Editor’s Note: Food for thought given the beginning of the Robert’s comfirmation hearings in Senate Judiciary Committee today…
Do you favor permissive abortion laws even if you personally don’t like abortion? Do you favor some restrictions on abortion but do not want Roe v. Wade overturned? Does a fear that we will go back to the bad old days of back-alley abortions if Roe is overturned keep you up at night? Finally, aren’t you just a little sick and tired of Republicans using the abortion issue to distract voters from issues like US leadership in the world, the failure of Bush’s foreign policy, and the growing gap between rich and poor?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this article is for you. In Letting Go of Roe Washington Post editorial writer Benjamin Wittes, a pro-choicer, discusses the fallout from a possible overturning of Roe and concludes that for Democrats, overturning Roe would not be all that bad politically. Wittes correctly points out that too often pro-choicers-through their own mistakes, albeit with some help from the right-wing noise machine- come out looking more intolerant on the abortion question than many pro-lifers do. What’s more, the continuation of Roe allows conservatives to rail against abortion but not take any responsibility for actually outlawing a practice many Americans don’t want to see outlawed even if they find it personally disconcerting.
More importantly, Wittes’ vast knowledge of legal precendent and his analysis of polling numbers from as far back as 1975 (two years after Roe was handed down) give a convincing case that while abortions would be limited by some legislatures, the days when the only abortion available in the entire US was an illegal one are not likely to return. Furthermore, if Roe were overturned it would make abortion a voting issue to many culturally moderate voters who today err on the culturally conservative side (as opposed to the culturally libertine side) but might begin voting the other way if they thought there was a real threat of the agenda of the Christian Coalition becoming law. Finally, he notes that Roe was decided 7-2 in 1973, and today the Courts makeup would likely yield a 6-3 decision against striking down Roe.
In the interests of full disclosure I will say that I do know the author, went to school with his kid brother and even went to public high school in the same county Wittes did: Montgomery County, Maryland (although his school and mine (Churchill and Einstein) hated each other and he graduated a few years before I did for what it’s worth). You may not see eye to eye with Wittes on each point, and remember Wittes himself says he favors generally permissive abortion laws, but it he will make you stop and think about liberal priorities.
I know for me I can only say in the latter 1980s and 1990s the Democrats tried the Clintonesque path of too little compromise on social liberalism and too much compromise on economic liberalism and needless to say, it didn’t really work out to the Democrats’ policy or electoral advantage. No I don’t say we should become a bunch of little Jerry Falwells, and some “social” issues on which the Democrats are quite liberal on they should not compromise on (e.g. the Civil and Voting Rights Acts of the 1950s and 60s, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, etc.).
Still, isn’t a more principled stand with the “little guy” on economic matters and less fear of those with social views to the right of Hollywood (including abortion) morally (and electorally) justifiable?
Okay gentlemen and ladies start your (discussion) engines!!!