Warren Earl Burger
1907 - 1995
US Supreme Court Justice (1969-1986) Roe vs. Wadeby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Warren E. Burger was born on September 7, 1907 in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
He was one of seven children. Warren grew up on a farm on the outskirts
of St. Paul. He attended John A. Johnson High School and was president
of his school’s student council. Warren worked for Mutual Life Insurance
while attending night school at the University of Minnesota. He later
enrolled at St. Paul College of Law (now known as William Mitchell College
of Law) where he received his degree in 1931. He taught for twelve years
at St. Paul College of Law and then took a job at a firm nearby which
soon became “Faricy, Burger, Moore & Costello”.
His political career began slowly, but became extremely powerful. In his early career, in 1948, he supported Minnesota’s governor (Harold E. Strassen) in his pursuit of the presidency, and although this was unsuccessful, it was nevertheless a building block of his professional career. He later helped Dwight D. Eisenhower win the presidency. When Eisenhower took charge in 1952, he appointed Burger as the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Division of the Justice Department. In 1956 Eisenhower appointed Burger to a position on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit where Warren remained for 13 years. In 1968 the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Earl Warren) publicized his intent to resign. However, because of the problems with appointing another Chief Justice, Earl Warren delayed his resignation for a year. President Richard Nixon nominated Burger to the position and he was sworn in on June 23, 1969.
Burger was a consistent supporter for administrative modification in the court system. He was also a strong devotee of the preservation of checks and balances between the branches of government and the separation of powers. In 1974 he ruled against President Richard Nixon who tried to keep several memos and tapes relating to the Watergate scandal private. This compelled Nixon to resign as to circumvent impeachment.
By far one of the most controversial cases that Warren Burger undertook as Supreme Court Chief Justice was Roe vs. Wade, a case where he voted with the majority to recognize a woman’s right to an abortion. The case began in March of 1970 in Texas. It started when a woman named Norma McCorvey became pregnant. Using the name "Jane Roe" Norma headed a class action lawsuit against the state of Texas's anti-abortion laws. She claimed that the laws were unconstitutional and denied her rights under the First, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States’ Constitution. Henry Wade (Dallas’ district attorney) was the defendant in the case. Roe's attorney, Sarah Weddington, was a law student at the University of Texas. She stood before the Supreme Court and argued her case twice- once after the case was put over for reargument. The case was argued in the Supreme Court first on December 13, 1971 and then again on October 11, 1972. The court delivered its verdict, backed by a 7-2 majority, on January 22, 1973- only Justices White and Rehnquist dissented. The majority opinion noted restrictive laws against abortion surfaced as a result of three concerns:
1. Women who can receive an abortion are likely to be more sexually promiscuous
2. Abortion mortality was high until the turn of the twentieth century
3. The State has an interest in protecting prenatal life.
In the court's opinion, the first two reasons for keeping abortion illegal were outdated, and a woman's right to privacy superseded the third. Thus, abortion was legalized.
The Roe decision illuminated a nationwide protest. Americans far and wide who believed that abortion is morally equivalent to infanticide, or rather that abortion is in itself infanticide, began to complain and sign petitions. Widespread protests over the decision consequently produced the Pro-Life Movement. People who belonged to this group organized huge rallied outside of the Supreme Court. Since then many abortion adversaries have claimed that there exists a link between abortion and breast cancer; more than that, abortion has been linked to persistent guilt feelings and other psychological problems. Abortion has also been linked with a higher risk of future infertility.
Last year there were over 850,000 legal abortions. Over and over again the Bible tells of the extreme value of children in the Lord’s eyes. King David said, “You made all of the delecate parts of my body, and knit me together in my mother’s womb…You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion, as I was woven together in the dark of the womb. You saw me before I was born, everyday of my life was recorded in your book…” Ps. 139:13,15-16. Although Warren Burger made many excellent rulings while in the Supreme Court he will no doubt be held accountable for his vote and his choice in legalizing abortion. It is important to realize that our decisions sometimes effect the lives of thousands and, in Burger’s case, millions of others, something that we would all be wise to remember in the future.
Man seems to always want to play God. Since the beginning of time he has thought that he knew better or didn’t need the instruction of a Higher Authority, how he is! It is not for humans to decide who should be born and who shouldn’t. What a great price we will pay for our choices and actions while here on earth.
1. Infoplease.com. http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/people/A0809481.html
2. Wikipedia.com. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roe_v._Wade
3. Wikipedia.com. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warren_E._Burger
4. Religioustolerance.org. http://www.religioustolerance.org/abo_fact.htm
5. Women and Children First. www.roevwade.org