Pro-Choice WaPo Columnist: 'Let Roe Go'

Posted: Jul 20, 2018 6:12 PM
Pro-Choice WaPo Columnist: 'Let Roe Go'

Despite the collapse of Ryan Bounds’ nomination for the Ninth Circuit yesterday, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, still looks solid. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) could very well vote for him, and the moderate wing of the Senate Republican caucus—Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski—have more or less given their stamp of approval. Yet, Kavanaugh is the harbinger of death of the Left because he would be a solid fifth vote on the high court, giving conservatives a majority for the next generation. Roe v. Wade, a shoddy ruling that legalized abortion in America, is on the line, though that’s what lefties say anytime the GOP is in the driver’s seat on judicial nominations. It’s not like the justices are going to meet at the start of the 2018 term and decide to overturn Roe. That’s not how this works, though by the reaction—you’d think otherwise. It’s unhinged. 

Yet, for Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle, who is hesitantly pro-choice, she wouldn’t mind seeing Roe go—and urges liberals to just let it go since the decision caused a social rift that cannot be repaired as it stands now. The op-ed ran just before Independence Day:

The decision itself is a poorly reasoned mess. It failed to mount a convincing case that the Constitution contains language that can be read as guaranteeing a woman’s right to abort her pregnancy. Nor have the subsequent courts that amended and extended Roe managed to come up with a constitutional justification; it’s all “emanations and penumbras” and similarly float-y language that did little to convince opponents that Roe v. Wade was a good or necessary ruling. Even many liberal supporters of a constitutional right to abortion have voiced concerns about the way the Burger Court got us there; those critics include Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

That poor drafting quasi-accidentally left America with some of the most permissive abortion laws in the world, far beyond what most legislatures would permit if the matter were open to public debate. Today, the United States is one of only a handful of countries to allow elective abortions after the 20th gestational week.

And that, in turn, is the biggest problem with Roe: It has given the most religious developed country in the world one of the world’s most permissive abortion laws. This is not some peculiar quirk of the American political psyche. The abortion law is out of step with what the majority of the population wants, and given the seriousness of what’s involved, it is Roe, more than any other opinion, that is driving both the radicalization and the judicialization of American politics, as pro-lifers fight like caged tigers to amend the law through the only avenue left open to them.

It might have been reasonable at some point to hope that eventually pro-lifers would accept that Roe is, as liberals are fond of saying, “settled law” and move on to another issue. Nearly 50 years in, however, that hope is borderline delusional. Public sentiment on abortion has changed surprisingly little since the 1970s. One might even argue that Roe has frozen American politics in a sort of a time warp, because for almost five decades no one has had to do the hard work of specifying when, and under what conditions, abortion should be legal.      


Somewhat paradoxically, the way to make abortion less contentious is to throw the matter back to the states so that people can argue about it. Debating the difficult decisions regarding gestational age and circumstances would force people to confront the hard questions that abortion entails, which tends to have a moderating effect on extreme opinions.

Returning the matter to the states would give most people a law they can live with, defusing the rage that permeates politics and has more than once culminated in acts of terrorism against doctors who perform abortions.

The Supreme Court detonated the chance for a legitimate consensus on abortion. So far, the consensus is that in the first trimester, the vast majority of Americans are open to it, but balk at second and especially third, or late term, abortion. Despite the liberals’ affinity with Europe’s social democracies, only a handful of nations across the Atlantic permit abortion after 20 weeks, something that is heavily opposed by Democrats—but supported by 60 percent of women. Do Americans want to overturn Roe? No. But they also favor stricter limits on it.

For now, let liberals have their tantrum. They’re treating what many consider to be a tough and abhorrent decision as simple as going to the doctor for an annual check-up. You go in and out. Oh, yes, and the without exception or apology part. Yeah, that’s really go to win the messaging wars. The Left has devolved into abortion-mania, which was first seen at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where even ABC News’ Cokie Roberts said the party went way over the top on the subject. 

So, yes, you have liberals who want to see Roe go. They want the states to decide. Blue states having permissive abortions laws and red states either heavily restricting or banning them, but that’s a different ballgame. 

Brad Pitt played Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane in 2011’s Moneyball. While talking with then-manager Art Howe—played by the late Philip Seymour Hoffman—who was complaining about his contract after a winning, though championship-less, season Pitt aptly notes, “if you lose the last game of the season, no one gives a s**t.” 

Pro-lifers may have the winning season on the abortion wars. Ultra-sound technology has certainly helped, the Left’s own inane antics on the matter help, the appalling allegations lobbed at Planned Parenthood over human body parts being trafficked, and just the notion of a baby being killed all play in the anti-abortion movement’s favor, but what about the last round, the last game, the last bout, or the final snap in this battle? What’s next? How will we respond to the fallout—and there will be a fallout. Progressives, legions of single, college-educated women, and women voters in general will raise hell. It will be large, organized, and not like the lackluster effort we’re seeing in the Left trying to clip Kavanaugh. There’s also the liberal media, who despite tripping over themselves in the Trump era, could makes lives for pro-life Americans and their allies on the Hill miserable. If we cannot hold the line on one item in our immigration policy, which was the separation and detention of families who are arrested for trying to illegally enter the country are separated and detained, then I don’t think we’ll fair well if Roe is overturned. Also, that policy was set in place because a lot of human traffickers feign family status. 

So, as pro-lifers work on Roe’s repeal, maybe think about the coming messaging war that will have to be retooled when this is taken back to the states. It will still be a generations-long war. I don’t think I’ll be alive if this decision is overturned. It will be a win for constitutional law, a massive pro-life win for sure, and one that will energize the right, but liberals, or at least some of them, see a long game win of their own in repealing Roe, though McArdle doesn’t touch upon it. and that is the democratic legitimacy of abortion, banking on legions of those enraged liberals forcing Republicans in retreat on the subject (via The Atlantic):

The day the Court overturns Roe, abortion will suddenly become a voting issue for millions of pro-choice voters who care about it but know today that the right is protected not by congressional politics but by the courts. At the same time, thousands of conservative politicians will face a dreadful choice: backtrack from the anti-abortion ground they have staked out and risk infuriating their pro-life base; or deliver on their promise to eliminate the right to abortion, and risk the wrath of a moderate, pro-choice majority. In the short term some states might pass highly restrictive abortion laws, or even outright bans—but the backlash could be devastating for conservatism. Liberals should be salivating at their electoral prospects in a post-Roe world. The simple fact is that a majority of Americans want abortion legal at least some of the time, and the majority in a democracy tends to get what it wants on issues about which it cares strongly. In the absence of Roe abortion rights would probably be protected by the laws of most states relatively quickly.

Sure, certain state legislatures will impose restrictions that would be impermissible under the Supreme Court's current doctrine; some women might have to travel to another state to get abortions. But the right to abortion would most likely enjoy a measure of security it does not now have. Legislative compromises tend to be durable, since they bring a sense of resolution to divisive issues by balancing competing interests; mustering a working majority to upset them can be far more difficult than rallying discontent against the edicts of unelected judges. In short, overturning Roe would lead to greater regional variability in the right to abortion, but this would be a worthwhile price for pro-choice voters to pay in exchange for greater democratic legitimacy for that right and, therefore, greater acceptance of and permanence for it.

That was Benjamin Wittes of Brookings answering question about the return of back alley abortions if Roe is overturned, which is a favorite left wing talking point. This answer laid out why he doubts that. Yes, it’s Brookings, but even a broken clock is right twice a day, and this was written back in 2005. Wittes, like McArdle, was making his argument for why the Left needs to let Roe go, and allowing it to be decided by the people. This is not to dissuade the million of Americans who are pro-life. It’s just something to ponder when the day comes. It very well could sometime in our history, but if you though the abortion wars are intense now, just wait until repeal comes. And it’s very possible that the Left could overreach and it’ll be one glorious mess all the way to the ballot box, or it could end up like the 2015 GOP push to ban abortions after 20 weeks: a complete and total disaster. As an adoptee, I’m actually more pro-life than some might think, especially after my previous post on the matter. South Korea does not permit elective abortions unless the life of the mother is in dangers or in the cases of rape or incest. So, there’s my reason for being pro-life. My birth mother couldn’t take care of me, so how do you think she would have handled the day she found out she was pregnant with me if South Korea had more liberal abortion laws? How are they dealt with here?

Out of those three exceptions, only the life of the mother is one I would entertain as acceptable if a ballot on the subject were given to me—and even with all this being said, the odds of a compromise being hashed out on this issue is high. Will that be acceptable to both sides? As the Zen master told the little boy, “we’ll see.”  

Last note to my mom and dad, thanks for adopting me. Adoption is a choice for life. Remember that, folks.