It’s Time For Congress to Ban Abortion
The real “losing strategy” is treating the culture war as isolated issues.
It was a disappointing week for the right. In a move that seemed to belie every leftist talking point about a “radically right-wing” Supreme Court, the justices opted to keep mifepristone available for chemical abortions, and not curtail the Food and Drug Administration, for now. The question next goes to a federal appeals court, where oral arguments will begin mid-May.
The case in question bubbled up at the beginning of April, when a Trump-appointed federal judge in Texas suspended the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. The judge sided with a medical advocacy group that argued the abortion pill has harmed numerous women since its approval, thus invalidating the agency’s stamp of safety. The Biden administration and Danco Laboratories, which makes the drug, appealed the decision immediately, while a judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that mifepristone should remain available in seventeen states where abortion is legal and the District of Columbia. The Supreme Court has effectively affirmed the D.C. court’s decision while the Biden appeal plays out.
It is a good reminder that the highest court does not have the same priorities as the pro-life movement, whatever its makeup. More importantly, it is a reminder that the pro-life movement cannot wait for judges to define legal barriers retroactively; it must take positive action at the level of national legislation. That means, among other things, a federal abortion ban, including a ban on drugs prescribed for the purpose of inducing the death of a pre-born child, and appropriate enforcements thereof.
This is not a popular opinion, even on the right. Indeed, it is pretty unpopular with the centrists and more-liberal members of the Republican Party. Since last November, the Wall Street Journal editorial page has begged the GOP to drop any line on abortion harder than a 15-week ban, arguing that it will make Republicans unelectable.
Outsider theorist Geoff Shullenberger recently explained why this might be. As the goal posts of the culture war have changed to focus on the new threats of transgender ideology and critical race theory, the abortion struggle has faded into the background. A majority of Americans say they oppose a total ban on abortifacient drugs, a number which includes many Republicans. For the latter voters, strict abortion bans are either unimportant or too far. Thus, in terms of political strategy, the GOP is better served to address the new problems, what Shullenberger calls the “Culture War 2.0,” or a second-wave culture war, and leave abortion alone.
Be that as it may, however, the right has a moral obligation to act. Human souls are on the line. This is not a matter in which preference, or policy, or even party, should come to bear. It is not a matter that can be left to each state to choose, or only banned up to a certain degree, as though it is somehow a worse thing to kill a 15-week-old than it is to kill a 14-week-old.
Civics class vindicates us in this, if virtue alone did not. Ours is not a directly democratic government, but a republican one. In the latter, the legislators consider not only the will of the people but what is good for them. It is good to prevent people from killing their children.
We might use an example from the second-wave culture war to make the same point. No legislator in his right mind would pass a law protecting his constituent’s right to self-mutilation, even if the majority of voters wanted him to. Of course, many legislators today have done precisely this, without more than a vocal minority pushing them to do so—whether by creating a right to gender “transition” surgery for minors, or protecting the doctors who mutilate both children and adults, so long as the mutilated have consented. You can see where this is going.
The new battleground of the culture war is wrapped up in the old one. Both get to the very heart of personhood and the limits of bodily autonomy. The immortalized words of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion on Planned Parenthood v. Casey could not be more apt to describe this disease: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
In both cases, the legislator is obliged by conscience to withdraw his ear from the racket to hear a higher note. If the right wants to protect kids from believing they can limitlessly edit their bodies, it needs to go back to the moment we accepted that someone else’s body is also yours to revise or dump as you wish.
If the right wants to reverse the destructive victim mentality of race-based identity politics, it must also address the lie that being made to carry a child makes one a victim. It is a graver offense to take a pill to kill another human than it is to take a pill to chemically castrate oneself, but the two are undeniably linked to the same cause.
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You cannot treat the symptoms and ignore the underlying disease.
Porque no los dos? Ron DeSantis is one example of how this can be done well: The man has taken a hard tack on both gender ideology and abortion, recently signing a six-week abortion ban into law. This approach, which recognizes the contingency of the new culture war on the old one, has also served the Florida governor well at the ballot box. And lest we think that’s because you can get away with anything in Florida, we should not forget how recently Florida was a swing state. Republicans in Congress can and should take a similar approach.
One thing is clear: If we abandon the abortion debate for the transgender debate, we have lost the plot entirely.