Did God Misspeak?
Who would have thought that John Kerry and Charlie Rangel would both give interviews speaking out against gun control, right after a major shooting tragedy? Who would have thought that Canada would have a popular conservative government — and that it would dump the Kyoto treaty just in time for Earth Day? Even as I write, news arrives that a congresswoman has suddenly died, out of the blue, from a cancer that most people had no idea she had until days ago.
But perhaps strangest news of all last week came from the Supreme Court, handed down Wednesday morning: (link: http://www.kold.com/Global/story.asp?S=6394308&nav=menu86_2 ) “Supreme Court Bans Abortion Method.”
None of us are used to the idea that the pro-life side can win in the Supreme Court. But putting that aside, imagine if that erroneous but typical headline had been correct — that the court arbitrarily imposed a ban on a specific kind of abortion because justices believed it was brutal and offensive to a civilized society. If that had actually happened last week, we would have a name for that case — or at least of one just like it: Roe v. Wade.
Like Roe, such a decision would have consisted mostly of non-legal reasoning, and it would have represented a usurpation of congressional power by the judiciary.
The New Sacrament
The 1973 Roe decision is, as many supporters of abortion now admit, a total mess. Justice Harry Blackmun’s opinion reached all over the map, beginning with a flippant dismissal of the Hippocratic Oath (which specifically prohibited abortion) and an examination of England’s decision to liberalize its abortion laws in 1967. The Court then found a new and unprecedented right to legal abortion in the Constitution. What’s more, Blackmun argued essentially that because the Supreme Court cannot determine when human life begins, the government must simply drop any serious interest in protecting the unborn.
Last week’s Gonzales v. Carhart ruling, in contrast, is a measured and sober decision about the limits of congressional power. Congress had banned partial-birth abortions, and the Supreme Court simply upheld the judgement of the elected branches of government.
Justice Anthony Kennedy’s decision is extremely non-political, and outside of quotation marks, it mostly avoids even the obviously descriptive but apparently controversial term “partial-birth abortion.” It begins with a graphic description of the procedure and then looks carefully at the justifications Congress gave for banning it — most importantly, the preservation of unborn human life and the integrity of the medical profession. The decision finds that these are legitimate congressional interests, and that the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003 does not seriously impede any woman’s ability to get an abortion. Therefore, if Congress, duly elected by American voters, chose to ban the procedure, it was within its right to do so.
This is hardly the dismantling of Roe that various left-wing politicians are decrying. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was categorical in her denunciation: “Criminalizing doctors for performing medically necessary procedures to save a woman’s life or protect her health is wrong,” she said. “The Court’s decision is a significant step backwards.”
Pelosi has a markedly different attitude toward the court’s decisions when she likes them: “This is almost as if God has spoken,” she said after the landmark Kelo ruling, which basically invalidated homeowners’ property rights.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) has claimed that she is seeking a “common-ground” compromise position on the abortion issue, but somehow, that is not inconsistent with the position that even the most brutal procedure must be kept legal at all costs. Her email to supporters complained that “This allows the government to dictate to women what they can and cannot do about their own health.” She even took issue with the language used: “In their ruling,” she notes, “the conservative majority even used right-wing code language, referring to obstetricians as ‘abortion doctors.'” Doctors who perform abortions are abortion doctors, aren’t they? I always thought that the right-wing code was “abortionist” — both descriptive and accurate.
More bizarre was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s denunciation of Justice Samuel Alito for participating in the majority. “I would only say that this isn’t the only decision a lot of us wish that Alito weren’t there and [former Justice Sandra Day] O’Connor were there,” he told reporters last Wednesday. Reid, who voted for the ban in 2003, later tried to clarify that he actually supports this decision. But he never denounced Alito like that after the other decisions he supposedly disliked. Abortion is too important an issue for the Democratic donor base for someone in Reid’s position to deviate from the party line. Meanwhile, other Democrats who voted for the ban but are pro-choice on abortion — such as Joseph Biden (D-Del.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) — are ducking the press as to their thoughts on the decision.
Pelosi, Clinton, Reid and the others can at least rest with the knowledge that the partial-birth abortion ban will probably not save a single baby from the knife. The majority opinion specifically notes that part of the reason for upholding the law is that other types of abortions are available, and therefore there is no “undue burden” on anyone seeking an abortion.
If the politicians were bad with their demagogic rhetoric on this decision, they could barely hold a candle to the Court’s minority dissent, authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Despite much evidence to the contrary, the dissent calls it “an antiabortion shibboleth” that women often regret their choice to have abortions. As for the concern Congress demonstrated toward this issue, Ginsburg writes, “This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution — ideas that have long since been discredited.” In other words, because the Court allows Congress to show concern for women who are faced with a terrifying and awful decision — as even the staunchest proponents of abortion on demand will admit — they are engaging in outmoded, sexist thinking.
More importantly, the Ginsburg dissent states that legalized abortion, and even the freedom from any restrictions on abortion, is central to “a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.” Again, she writes, “This cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this court — and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women’s lives.”
So abortion is “central.” It has somehow become the greatest sacrament of our official state-imposed Secularist religion. It’s sad that people think this way — that a large segment of major political party (and a small segment of another) not only sanctions such brutality as abortion, but speaks out so vociferously for the continuation of its most brutal and inhumane forms.
David Freddoso is a political reporter for Evans and Novak Inside Report