There’s nothing conservative about overturning Roe v. Wade

Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s pick to succeed retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, will almost certainly be confirmed by the Senate in the coming weeks. And once he is installed, there is a significant chance that Roe v. Wade will be overturned within the next few years, fulfilling the fervent multi-decade-long wish of pro-life activists and leading members of the conservative movement to see the landmark decision gutted.

If you’re convinced that abortion is the infliction of lethal violence against innocent human beings, then working and praying for the downfall of Roe not only makes sense — it may well be a moral imperative. But there’s another, more pragmatic case for overturning Roe that’s emanating from the center-right. For Megan McArdle of The Washington Post, abortion would be made “less contentious” by throwing the issue “back to the states so that people can argue about it.” That, she believes, will “have a moderating effect on extreme positions.” Ross Douthat of The New York Times, likewise, sees the “overturning [of] our inhumane abortion settlement” as something that just might help to “save our culture, if it’s ever to be saved.”

If only that were true.

Thoughtful conservatives are able to convince themselves of the plausibility of this cheery outcome because they’ve thoroughly internalized the religious right’s narrative of Roe’s pernicious effects on the nation’s political culture. Having done that, they need only run the story backward to imagine a return to the comparatively placid status quo that prevailed on abortion before 1973. Take away the Constitution’s supposed absolute right to abortion on demand, in other words, and the nation will reach a much less polarized settlement by arguing the matter out in the political branches of the 50 states.

The only problem is that history can’t be run backwards, and today everything about our political lives is marked by intense polarization at almost every level. Even if Roe contributed in important respects to making it this way in the first place, by now the country’s divisions exist quite apart from the ruling and will determine the way political actors and ordinary citizens respond to a reversal of the decision. The result would be an unprecedented provocation to much greater civic discord.

Ask an abortion opponent how we got here, and you’re likely to hear something like the following story: Before Roe, states had very different ways of handling abortion, with many banning it outright and a few allowing it within certain limits. But then the Supreme Court stepped in, dubiously declaring abortion a constitutional right rooted in the right to privacy and overturning democratically enacted state laws across the country. With that one move, the modern religious right received its galvanizing issue, bringing Catholics together with conservative evangelical Protestants in an effort to defend the unborn. Liberals hoped the controversy would go away as the decision came to be considered settled law, but it hasn’t. By blocking the democratic will of the American people, the Court created a pent-up …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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