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The Anti-Abortion Vote and Federalism

The pro-life case for Romney rests on more than the Court.

Jeremy Beer’s sarcastic endorsement of Romney is hilarious and bracing and contains a lot of truth about the likelihood of a Romney presidency resulting in the overturning of Roe.

Let’s grant him the following and more: Yes, many Republican presidential appointments to the high court are not reliably anti-Roe voters (Souter, Kennedy, likely Roberts). And yes, there may be perverse incentives for never achieving an anti-Roe majority. Yes, there is a temptation to just say that we need sweeping cultural change and return to our rosaries and crisis pregnancy centers exclusively. Yes, pro-lifers should tremble when they realize they may save very few (or none) of the unborn with their vote, but also empower a warmonger whose policies result in scores of thousands of dead. (This is why I can’t yet vote Republican again.)

But the case agains retreating, against thinking the average pro-life activist is a dupe may be a lot stronger than Beer makes it out to be. Although it is difficult to trace the chain of cause and effect, it seems that over the past two decades conservative activists have had success in restricting the legality of abortion on the state level, and restricting access to abortion. The number of abortions nationwide has been cut by almost one third since its early nineties high. These successes have been protected by Republican appointments to the bench at levels lower than the Supreme Court.

There is also the Hyde Amendment and the Mexico City policy and a number of other federal laws and regulations that can be strengthened, abrogated, or abridged depending on the personnel at 1600 Pennyslvania Avenue. The Guttmacher Institute, which is allied with Planned Parenthood, believes that these federal policies prevent abortions. Pro-lifers do too.

The last time I checked between 30 and 40 states have parental notification laws that can be overturned by more liberal courts. Over 40 states have “conscience laws” that protect doctors who do not want to participate in abortions in one way or another.

The White House also appoints representatives to attend things like the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Bush actually did very well with appointing family-friendly personnel. Although these conferences produce non-binding documents: activists, litigators, and judges use them as evidence of international norms and reform (i.e. liberalize) abortion laws accordingly.

Romney may not be worth your vote. But he will almost certainly reinstate the Mexico City Policy, respect the Hyde Amendment, end the idiotic contraception mandate, and appoint judges to the lower courts that are far more likely to protect and strengthen the incremental gains of the pro-life legal movement.

In a way the above is an argument for a more modest government, for federalism. It would be nice if the executive branch were not so enmeshed in morally problematic questions at every level of society. If your federal tax dollars were not involved, you would not worry that the people receiving those dollars were advancing the pro-abortion rights cause.



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