Cover Story

As time goes by

LOGICAL CONCLUSIONS: Nine writers consider the implications of 100 years of Roe vs. Wade

Issue: "Life Issues," Feb. 24, 2001

Go back three decades to Roe vs. Wade, and then go back three more to the filming of Casablanca, the Humphrey Bogart/Ingrid Bergman flick with a memorable song: "You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh. The fundamental things apply, as time goes by." Then let time go by that far into the future and more, three score and twelve years from now, when the infamous Supreme Court decision hits 100. What will be in 2073 the nation's view of abortion and euthanasia? What will America be like then?

Here's part of the letter WORLD sent late last year to nine of the most thoughtful people in the United States: "For this special issue we'd like you to put yourself in the position of a person writing in 2073, on the 100th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. Is the centennial a national holiday of women's liberation? Is it a national day of mourning for tens of millions of slaughtered unborn children? Is it a one-line reference in the encyclopedia, because cultural, political, or technological changes have left it long-forgotten? You are free to be optimistic, pessimistic, or in-between."

Sending out a letter like that is a little like Forrest Gump's reaching into a box of chocolates: You never know what you'll get. But I believe readers will find on the following pages caramels, toffees, buttercreams, and others all worth at least a bite and maybe a jubilant swallow.

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We start with a timeline of abortion and euthanasia in America from the 1600s to the present. Euthanasia has been discussed and opposed for a long time, but only lately has defending the practice become politically correct. Abortion, on the other hand, reached an early peak in the 1850s, when those gripped by the 19th century's New Age movement thought they could channel spirits of the dead and dig new channels that bypassed marriage vows and duties to unborn children. But our predecessors constructed compassionate alternatives to abortion along with enforceable laws. Not until the social revolution of the 1960s did abortion become fashionable once more.

Leading off our essays, James Dobson projects infanticide and involuntary euthanasia, but has God and believers bringing back America from the brink of destruction. Nancy Pearcey provides an optimistic view from 2073 of how we barely escaped pledging allegiance to a biotech Tower of Babel. Chuck Colson pitches a year 2073 book proposal from his great grandson (a member of the 250,000-member church known as the National Capital Assembly and Happiness Center) that shows how America lost the culture war.

The next group of three begins with Rabbi Daniel Lapin's lament about the pro-abortion position of big chunks of American Judaism, and with his forecast of consequences both dire and rejuvenating. Brad Stetson's letter from an American jailed in 2073 for demonstrating at the Vine Street Victory Over Life clinic notes how the IRS irrigated the valleys of death: 95 percent seizure of the estates of those who die natural deaths, but only a 5 percent taking from those who accept euthanasia. Uwe Siemon-Netto describes a future Germany in which Kinder and Kirche-children and church-are both rare.

We end with three optimistic articles that we hope will be like those in future reference books. Bill Pierce's adoption timeline takes us from 1972 through 2004 and an imminent decrease in abortion/increase in adoption. Robert George's article in the 2073 edition of the Encyclopedia Christiana details the first phase of the legal and political battle that eventually resulted in the overturn of Roe vs. Wade. And Gerard Bradley gives us the text of the Supreme Court's reversal decision, with Chief Justice Sanchez delivering the opinion and Justices Abu-Rahim, Greer, Villanueva, and Murphy-Jones concurring.

That's the hope, but now we must face the music. Many people know the refrain of Casablanca's "As Time Goes By," but few the stanza that leads up to the famous words. It goes like this: "This day and age we're living in, gives cause for apprehension, with speed and new invention, and things like fourth dimension. Yet we get a trifle weary, with Mr. Einstein's theory, so we must get down to earth at times, relax relieve the tension. And no matter what the progress, or what may yet be proved, the simple facts of life are such, they cannot be removed."

That verse about "the simple facts of life" leads into "You must remember this, a kiss is still a kiss...." That is the truth: Simple facts of life do objectively exist, regardless of the subjective desires of those looking for convenient ways out of the hard problems of birth and death. The song continues: "And when two lovers woo, they still say, 'I love you,' on that you can rely, no matter what the future brings as time goes by." We can rely on lovers saying that, but will they love the unborn child they may produce? Will they care for each other when they are old? In America, will we continue to worship our emotions of the moment, or will we resolve to do what is objectively right?

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