL DONEHEY of the National Right
to Life Committee said such an approach would
signal "ahwelcome retreat from an ethic that
devalues human life."
"There are a lot of things going on in the
abortion industry today that would curl your
hair," Donehey said. "There's a great need for
Blackmun anticipated deep dpagreement
over the issue when he wrote in the 1973 opinion
that views on abortion are influenced by "one's
philosophy, experiences, exposures to the raw
edges of human existence, religious training,
and moral standards."
Ten years later, he said: "I think the obser-
vation had a place in that opinion. I think it still
would if written today."
Carelli is the chief Supreme Court repor-
ter for The Associated Press.
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan
Vol. XCIII, No. 92
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board
The struggle continues
MRW. WES Rt%
To ReLP ?ANI OUR.
NO MORE \MD! FEND
HE SUPREME Court's decision
'Tguaranteeing "Jane Roe" the
right to an abortion stands as a
monument guarding a person's right to
privacy and free choice. But 10 years
later the battle still rages invoking
fears that the principles rest on
Unlike the battles that were fought
and won for civil rights, the past
decade has not been marked by
progress for abortion rights. The court
has refused to require states to help
fund abortions for women and states
have imposed various restrictions that
further burden those who seek abor-
But beyond the public controversy,
there are constitutional questions in-
volved. The court decided Roe v. Wade
on the basis of that document's
provisions. The court was not acting
beyond its powers, as many have
charged, because the court was
originally formed to weigh such issues.
What the court ruled is that women
have a fundamental right to privacy -
a right to bodily integrity. This right,
though not explicity stated in the Con-
stitution, runs throughout the fourth
and fifth amendments as well as the
ninth, which states that rights
D \T - s
I 's jr
enumerated in the Constitution shall
not be construed to "disparage others
retained by the people."
Since the Constitution is the supreme
law of the land, any laws made by
legislatures are necessarily void when
the court finds them in contradiction
with it. That means that no majority of
legislators may legally undermine
rights guaranteed under the Con-
stitution unless they are seeking a con-
stitutional amendment. And a pro-life
amendment could bring up the tricky
issue of the Constitution being in con-
tradiction with itself.
Even if the Constitution were -not
fundamental law, the pro-lifers
probably could not achieve their goal
of banning abortion outright. Last
year, a national opinion poll revealed
that 77 percent of Americans feel that
the woman and her physician should
decide whether or not to have an abor-
But the pro-lifers, with their
vociferous members and strong
organization, wield influence far
power is all the more reason for the
courts and Congress members as well
to uphold the Constitution they swore
to serve upon taking office.
HAVE To DEEAULT
LETTERS TO THE DAILY:
Cheerleaders: Fans need to wake up
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To the Daily:
Each year around this time, a
Daily writer will write an article
about the laid-back fans at
Crisler Arena in an attempt to
create some excitement at the
University of Michigan basket-
ball games. Of course, there must
be a scapegoat to whom the
finger must be pointed for this
We, as veteran Michigan
basketball cheerleaders, feel that
Mike Bradley in his article "It's
not just the fans that lack spirit,"
(Daily, Jan. 19), has just about
hit the nail on the head.
We feel that there are two types
of fans. First there are those true
fans who back the blue-win or.
lose-and who don't boo Dan
Pelekoudas and Tim McCormick
at their every mistake. On the
other hand, there are those
(predominantly alumni) who
come to Crisler for the warm,
friendly atmosphere and its
In defense of the cheerleaders,
we feel that it is extremely dif-
ficult to "whip the fans into some
sort of frenzied fervor" while
being assaulted with shouts of
"sit down" and "we paid for
these seats." We think that the
"pseudo-partisans," as Mr.
Bradley refers to them, should
take note of the small number of
enthusiastic fans who sit at the
south end of Crisler Arena. These
fans are what college spirit and
Big 10 basketball is all about.
In closing, we invite Mr.
Bradley or anyone else who has
helpful suggestions for the
cheerleaders to come and attend
one of our practices and work
with us in an attempt to change
the atmosphere of Crisler Arena.
Maybe your hints and
suggestions will aid us in giving
our basketball team a true home
Course packs are a rip off
To the Daily:
I was pleased to read that a suit
is being filed that might limit
As an LSA undergraduate, I've
purchased a dozen or so of the
coursepacks from all the copy
houses in town. The quality and
cost of reproduction varies
Particularly, I'm insulted by
the predominance of course
packs that I've been forced to
purchase at Dollar Bill Copy. One
must pay high copy rates, in ad-
vance, and wait 48 hours for their
course pack. Why wait 48 hours?
I can have photographs printed in
The course pack business is a
monopoly that students and lazy
professors support. What can be
done? Boycott? Reserve room?
ro the Daily:
CE C.E.. hee-hee.