Thursday, January 12, 2006

Trib's Chapman on Alito and Roe v Wade

Great, sensible column in Today's Chicago Tribune by Steve Chapman about The Past and Future of Roe v. Wade.
Instead, it [Roe v Wade] took the right of privacy, which is implicitly upheld in various provisions of the Bill of Rights, and stretched it beyond recognition.

The result was like building a skyscraper on a foundation designed for a log cabin. Roe was shaky on Day One and has been shaky ever since. All Alito did in 1985 was point out that the moon is not, in fact, made of green cheese. To hold that against him brings to mind journalist Michael Kinsley's famous comment that in Washington, a gaffe is not when a politician tells a lie, but when he tells the truth.


So seeing Roe as mistaken is not a radical view. The radical view comes from the other side. When the Constitution says nothing about an issue, the obvious answer is to leave the matter to legislative bodies. When the Constitution is silent, the people get the final say.

Pro-lifers are willing to accept that outcome -- even though it would mean abortion would remain widely available. They don't ask the Supreme Court to decree that every fetus must be protected from the moment of conception. They don't insist that the issue be pre-empted by the judiciary. It's abortion-rights supporters who insist that the Constitution forbids anything except their preference, ever.

I wish the Staff-who-speak-only-for-the-Staff over at the Unitarian Universalist Association had Chapman's eye for what the rest of the electorate well understands. Alito's no extremist. It's quite the opposite.

Had the Staff read the Lexington column in The Economist a early last month, they would have heard the same,
But when it comes to abortion, it is the Democrats who are the American exceptionalists.

Most rich countries other than the United States have solved the abortion problem by consulting the electorate either through the legislature or through referendums. This led to vigorous debates and, broadly, the triumph of abortion rights. Because abortion waslegalizedd democratically, pro-lifers accepted the fact that they had lost and abortion became a settled right. By contrast, in America, abortion is a fundamental right of privacy protected by a 1973 Supreme Court judgment Roe v Wade.
That abortion's become a fundamental right has done Democrats and Liberalism great harm, and after watching bits Judge Alito's confirmation hearings, I'd argue defense of Roe v Wade's pushed the party to the edge of irrelevancy. Lexington concluded,
The main reason, alas, why Democrats will stick by Roe is simply because it is a totem in the culture wars. Why should pro-choice forces surrender any ground? That argument makes sense if you want to defend choice right into the ninth month, as some zealots do. But for most Democrats who merely want to keep abortion legal under most circumstances, that right would be more secure if it carried democratic legitimacy.

Embracing the democratic process would send a powerful signal that the Party of the People has rediscovered its faith in the people. Relying on judges to advance the liberal agenda allowed conservatives to seize the mantle of populism. Roe has given Republicans a free ride: they can claim to oppose abortion in the comfortable knowledge that it will never be banned. But imagine if Roe were overturned. How many Republicans would vote for a ban on abortion that only one in five Americans support? The conservative coalition would be split asunder.

History is full of great generals who won their wars by staging strategic retreats. Field-Marshal Kutusov allowed Napoleon to occupy Moscow, tempting him to over-extend himself. The Democrats might emulate that aged Russian's wiliness and stage a strategic retreat to the high ground of popular opinion.

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