Saturday, November 19, 2005

Abortion and the Supreme Court

With the passing of William Rehnquist and the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor, President Bush gets to nominate their replacements. John Roberts has already been sworn into the position of Chief Justice while Samuel Alito awaits his confirmation hearings in January.

Of course, this means that the political fireworks have already begun and will continue through the Alito hearings. The source of the fireworks is primarily over abortion.

As Yogi Berra would say, it's deja vu all over again.

For long a long time, I laid the blame for these abortion fireworks at the feet of the Left. Their insistence that judges be made to swear allegiance to the Roe ruling seemed a threat to the independence of the judiciary. While that is still true, I have to be honest and say that the pro-life side's open campaigning to overturn Roe (via the appointment of judges) is what set the Left off in the first place. In other words, while Roe may started the fire overall, the Right started the fire in the Supreme Court battles by politicizing the issue, the Left just throws gasoline on that fire.

I wouldn't begrudge the pro-lifers their strategy of trying to overturn Roe via nominating anti-Roe judges if that was their only option. But the fact of the matter is they do have another option, amending the Constitution.

It really is ironic. One of the pro-life arguments against the Roe decision is that it excluded the voice of the people in the abortion issue. Yet there is a way to include the voice of the people via the amending the Constitution, and they refuse to try.

The reason the pro-lifers don't want to try for an amendment is because they know it will likely fail. The reason it would fail is because, despite their claims to the contrary, most voters think abortion should remain legal. An amendment might be possible if the pro-lifers would compromise and allow unrestricted abortions in, say, the first trimester of pregnancy. But they won't so any amendment is doomed to failure.

And so the abortion quagmire continues. When will it end? Who knows. It might go away if Roe is upheld once or twice more in the next few years. It might go away with time if Roe were overturned, returning the issue back to the states. Socially liberal states would allow abortions with few restrictions while socially conservative states would likely restrict abortions to one degree or another. And abortion rights activists might start a campaign to amend the Constitution to guarantee abortion rights should Roe be overturned.

The bottom line is that this issue is ripe for compromise and most Americans would be satisfied with a compromise that allows unrestricted abortions early in the pregnancy. I think there are many abortion rights supporters that would accept this. However, the pro-life side will not, so the abortion rights activists aren't going to either. Like I said, quagmire.

And I'm weary of it.


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