George F. Will argues that the status quo ante Roe leaves those who favor abortion rights nothing really to fear. Restoring moral federalism on abortion means only that each state will be able to establish its own laws. Things might change in morally conservative states, but are unlikely to change in others. So, he says to the anti-pro-lifers, why worry?
He’s right on the narrow merits of constitutional law, but he’s probably wrong on the soulcraft issues about which he used to care so deeply. Imagine the consequences of claiming that there isn’t a constitutionally enshrined right to choose. Imagine the admissibility of political and moral arguments about the right to life. Without the high ground of autonomy, protected by people in black robes, responsibility might make something of a comeback. And all the talk about "safe, legal, and rare" wouldn’t be a way of placating and disarming abortion opponents while protecting autonomy, but rather a real concession--with potentially real political consequences--that abortion is wrong.
Stated another way, the debate about abortion isn’t simply a political or legal or constitutional debate. It’s a moral debate. For abortion proponents, giving up the status quo for "moral federalism" is a step in the wrong direction, a step toward a new moral constellation. Moral federalism is an end-state only if it’s legitimate to have essentially any preference regarding abortion. Since that’s in effect what we have now--i.e., what the law "teaches" now--if moral federalism is something different, it’s different because it’s merely a political accommodation with "sin," that is, a step on the road to further delegitimization of abortion. A good thing, I think, but not one that folks to my left will acquiesce in.