Regardless of moral considerations, Roe v. Wade should be overturned because of its flawed legal reasoning, managing director and general counsel of the Bioethics Defense Fund Nikolas Nikas and executive director of the Life Legal Defense Foundation Dana Cody said in a lecture on Tuesday. Vita Clamantis, a campus pro-life group, sponsored the talk.
Nikas began the lecture by contending that, starting with the Declaration of Independence, the American legal tradition has been grounded in overarching moral worldviews. Ignoring questions of morality prevents intelligent debate surrounding political issues, he said.
The Supreme Court expressed ambiguity in establishing a constitutional right to privacy in its decision regarding the 1973 landmark case of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court case addressing abortion rights, Nikas said. The court also overreached its authority in effectively creating a legal statute beyond the court’s purview, he said.
Even if abortion remains legal, abortion’s lawful backing will not last, Nikas claimed.
He emphasized that Roe v. Wade left the decision to abort in the hands of a physician, rather than the mother herself.
Women should not support the Court’s decision because it is not in their best interests, Nikas said.
“This has been a great boon for predator guys,” he said.
He said that suffragettes such as Susan B. Anthony opposed abortion.
Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which was argued before the Supreme Court in 1992, spuriously shifted the legal reasoning from women’s privacy to women’s liberties, Nikas said. By citing the legal doctrine that given similar facts, laws should be applied equally and predictably, the Court implicitly expressed reservations with its decision. Other decisions only erected further legal contradictions, he said.
“The Court has really never been comfortable with this right created from nowhere,” Nikas said.
Cody continued the presentation by arguing that abortion hurts women’s rights, since women do not need abortion rights to be equal to men.
Cody cited a variety of legal scholars who advocate for abortion rights, including Cass Sunstein and Jeffrey Rosen, but oppose Roe v. Wade’s legal foundation. She said that the Court should leave moral considerations not grounded in the Constitution to the legislative branch or public opinion.
“Roe disenfranchised the American citizen,” she said.
The founders of Planned Parenthood supported eugenics, Cody said. Although Cody said that many Planned Parenthood employees believe in the organization’s public causes, she believes the organization’s leaders still support eugenics, she said in an interview, citing the prevalance of Planned Parenthood clinics in minority communities.
Cody claimed that abortion also had a deleterious economic effect, as it reduced the number of taxpayers who could fund government initiatives.
“You wonder why we have economic problems 56 million taxpayers are dead,” she said in a session following the lecture.
Vita Clamantis president Robert Smith ’14 said that the group invited Nikas and Cody based on the advice of Law Students for Life, the anti-abortion organization that sponsored the event.
Blake Neff ’13, a member of Vita Clamantis, said that because he believes most students on campus disagree with Vita Clamantis’ goals, the group chose to sponsor the event to attack abortion “unconventionally.”
He said he disagreed with Cody’s assessment of Planned Parenthood’s current leaders.
“I have little love for the organization and what they do, but I would not claim that myself,” he said.
Michael Acquilano, national coordinator for Law Students for Life, said the group chose the College precisely because many Dartmouth community members disagree with the organization’s aims.
“We’re speaking to people that are probably not able to speak out on campuses because their professors disagree with them,” Acquilano said. “We’re trying to bring the truth to them.”
Ramtin Rahmani ’16 said that while he thought Nikas cogently attacked Roe v. Wade’s legal foundations, he believed that Cody allowed her personal moral beliefs to interfere with her understanding of the law.
Brandon Gill ’16 also approved of Nikas’ decision to attack Roe v. Wade from a legal, rather than moral, standpoint, since private moral considerations are difficult to sway, he said.
Neff said that Vita Clamantis will continue to sponsor other anti-abortion events, including a discussion of the death penalty.
The lecture was titled “Is Roe v. Wade a Legal Anomaly?” took place in Filene Auditorium, with an attendance of around 25 people.