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  • Reverend James Squire

A Breach of Trust


Photo by Gayatri Malhotra


There certainly was a breach of trust when “Politico” discovered a draft of a proposal from Justice Alito regarding overturning Roe V. Wade, the current and decades old law guaranteeing women the right to choose whether to have an abortion. Anytime confidentiality is involved, it must be honored. The stolen draft is a wrong action. It is being presented by Politico as Situation Ethics where the ends, justifies the means. The Republican Party has focused on the breach and not on their perspective of being anti-abortion which is the view held by most in that party. The Democratic Party is against the overturning of this historic law because of a number of ethical issues.


I am going to assume that you are somewhat overwhelmed as I am with the response from both parties to the information in the draft. It has been like drinking from a firehose of various points of view. I want to review what hasn’t been covered or covered very little.


I have not seen enough verbiage on why Roe V. Wade came into existence in the first place. In any ethical debate that is where you always start. You start at the beginning. 25% of women of child bearing years will get an abortion. Abortions in America have been on a steady decline. Half of the women who get abortions live below the poverty level. More women of color who are poor have many more abortions than white women of economic means. It is not a matter of numbers as it as a matter of that ethical political word, access. Roe V. Wade came into existence to guarantee medically safe procedures for women and to give the same access to all women. It was a social justice issue. What you do for one (access), you should do for all!


It is all well and good to say that a woman can put a child up for adoption but people who are concerned with the rights of the unborn don’t seemed to have the same passion for the mother and child after the birth by providing day care, family leave, early education, and other things that are necessary for a child to not just survive but to thrive. Thrive versus survive is the key issue. The Republican efforts in regard to these issues are less than noteworthy. Let’s fight for the born child as we do for the life of the unborn. There are a host of statistics that support the fact that children of the poor, the underserved, have little hope of a good life because a mother did not have safe access to abortion. The poverty passes down to future generations. That is not an issue if you have money. All things considered you will thrive. Right now, the very much served are defining a future for the underserved.


Breach of trust is a good way of describing the abortion debate. Robert Coles, teacher of ethics at Harvard, summarizes ethical behavior as “do as I do not as I say.” If this were so on the Supreme Court, we wouldn’t have this current debate. Justices Thomas and Alito have always been clear on their position of being anti-abortion. However, the rest of the court when interviewed for their position on Supreme Court indicated that abortion was the “law of the land and shouldn’t be touched” or that it was “precedent on precedent” over decades which means that it has “stood the test of time” over decades and should be held as a given. America went to sleep each night resting assured that this was the case. The recent draft has created additional mistrust of the court’s political stance. Certainly, Trump who had indicated in the past that he was pro-choice proclaimed that he was making sure that he was nominating people to the Court who would overturn Roe V. Wade. Once again, he did what was politically expedient.


As a result of this policy of forgetfulness regarding what they said in their interviews, they have done the unthinkable and have, in my opinion, done irreparable harm to a court that already finds itself confirming the public’s worst fears. They are political and personal in decision making and not following through on their sworn ethical position that they espoused when interviewed for the job and swore to uphold the Constitution.


Law School is an exercise in studying cases and precedents. Precedents such as Roe V. Wade hold our entire legal system together. The Doctrine of the Teleological Suspension of the Ethical indicates what you do at point A (overturning Roe V. Wade) will affect everything that follows in some good or in some bad ways.


One of the issues that was mentioned in the news was the fact that nations around the world, for the most part, are providing their citizens with access to abortion. 66% of the Irish people voted to change the law in 2018 so that women would have a choice. This is following Kantian Ethics which has a global orientation. What is right or wrong in one place, if it is ethical, should be right or wrong in other places.


In ethics we always look for those things that should be in the public domain and those that should be in the private domain. Abortion is about issues of privacy or private domain where the government (or spouse) should not determine if a woman could have an abortion or not. We have heard the “slippery slope” argument that overturning Roe V. Wade will lead to the invasion of other privacy matters such as gay marriage and interracial marriage.


There is a subtle notion that I have not seen in the news. Ironically, Justice Thomas is a follower of parts of natural law which is an ethical perspective founded by John Locke, one of the sources of our commitment to equality found in the words of the founding fathers. But there is part of natural law that doesn’t reflect Thomas’ view. He doesn’t believe that one should “interrupt the natural continuum” of life. Hence no use of contraceptives, no abortion, no capital punishment, and no euthanasia. However, Locke viewed our bodies as our primary property so no one but the woman should make a decision about her body or property. He saw this as a vital social contract that should be held as sacred. You can argue for and against abortion using the same ethical system of thought of Locke.


I will cover the religious perspective on abortion in another blog. But please note, the religious dimension has not been covered in the news much at all. Think about that for a moment! Separation of Church and State is good when you need it. You hear about the Roman Catholic view which also reflects Natural Law, but we need to look at the importance of why they hold this belief as well as a deep dive into understanding the other religious perspectives. Abortion is an ethical issue whereas today it has become a political/medical issue. Notice the recent emphasis on breach of trust regarding the leak by a group that has nothing to say about the social justice issue of women (particularly underserved women) having access to abortion that is the world of those who do have this access. We risk a great deal for a child raised in poverty if we don’t give the same passion and action to the born as we do for the unborn.

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