This January 22 marks the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U. S. Supreme Court decision which legalized abortion for any reason at any time during a woman’s pregnancy. Related decisions gave fathers no say-so in the fate of their unborn child, forbade parental consent laws, and permitted a spectrum of “health professionals” other than licensed M.D.’S to perform abortions.

The result was the world’s most unregulated–and deadly–body of abortion law. Even liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg admitted, “Roe ventured too far in the change it created, and presented an inadequate justification for its actions.” Nevertheless, some 45 million abortions later, it remains the law of the land.

Unfortunately, media outlets don’t do enough to publicize Roe’s true legacy. Few people know, for example, that 95% of abortions are done for “social” reasons, rather than rape, incest, or physical health. Few know that over 130,000 abortions are performed each year on babies past the 13th week of gestation, and 18,000 on babies past 20 weeks, when their capacity for sensing pain is fully developed. Few know that every abortion stops a beating heart, and that most cruelly dismember a little body that looks very much like our own.

Abortion’s physical and emotional toll on women is also rarely publicized. Immediate physical complications include internal bleeding, perforated uterus, and infections that occasionally lead to maternal death. Long-term complications include increased likelihood of ectopic pregnancies, placenta previa, prematurity, low birth weight, early infant death, and breast cancer. Also, there is the guilt, grief, depression, broken relationships, and even suicide that follow in abortion’s wake. Has “safe legal abortion” empowered American women? Ask the members of groups like Silent No More or Feminists for Life.

Thankfully, many Americans are somehow getting the true picture. Polls show that around 70% of voters believe abortion should be illegal, except in cases of rape or incest, and to save the life of the mother. A majority of high school and college students now express prolife convictions. Movies like Bella, Noelle, and Juno suggest that even Hollywood realizes the adoption option is a win-win decision for mother and child.

Nevertheless, despite some significant advances at the state level, the legal situation in the U.S. remains fundamentally unchanged. Let me therefore close with a story that brings us again to the heart of the matter.

The 1980 documentary Assignment Life included an interview with a man who attended the annual Rally for Life in Washington, D. C. Asked why he was there, he replied, “I’m a New York Jew, straight out the liberal community. I defended a woman’s right to choose. But one day in the library I got out a book on fetal development. When I looked at the pictures, I didn’t see that ‘blob of tissue’ folks always talk about. I saw a human being. And I said, ‘Aw nuts, we’re killing babies!’ ”

This January 22, may the citizens of Sonoma County carefully consider that we still are.

January 13, 2008