This story seemed to ripen while I was traveling abroad and otherwise occupied, but the new abortion bans in some states merit mention.
It has been decades since I was anywhere near the heart of pro-life litigation strategy — meaning cool heads figuring out how to chip away at the Supreme Court’s illicit abortion jurisprudence, as Thurgood Marshall once chippped away at segregation jurisprudence. That’s a caveat to all that follows.
But it also has long been clear to me that many “pro-life” politicians are more interested in grand, bold, and self-aggrandizing gestures than in finding plausible litigation paths through a legal minefield.
I’ll concede that if you see every abortion as a homicide, there’s a temptation toward reckless abandon, be it blowing up abortuaries or passing laws with negligible chance of withstanding constitutional challenge.
But my guiding light is, at least notionally, Winston Churchill, who knew that an air defense of Coventry (I believe it was Coventry, not another city) against an attack he knew was coming would clearly betray the Allies having quietly cracked German cryptography, thus compromising more strategic use of code-cracking.
He sacrificed Coventry — an incident that leaves me breathless at the burdens of power. A “long game” seldom is an unbroken string of successes, and the interim losses can be agonizing.
I don’t think that shenanigans like those in Alabama and Louisiana were conceived in high councils of cool legal heads. Banning all abortions, or disguising such a ban under the rubric of heartbeat detection, is exceedingly likely to fail in the courts and to be a public relations setback for the pro-life cause. I don’t think the Supreme Court is anything like nakedly political on this issue, nor would I want it to be.
Eventually, Roe v. Wade and its progeny will fall. But that will just send the abortion issue back to the legislatures, where for better or worse it belongs. In anticipation of that day, we must win hearts and minds if we’re someday going to make abortion not just unlawful, but unthinkable.
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