Politics: February 2006 Archives

South Dakota has now passed an almost complete ban on abortion. Four other states are doing similar things. Pundits are agreed that this is an attempt to force the Supreme Court to revisit Roe v. Wade. I have to register my complaint that this is an utterly stupid and potentially counterproductive move from a pro-life point of view. There are five people currently sitting on the Supreme Court who voted to uphold the central holding of Roe v. Wade (while completely gutting its justification) the last time it came up. There's no guarantee that any change will take place in membership of the court before these cases could come before them. If that happens, these states will just have put one more nail in the coffin of the idea that Roe could easily be overturned. The more times a decision is upheld, the stronger the precedent becomes, and South Dakota and these other states may well be setting events in motion to strengthen the standing of Roe v. Wade. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito both affirmed this principle at their hearings, and Justice Scalia seems to treat precedent in this standard way as well in many cases. Only Justice Thomas would consider this irrelevant.

There have been several comments assuming Justices Ginsburg or Stevens would be gone by the time these cases come before the court, but even if that's so (and there's no guarantee of it) we have no idea if they would be replaced by people who would overturn Roe. If Hillary Clinton appoints their replacements, you can be sure they would vote to uphold it no matter the merits. She has said numerous times that she wouldn't appoint anyone who wouldn't promise to uphold it (though perhaps an argument for recusal would then be warranted). But what's worse is that we don't really even know if Justice Alito or Chief Justice Roberts would overturn Roe. Many on both the left and the right are assuming they would, but they both hold precedent in high regard. They both seem to be particularists and not as much originalists (though I think Alito is more of one), which means the individual facts of the case are primary. Alito in particular advocated a slower process of limiting Roe as the best method for serving pro-life interests. I admit that this was twenty years ago, but it says something about how he might approach a case like the ones these lawmakers are seeking to raise.

But there's a third possibility that might be even worse for those who want Roe overturned. The case might come before the court as it stands, and the four conservatives on this issue might try to convince the others not to hear the case because they don't want a further precedent on Roe. The majority might give in, thinking it's not worth the bother to repeat what they've already said several times. What we'd then end up with is a precedent on not even hearing cases that challenge Roe, and then it will be that much harder to get a case to the Supreme Court once there is a conservative majority on abortion.

So what are these state legislatures thinking? Or are they simply not thinking? It doesn't serve the pro-life cause in any way to do this sort of thing in our current situation.


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The National Review has launched a new blog CrunchyCons [hat tip: Gnu]. This really attracts me for a number of reasons. It's a kind of conservatism that seems to me to avoid much that I don't like about conservatives (particularly the National Review types) while retaining what seems to me to be the heart of conservatism. For more detail on what they're all about, see the CrunchyCon Manifesto. I'm going to have to check this out when I get some more time (which isn't really any time soon). Most exciting for me is, perhaps, the involvement of Frederica Mathews-Greene, who can write a book arguing for a robustly pro-life position and still come out with NOW and NARAL leaders praising her (and it's not in any way because she soft-pedals the pro-life view; it's because she frames it in a way that they can understand). Anyone who can achieve that is really worth hearing out.

I do have to register reservations with several points in their manifesto. Beauty may sometimes be more important than efficiency, but I'd rather have a beat-up looking minivan than a sports car. It holds the whole family, costs a whole lot less, doesn't tend to attract police officers looking for speeders, and does what we need it to do. The primary motivation for having a sports car instead seems to me to stem from the kind of thing CrunchyCons want to distance themselves from (and #2 in the manifesto is a clear indication of this: "Modern conservatism has become too focused on money, power, and the accumulation of stuff, and insufficiently concerned with the content of our individual and social character.")

I also think a Christian should have a hard time with the last two points. As important as the family is for Christians, it isn't higher than the God-appointed means of spreading the good news that is Jesus Christ. What Christians do for a culture is far more crucial, on the Christian view, than what families in isolation from what a family grounded in Christ ought to be should be for a society. The last point is good for pointing out what won't save, but it's too eager to replace it with something that also won't save. Only repentance will ultimately save. I think they're trying to be vague enough to include that sort of thing, but I don't think it does it for me. On the whole, though, I really like this list and certainly consider it far better than what your standard Republican in government is going to come up with.



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