Monday, November 20, 2006

Barone: SD Abortion Defeat a Win for Pro-Lifers

Must-read by Michael Barone that makes a point so obvious I'm wondering why I missed it myself. He notes that the sound defeat of an initiative to ban abortion in a conservative state makes it impossible to argue that the overturning of Roe vs. Wade would lead many states to ban abortion:

It seems to me that this vote will tend to reduce the saliency of the abortion issue in national politics–on both the prolife and prochoice sides (I will use those terms, which are preferred by advocates on either side).

Some prolife groups criticized the South Dakota legislators and governor for passing a law that, under current Supreme Court rulings, would surely be declared unconstitutional whenever it got into court. Yet the voters killed it faster than the courts could. The fact that an abortion ban could not pass muster with the voters of a state like South Dakota should convince clearsighted prolifers that, even if Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, abortion is simply not going to be banned in the United States anytime soon. True, opposition to abortion is very high in a few jurisdictions (Louisiana, Utah, Guam). But it was almost as high in South Dakota, and the ban was overturned. American voters are ready to support many limitations on abortion. But it seems that very large majorities nationally are not willing to approve an outright ban.

It's only to the good that people have a clear understanding of the lay of the land when issues like this are debated. Expect this to be a key part of the debate should Bush nominate a strict-constructionist for any upcoming Supreme Court opening.

Back to the top.

1 comment:

Philo-Junius said...

Influence Peddler operatives in South Dakota inform us that question of repeal hinged entirely on the "hard cases" exceptions--rape and incest. The South Dakota legislature pursued philosophical purity (possibly with some mischievous help from opponents) at the expense of legislative pragmatism.

The key question in abortion politics is really the pernicious "health of the mother" dodge inserted by Doe v. Bolton, not any of the self-contradictory, half-baked philosophising in Roe v. Wade. The health of the mother clause has been the bane of all recent attempts to restrict abortion because it demands that any negative health impacts--including mental aspects such as depression--must be considered sufficient grounds for waiving any legislated restriction.

In practice, this means that any legislated restriction that works well enough to frustrate a woman seeking an abortion is by that very fact considered judicially unacceptable--and therefore unconstitutionally onerous.