Abortion is currently a sizzling-hot topic on our political landscape - and I expect it will continue to be straight through the 2020 elections. The question is often framed: Should the U.S. Supreme Court uphold or overturn Roe v. Wade, an established precedent that says a woman's right to privacy includes her right to have an abortion?
Sixty-three percent of Americans polled in May 2019 say Roe v. Wade should be upheld. Twenty-five percent say it should be overturned. The rest are undecided.
A number of pro-lifers may be mulling whether to count themselves into that 63% in favor of leaving Roe in place, even though they are strongly opposed to what's called "abortion on demand." Why? Because of a critical element that's lacking among pro-life strategists.
That missing element is a plan - any plan at all- to prevent the resurgence of the once-thriving and also brutalizing illegal abortion provision industry. In the wishful thinking of other pro-life activists, simply canceling Roe would magically eliminate, or else dial down to insignificance, the numbers of abortions carried out annually in America.
Wiping out Roe would do no such thing, if history is our guide.
Reliable statistics show that the annual rate of abortions in America prior to Roe v. Wade was equal to, or greater than, the rate of abortions after the Supreme Court ruled abortion to be legal. Those abortions were carried out mostly by an underground - and illegal - array of practitioners.
Overturning Roe would amount to criminalizing abortion. That's right, doctors, nurses and others associated with abortion clinics would be subject not just to fines but to serious prison time if they kept up their work.
Some states might even insist that women who sought abortions would also be indicted for some form of homicide and face years behind bars. President Donald Trump at one point said he endorsed this course of action, then backed off.
So, some pro-life folks might say, just indict all guilty parties and ship them off to jail.
Important realities seem to escape them.
Court dockets are already backed up, jails and prisons nationally are bursting with overcrowding. Police are struggling to keep up with narcotics, burglary and sexual abuse cases. Adding thousands more cases in tracking down and breaking up underground clinics would drive police, court and incarceration systems into meltdown.
Crassly, some Republican office seekers "play the abortion card" to troll for votes, though you will rarely see them show up at a pro-life rally or "march for life" in their communities after Sunday church. (Trump, in my view, belongs to this group.) These are faux pro-lifers. Their hearts are not in it. Others, of course, are "for real," and God bless them for their genuine concern for the unborn.
Nor is abortion a legitimate left/right issue. In times past Democrats were more likely to label abortion a heinous immoral act than were Republicans. Mr. Conservative himself, Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, was a card-carrying member of Planned Parenthood, the leading abortion provider in the USA.
Evangelical Protestants, history tells us, were latecomers to the pro-life movement. Being anti-abortion was considered "a Catholic thing." Protestant pastors gave their flocks a pass on the issue because, quite frankly, if the Catholic Church was against it, then "we should probably be on the other side."
Pro-life Democrats need to push back against their party's leadership. West Virginia's own, Sen. Joe Manchin, formerly noted for his stance against abortion, could help lead the way.
I'm for every incremental measure possible to reduce abortion in our society. Eliminating Roe v. Wade, however, may only end up shifting the same number of abortions we have now into a brutal and illegal underground industry. And no one seems to have any idea how we, as a society, would cope with that.
John Patrick Grace formerly covered health care and religion for The Greensboro (N.C.) News and Record. He lives in eastern Cabell County.