Relentless Pursuit of Wisdom and Liberty

The weblog companion of, dedicated to pondering, "If Patrick Henry could see us now..."

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

LttE - Why the abortion debate is stalled

Submitted to the OC Register on 6/1/2005:
Anne Innis’ and Steve Todd’s letters are great examples of why the abortion debate is stalled – both sides frame the argument in ways that encourage partisan bickering rather than a meaningful debate over principles.

Ms. Innis frames the issue, as do most Democrats, as being about “reproductive rights”, ignoring rather than addressing the possibility that the fetus is a human being. Mr. Todd frames the issue, as do most Republicans, as being about protecting the unborn child, dismissing rather than addressing the differing view that it’s not a human being. Both are quick to point out what they see as “obvious” deficiencies in the other side’s argument.

It’s unfortunate that the argument is never framed as it should be, consistent with the Constitution and federalism: as a question of “what level of government should define murder?” Does the federal government define what constitutes murder vis-à-vis manslaughter or negligent homicide? No, the states do, and those definitions can vary from state to state. So why should it be any different for abortion? States should be able to define, free of federal interference, whether to include abortion in any of those definitions or none at all, or define it separately, taking into account all appropriate circumstances (rape/incest/mother’s health, by trimesters, partial birth, etc.).

We trust our state legislatures to write laws that define what constitutes crimes and what doesn’t, because they are the chosen representatives of the people who have to live under those laws. Roe v. Wade unconstitutionally took that responsibility out of the hands of the representatives of the people and forced every state legislature, every state court, and every last citizen to live under a federal definition that abortion is not murder. Overturning Roe v. Wade and replacing it with a similarly binding federal law that defines abortion as murder in all cases would likewise be unconstitutional. Let’s have a reasoned, principled debate rather than hurl invective and red herrings.


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