My friend Chad at CCK directs his readers to an interesting article in the Chicago Tribune. It turns out that states have a lot of different laws regarding abortion, and that the Gonzales v. Carhart decision is encouraging a lot of folks to attend to them.
Lawmakers have already enacted hundreds of state laws restricting the circumstances under which abortions can be performed. Many of those laws have been upheld by federal courts, and activists on both sides predict an avalanche of new curbs in the wake of the high court decision upholding the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act.
More than half the states have bans on this kind of abortion procedure, but they were unenforceable under previous Supreme Court rulings. On Monday the justices ordered appellate courts in St. Louis and Richmond, Va., to reconsider Missouri's and Virginia's laws in light of last week's ruling on the federal statute.
So a lot of elected legislatures are now a wee bit more free to legislate. Some of them will do all they can to "incrementally chip away at abortion rights." But not all.
More than 70 members of Congress -- including Democratic Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr., Rahm Emanuel, Danny Davis and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois -- have signed on as co-sponsors of the federal Freedom of Choice Act. The bill would codify the protections conferred by the Supreme Court in its 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision -- protections the sponsors say have been eroded over the intervening years.
And on Wednesday, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer said he would introduce legislation to shore up abortion rights in that state and officially decriminalize the procedure.
As the Scarecrow said to Dorthy: "of course, people do go both ways." All this looks suspiciously like democracy to me. Pro-choicers will insist that abortion rights, like freedom of religion, speech, etc., should be protected against the whims of state legislatures and Congress, and especially from any popular majority anywhere.
The trouble with that argument is that religious liberty, freedom of speech and of the press, equal protection, were all put into the Constitution by the People. They are shining examples of a people forming a republic by placing limitations on popular power. The right to an abortion has no such origin. It is "in the Constitution" only because seven of nine black robes said it was there, and stays only so long as at least five of nine continue to say so.
Democracy is a messy business. I still prefer it to rule by a council of nine elders.