Thursday, October 20, 2005
Richard Cohen On Abortion
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 boys out of it.Hmmm. The frantic efforts of NARAL and the like to paint this as a religious issue don't hold up, because many of the women I know who disapprove of abortion are not religious. The constitutional theory really doesn't hold up either. As for trimesters, etc, the real basis of a constitutional right to abortion no longer rests upon Roe but upon Casey.
Conservatives -- and some liberals -- have long argued that the right to an abortion ought to be regulated by the 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.
I'm no fan of Hillary, but I credit her for standing and saying there are too many abortions- a direct affront to NARAL, et al. And, I credit her for not backing down.
Cohen's admission that his own pro choice point of view is more nuanced, is in line with a lot more Americans than he might imagine.
What really interested me is that he is willing to admit that grounding abortion in the Constitution is problematic.
I think Richard Cohen is on a one man crusade to rescue the Democratic party from its slough of despond.
I am now pro-choice. But I was once a harden pro-life. Then I was an atheist. And now I am far religious than before, I am pro-choice (because I think that it is not my place to tell people what to do). Religion has nothing to do with one position on abortion.
I can't see how one can make reasonable laws covering all aspects of abortion. I think that if most states tried to craft a law limiting it they'd quickly give up in except in the most extreme circumstances.
But I liked Cohen's willingness to concede the oddity of the "constitutional mandate".
It may even be true that there is no LOGICAL connection between religion, in a broad sense, and one's views on abortion, but the ideas that people commonly take to be compatible never seemed to me to be based as much on logic as on tradition.
The political reality in the US seems to be that people who have strong religious views, by which I mean mainstream or traditional Judeo-Christian and Muslim religionists, are vastly more likely to see abortion as contrary to their religion, in the same way that murder is, than people whose views differ.
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