Terry Jeffrey

If the Supreme Court continues using "evolving standards of decency" to interpret the Eighth Amendment, it may soon declare it cruel and unusual punishment to subject double-talking politicians like Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois to questioning by Tim Russert, host of NBC's "Meet the Press."

 Russert put Durbin on the rack last Sunday, torturing the poor man with his own contradictory words.

 When Durbin was first elected to the U.S. House, you see, he was pro-life. Now, as a pro-abortion member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he is expected by left-wing groups to enforce his party's pro-abortion litmus test for Supreme Court nominees. With the nomination of Judge John Roberts to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Durbin is showing every sign of living up to those expectations.

 Back in 1983, as Russert pointed out, Durbin "believed that Roe v. Wade was incorrectly decided" and supported "a constitutional limit to ban all abortions." Durbin, Russert said, wrote to a constituent: "The right to an abortion is not guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution."

 Durbin did not contest Russert's characterization of his formerly pro-life, anti-Roe views. "I'll concede that point to you, Tim," he said.

 In 1983, it should be noted, Roe was 10 years old, and Rep. Durbin was a 39-year-old Georgetown Law School graduate with many years of legal and political experience. In 1973, when Roe was decided, he served as legal counsel for the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee. From 1978 to '82, he was an associate professor of "Medical Humanities" at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

 It ought to be reasonable to assume that as a legislative lawyer and medical school professor, Durbin arrived at his anti-Roe views thoughtfully. He may even have read then-Associate Justice William Rehnquist's devastating rebuttal of Roe's unsustainable claim that the 14th Amendment created a right to abortion.

 When the 14th Amendment was ratified, wrote Rehnquist, 36 states had laws restricting abortion that were left undisturbed. "Indeed," Rehnquist said, "the Texas statute struck down today was, as the majority notes, first enacted in 1857 and 'has remained substantially unchanged to the present time.' There apparently was no question concerning the validity of this provision or of any of the other state statutes when the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted."

 What changed Durbin's mind about the meaning of the Constitution?

Terry Jeffrey

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of CNSNews

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