If the leaked draft of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion is any indication, the Supreme Court may soon be overturning Roe v. Wade. Naturally, the Democrats are throwing a fit. They are getting out their Handmaid’s Tale costumes
and predicting that overturning Roe v. Wade will result in back-alley abortions all over the country, a ban on contraceptives and interracial marriages, the segregation of LGBTYQEIEIO children in classrooms, dogs, and cats living together, and other signs of mass hysteria.’
They should calm down. The only thing that overturning Roe v. Wade will do is return the issue of abortion to the state legislatures, where it rightfully belongs. It is likely that the more conservative states, like Utah or Alabama, will either ban or place severe constraints on abortion, but more liberal states, like California or Massachusetts, will continue to permit abortion right up to the moment of birth. Those states in the middle will place varying restrictions on what point in pregnancy abortions are allowed, as the people of each state see fit.
It is usually best to resolve contentious social issues like abortion through the democratic process of compromise, give and take, and consensus-building rather than have solutions imposed by judicial fiat. Solutions that develop that way may not be to everyone’s satisfaction; the best compromises leave everyone equally unhappy, but everyone feels as if they have had some input into policymaking rather than having policies imposed upon them. Given that a consensus on any controversial issue is impossible in a continent-spanning nation of more than three hundred million people, controversial issues like abortion ought to be resolved at the state level rather than trying to impose a one-size-fits-all solution for the entire United States. Diverse nations need diverse policies. I thought that the progressives support diversity, but perhaps that is the wrong kind of diversity.
If the Supreme Court had not legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade, some general consensus would have evolved over time. The consensus would have changed as public opinions about abortion changed. It is most likely that abortion would have been legalized in most states during the 1970s. Then, in the more conservative 1980s, many states might have imposed more restrictions on abortion, perhaps limiting abortion to the first trimester. If public opinion on abortion changed, the laws concerning abortion would change. That would be the democratic and diverse way to address contentious social issues. I thought the left was in favor of democracy and diversity. Perhaps that is the wrong kind of diversity, while they are only really in favor of ‘our democracy’ as opposed to real democracy in which people govern themselves.
The Democrats are fond of calling pro-life positions extreme. If this is the case, they have nothing to worry about. If the Republicans adopt extreme positions on abortion or any other social issue, they will be punished at the ballot box. Perhaps the Democrats realize that it is their own position, permitting abortion right up to the moment of birth for any conceivable reason, is, in fact, the extreme position.
Americans are deeply ambivalent about abortion. Few Americans want to see abortion banned altogether, yet more and more Americans are coming around to the idea that abortion is morally wrong. A majority of Americans may believe that women have a right to choose whether to get an abortion, yet many feel that this is a choice women ought not to make. Even most pro-choice Americans do not believe that late-term abortion should be permitted. If there is any consensus at all on this most contentious issue, it is that abortion should be safe, legal, and rare, not that women should shout their abortions.
By imposing a solution by fiat and cutting short the necessary debate necessary in a democracy, Roe v. Wade played a not inconsiderable role in making American politics more divisive and polarized. In the end, overturning Roe v. Wade might be one of the best ways to purge some of the poison from American politics and restore some degree of civility. Unless the Democrats decide the resolve the issue the way they tried to resolve the last major issue they were on the wrong side of.