Monday, June 19, 2006

So, what would happen if Roe v. Wade were to go?

I know so many thoughtful people, including Catholics, who are quite pro-life, and oppose abortion, but feel that overturning Roe v. Wade automatically equals "back alley abortions with hangars" and therefore would not like to see the current legal regime change. In my opinion, that is a rather successful piece of rhetoric that has pervaded the public mind.

The June 2006 issue of the Atlantic Monthly had a fascinating article by Jeffrey Rosen. "The Day After Roe" analyses (from a pro-choice perspective) what the landscape would look like if Roe were to go. The conclusion? It will galvanize both sides, dominate American politics, and in a decade or so, result in a kind of uneven democratic consensus that reflects the general public opinion: that abortion should be restricted, but should be available in the case where a mother's health is in danger, or in the so-called "hard cases" (rape/incest) and perhaps in the early stages of pregnancy.
The results might not be what you expect. The day after Roe fell, of course, abortion would be neither legal nor illegal throughout the United States. Instead, the states and Congress would be free to ban, protect, or regulate abortion as they saw fit. But in many of the fifty states, and ultimately in Congress, the overturning of Roe would probably ignite one of the most explosive political battles since the civil-rights movement, if not the Civil War. A careful look at how the pieces of the Rubik’s Cube might begin to turn the day after Roe suggests that access to abortion wouldn’t necessarily become less widely available than it is now; that the Democrats could gain politically, perhaps even seizing the White House and both chambers of Congress; and that, when the dust settles, in five or ten or thirty years, early-term abortions would be protected and late-term ones restricted.
I'm not politically savvy enough to critique the article, especially its projections of the political fallout of such a decision, but it seems plausible. What seems clear that overturning Roe v. Wade does not equal "back-alley abortions" (a rhetorical red-herring, IMO.) [The full-text is avialble to subscribers only. Email me if you'd like me to send you a copy.]

The Catholic legal scholars at Mirror of Justice have this to say (about this article).

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