Settle this question

November 11, 1991

Pro-choice groups, including Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, are entirely right in demanding that the U.S. Supreme Court give a definitive answer as swiftly as possible on the question of whether the controversial decision of Roe vs. Wade continues to be the law of the land.

All that is needed to overturn Roe vs. Wade is for just one of three justices -- Sandra Day O'Connor, David Souter or Clarence Thomas -- to join the four justices who have already declared themselves in favor of reversal. It would seem all but certain that at least one of the three undecided justices will join the four in overturning the decision which presently guarantees to American women an unconditional right to obtain safe and legal abortions in early pregnancy.

Overturning Roe would, of course, throw the whole explosive issue directly into the political arena -- into the hands of the president and state governors, Congress and the 50 state legislatures. Every state, and to a lesser extent Congress as well, would be obliged to go through the same bloodletting that Maryland went through in 1988 and 1990 before adopting by statute the standards of Roe vs. Wade. For that matter, the issue is still unsettled in Maryland; next year the new law will be up for ratification or rejection by all the voters of the state.

Since we regard the right of a woman to choose to be a fundamental right, we would greatly prefer to see Roe vs. Wade upheld. But if that is not to be, the reversal should come swiftly so that candidates for president, for governor, for Congress and for the state legislatures can state their positions unequivocally so that voters can make intelligent, reliable choices.

If the court fails to act, it stands to be accused of placing itself squarely in the political arena on this issue.

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