An important editorial from Richard Cohen of the Washington Post today – Cohen is a left-of-center writer who is pro-choice on abortion – called Support Choice, Not Roe.
…I no longer see abortion as directly related to sexual freedom or feminism, and I no longer see it strictly as a matter of personal privacy, either. It entails questions about life — maybe more so at the end of the process than at the beginning, but life nonetheless.
This is not a fashionable view in some circles, but it is one that usually gets grudging acceptance when I mention it. I know of no one who has flipped on the abortion issue, but I do know of plenty of people who no longer think of it as a minor procedure that only prudes and right-wingers oppose. The antiabortion movement has made headway.
If a Supreme Court ruling is going to affect so many people then it ought to rest on perfectly clear logic and up-to-date science. Roe, with its reliance on trimesters and viability, has a musty feel to it, and its argument about privacy raises more questions than it answers. For instance, if the right to an abortion is a matter of privacy then why, asked Princeton professor Robert P. George in the New York Times, is recreational drug use not? You may think you ought to have the right to get high any way you want, but it’s hard to find that right in the Constitution. George asks the same question about prostitution. Legalize it, if you want — two consenting adults, after all — but keep Jefferson, Madison and the rest of the boys out of it.
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.
Cohen doesn’t have it quite right when he says, “If a Supreme Court ruling is going to affect so many people then it ought to rest on perfectly clear logic and up-to-date science.” A Supreme Court ruling is supposed to rest on the laws as written, including the Constitution. Of course we’d like laws to reflect clear logic and up-to-date science, but that’s the job of Congress, not the courts. But over all, this is a powerful article. When a pro-choice Democrat, writing for one of the largest newspapers in the nation, comes out and says it wouldn’t be the end of the world if Roe vs. Wade were overturned, it could be very helpful in further shifting the debate. It’s a sure sign of improvement that such thoughts can even be uttered in the polite company of elite East coast liberal opinion.
Our position has always been that the U.S. Constitution simply doesn’t address the abortion issue, and that whether one is personally pro-choice or pro-life is a separate question.