Supreme Court upholds ban on "partial birth" abortion
Yesterday, the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote upheld the Federal ban on a particular type of abortion which is usually used in abortions after the first trimester, although it is used infrequently.
The vote had exactly who you'd expect to see on each side voting the way you'd expect, with the villainous (because of his vote in Kelo) Anthony Kennedy again providing the swing vote for the majority.
This case was interesting because the Court did not overturn the Federal law even though it leaves no exception for when the mother's life is in danger.
A couple more narrow points made in a Bloomberg story about the decision: "The court stopped short of overruling the 2000 case, Stenberg v. Carhart, saying the federal statute was narrower in key respects than the Nebraska law. The majority also left open the possibility that doctors could ask a judge for permission to use the disputed procedure for particular medical conditions that pose a health risk to the mother."
I'm sure that there are many cheers of celebration coming from Colorado Springs and other bastions of the religious right. But for me, this is a double-edged sword, with both edges bad.
While I am pro-choice, I do believe Roe v Wade is bad law. It deserves to be overturned, and as much as I would not enjoy the likely outcome, states probably should have the right to regulate abortion. And while there is no doubt that "partial birth abortion" is a fairly gruesome procedure, I am exceptionally wary of allowing the government, especially the Federal government, to draw lines that politicians could easily move or to define what sort of medical procedures are allowable.
This Supreme Court decision is the worst of all possible worlds: It gets the camel's nose substantially under the tent in terms of allowing government interference in medical decisions, and, from my point of view even worse, it validates that interference from the Federal level. Even if I supported regulation of abortion, there is clearly no Constitutional authority for such regulation to come from Congress.
In any case, the political implications of this decision are interesting. Of course, it is so long until the next election that the effects may be somewhat muted, but again I'd say it's a double-edged sword. It will likely motivate the social conservative part of the GOP base, but it will also motivate the social liberal part of the Democrat base. (Yes, almost all Democrats are social liberals, but I mean the part of the base which really focuses on abortion as their issue.)
I think this Court result might help the GOP raise money from that religious conservative base, but I also think it will turn more women voters away from the Republican Party.
And for those of us who consider ourselves essentially libertarian, today's ruling is yet another reason to question why we should support the GOP over the Democrats. Indeed, a good friend of mine who is about as far from being a liberal as one can get said this to me today, after hearing about this decision: "I'm voting democrat in 08 ... i don't care who it is. I've had it with these %$@*!"
So, while some Republicans may be celebrating now, my guess is that today's outcome is a net negative for their electoral prospects...and part of me hopes that it is, despite how truly horrible Democrats are on everything from taxes to national security. It's a political Scylla and Charybdis. I can't tell you how much I wish the Libertarian Party were actually capable of winning at a national level. The structure of our system makes that all but impossible, but rulings like today's are the best thing that could happen for the prospects of political third parties.
[Note: I understand many of my "conservative" readers won't be particularly happy with this posting, but before you start saving some special place in hell for me (which, for the record, I don't believe in) please understand that my objection to the Supreme Court ruling is much less about restrictions on abortion than about federalism, respecting the Constitution, and a belief (or a certainty) that regulations of almost all types belong at the state level, and not coming from Congress. As I said before, while I would vote against abortion restrictions, I believe states probably have that right. The beauty of our system, with 50 "laboratories of democracy", is or at least should be that regulations for which there is no federal authority can be implemented on a state-by-state basis with states learning from each others' success or failures, and citizens able to vote with their feet if they really don't like their state's policies. Although I actually voted with my feet and moved out of the country after Bill Clinton's tax hike, that's simply not possible for most Americans and makes the principle of federalism that much more important.]
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