We hear a lot about Roe v. Wade, but what exactly did the U.S. Supreme Court say?

L.M.  Toronto

The Court announced a new constitutional right.  The majority said that the 14th Amend-ment to the U.S. Constitution shelters a fundamental right of privacy “broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.”

The judges did not know “when life began,” but as in any case, “the unborn child” was not a “person,” the Court ruled that individual states had “no compelling interest” in protecting it.

The court divided pregnancy into three trimesters.

First trimester:  During the first stage of pregnancy all state regulations concerning abortion were prohibited.  All medical regulations which affected the mother’s health in abortion were forbidden.  The Court ruled that the states’ interest in maternal health was not “compelling” enough to justify medical regulations.

Second trimester:  The states could not restrict permission for abortion, but minor regu-lations (e.g. the place) were possible.  (In practice, however, the Court routinely turned down regulations which in theory the states were allowed to make.)

Third trimester:  After viability, abortion was allowed to save the “mother’s life or health.”  In effect this meant that the states must permit abortion on demand at any time in pregnancy.

Existing state laws were declared invalid.  The Court took the power to legislate on abor-tion from the states and brought the issue under federal judiciary.

N.B.  This judgment was an exercise in “raw judicial power” and has been condemned even by eminent legal scholars who are themselves pro-abortion.

What exactly is a pre-clinical pregnancy?       M.N. Montreal

This is a very early pregnancy which cannot, as yet, be demonstrated by clinical means, such as ultra sound or monitoring the baby’s heartbeat (which is about twice that of the mother’s).  With a clinical pregnancy – at between five and eight weeks – it can be shown that this new very tiny individual is “really there.”

However, at an earlier “pre-clinical” stage, there are bio-chemical signs of pregnancy caused by, for example, changing hormone levels.  This early stage is called a pre-clinical pregnancy or sometimes a bio-chemical pregnancy.  Urine tests are well known but there are newer, more sophisticated blood tests which can demonstrate a pregnancy even be-fore the mother’s first period is missed.

It is of interest to note that the development of New Reproductive Technologies – especially in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer – has caused an increased interest in bio-chemical testing for pre-clinical pregnancy.  It is one measure used to show, at least in the early stage, how successful the procedure has been.

To settle an argument. Are the chances of a child with Down’s Syndrome greater or less today than forty years ago?                                          L.M. Montreal.

In a recent article, Dr. Jerome Lejeune wrote that 30 years ago a preborn child with Down’s Syndrome had a greater chance of living to ten years than he would have today. Early detection of the condition and selective abortion, have resulted in children being killed before birth. Babies who escape as far as birth face dangers in their first post-natal days: deliberate neglect, denial of simple life-saving surgery, denial of nutrition, even direct infanticide. That is the downside of the situation.

For those lucky enough to survive these hazards, the outlook is increasingly bright. New achievements in cardiac surgery, and the management of infectious or malignant diseases have greatly increased life expectancy. At the same time, there has been a revolution in the education and development of Down’s patients. Only a few years ago, such children were institutionalized, or hidden, and they were excluded from schools. Today, given the right stimuli and encouragement the children can progress through schools and (as we have seen) even graduate from high school and continue on. There have been remarkable developments in sports, music and art.

To answer your question then: chances pre and immediately post birth are poorer today;  once these dangers are over, life is full of new opportunities.