Thursday, October 20, 2005

More Agreement With Richard Cohen...what is the world coming to? [link]

Richard Cohen wrote a difficult (for a liberal) column about abortion. Here is the money quote:

Conservatives -- and some liberals -- have long argued that the right to an abortion ought to be regulated by states. They have a point. My guess is that the more populous states would legalize it, the smaller ones would not, and most women would be protected. The prospect of some women traveling long distances to secure an abortion does not cheer me -- I'm pro-choice, I repeat -- but it would relieve us all from having to defend a Supreme Court decision whose reasoning has not held up. It seems more fiat than argument.

For liberals, the trick is to untether abortion rights from Roe . The former can stand even if the latter falls. The difficulty of doing this is obvious. Roe has become so encrusted with precedent that not even the White House will say how Harriet Miers would vote on it, even though she is rigorously antiabortion and politically conservative. Still, a bad decision is a bad decision. If the best we can say for it is that the end justifies the means, then we have not only lost the argument -- but a bit of our soul as well.

I respect Cohen's honesty and courage. I have discussed abortion with many liberal friends and have heard many of them acknowledge the same points that Cohen does...but only because we were in private, no one was "keeping score," and our egos were not engaged. Cohen is making his point in public. People WILL keep score. Egos WILL be engaged. He is going to catch hell! But he is telling the truth; and the truth is not always comfortable.

The abortion issue is controversial because there are two GOOD points of view. On the one hand, you have the reverence for life and the uncertainty about when life begins. On the other, you have the fundamental concern about individual autonomy in a free society. I choose the pro-life position because I don't know when life begins and I prefer to err on the side of caution.

One point that Cohen does not address is that the decision in Roe lead to the creation of the pro-life movement and the melt-down of the judicial selection process. If the Supreme Court had not imposed its will on the entire country, the pro-abortion movement would have built its strength and would have legislatively made abortion legal in almost all of the states. Instead, Roe short circuited this process...and the outrage over the judicial usurpation of power caused a near instantaneous reaction: a powerful, vocal, and growing pro-life constituency. This in turn lead abortion supporters to consolidate their political position. The result? 30 years of ugly political warfare that has corrupted the judicial selection process.

Roe has been a disaster. The case needs to be overturned or revised so that the political process can resume its proper role in handling this crucial moral issue.


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