Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Abortion: so what?

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.

Discussions - 7 Comments

Agree ... those who favor "abortion rights" can't afford to give an inch of ground. Their position is morally tenuous, and they know it. That's why they cling to tightly to the notion of it being the right of a woman to choose. That is the moral cornerstone of their argument. Allow that "right" to be diminished anywhere and it casts a light on the right in general.

From a purely political perspective, I'm sure the advocates of abortion privileges fear greatly a kind of "moral federalism" because it might well show their claim to "women returning to back alleys" to be stuff and nonsense. And if their horror scenario is diminished, where does that leave them?

Truth is, the "abortion rights" argument has always been an argument about convenience, not rights. Most pregnancies are the result of making a bad decision at a bad time ... and that's particularly true in this day and age where contraceptives are plentiful, relatively inexpensive and increasingly reliable. Rape and incest cases must be a fraction of one percent of the total abortions performed.

I've never been able to see the "abortion rights" argument as anything more than an argument for greater convenience. But then again, a great many arguments in this day and age really come down to that, what with convenience rapidly becoming itself a "right."

I agree with Knippenberg's analysis.

Joe's on a roll! After a lull (a fatigue-with-politics and narrow debates that I think we all sensed), NLT's got some wind in its sails. Steady as she goes, captain(s)!

But if we can shift the debate to the terms Will uses, then some states can make abortion illegal and that moral stand might have an impact on political and social morality across the nation. The bigger issue, of leaving some things to the states, wouldn't that be welcome? California has so many people it might as well be a nation. It is so distinctly different that to "let California be California" might also be to let the rest of the states be themselves, too. If we can agree that the federal system is too big to adequately police or even manage many things, like emergency relief, say, perhaps the states can gain back some reasonable autonomy.

Could we argue for this on the grounds of "diversity"?


I was at a wedding last night and the conversation about politics, in conjunction with this article, reminded me that there are folks out here in the midlands who will not vote for a pro-abortion DOG-CATCHER, much less county commissioner or any other politician through levels of responsibility that Will mentions. It is no matter that they can have no effect on the legality of abortion; it is the principle of the thing. Just a reminder that there are stalwart absolutists on the right, too.

I agree with Joe and all those who comment above. Now let's shift to a related issue: capital punishment. Can we apply the same arguments there and come to the conclusions that it, too, is morally wrong?

Capital punishment - a human has to do something or at least be convicted of doing something to justify his death.

Abortion - a human has to nothing to justify his death.

Not the same thing in my book, not by long shot.

JK the Elder, we DO have federalism on capital punishment.

Leave a Comment

* denotes a required field
 

No TrackBacks
TrackBack URL: http://nlt.ashbrook.org/movabletype/mt-tb.cgi/11279