Marvin Olasky – Heartbeat hope at the Supreme Court


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, January 21st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Here’s WORLD’s editor in chief Marvin Olasky with a suggestion for the Supreme Court.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: Tomorrow, January 22, is the 48th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. It was an evil Supreme Court decision that should be overturned. The court will have an opportunity to do so: Late this year or next it should hear oral arguments on any of the heartbeat laws that 10 states have passed. But here’s the problem: Some of the six prolife justices on the court may not be willing to overturn precedent. I think they’re wrong, but if they balk at going all the way, here’s a suggestion: read two sections of Justice Harry Blackmun’s Roe v. Wade decision.

In one section, Blackmun gives a list of reasons some women might choose to abort: Fear of a distressful future. Mental and physical health. An “unwanted” child. Here’s Blackmun’s summary sentence: “All these are factors the woman and her responsible physician necessarily will consider in consultation.”

What’s wrong with that sentence? This: In more than 95 percent of abortions today the woman has no consultation with a responsible physician. With a surgical abortion, she meets the abortionist when she’s already on the operating table. As the number of do-it-yourself chemical abortions grows, even that minimal human contact disappears. So the “consultation” process that was fundamental in Blackmun’s opining no longer exists.

Here’s Blackmun’s second key statement in Roe: “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.” Blackmun in 1973 said doctors and others “are unable to arrive at any consensus.”

That wasn’t really true 48 years ago, but in 1984 the Journal of Ultrasound Medicine announced “Detection of fetal cardiac activity between 41 and 43 days of gestation.” At six weeks, using a high-resolution real-time arc sector scanner, scientists detected fetal heart rates at around 100 beats per minute.

The medical consensus now is clear: Heartbeats at six weeks. Imaginary or dead creatures do not have heartbeats. Those who are alive do. Some might pretend that the creature in the womb is not alive at two or four weeks, but we now know that at least by six weeks life has begun.

So if the Supreme Court won’t do an overt reversal, it can uphold those heartbeat laws by pretending Blackmun was right. In 1973 we did not have a consensus.  In 2021 we do. In 1973 Blackmun opposed a kneejerk decision to abort without the counsel of a doctor. In 2021 many yard signs say, “I believe in science.” Good: The Supreme Court can praise Blackmun’s foresight. It can say: It’s time to accept factual, scientific information about the beating hearts of unborn children. 

I’m Marvin Olasky.


(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) In this Nov. 4, 2020 photo, The Supreme Court in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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