Hogan's Alley

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

SCOTUS Rules 8 -0 Against NOW

The Supreme Court has ruled 8 - 0 to effectively permit demonstrations by anti-abortion forces outside abortion clinics. This ruling confirms a similar 2003 ruling by the Court in this matter. Finally denied was the assertion by NOW that the RICO statutes against organized crime were applicable to these groups and could be used to restrict speech. The NOW position had been opposed, in addition to the anti-abortion groups like Operation Rescue, by the AFL-CIO and social activists as a potential muzzle on their right to free speech as well.

It strikes me that the recent additions of Roberts and Alito (who didn't vote on this case) made absolutely no difference to this outcome. It still seems possible to me that the dire predictions of a rightward swing on the Court were a vast exaggeration all along. The history of the Court is replete with examples of Justices behaving against commonly held expectations. I believe this Court will travel a moderate road, respectful of precedent. The ultimate test of this, of course, will be the anti-abortion legislation soon to become law in South Dakota.

If I am right, this will not be enough to make NARAL and NOW happy however. There will likely be enough nibbling at the margins of the abortion question that it will actually require the reentry of these organizations into the fray of political argument, an arena they have been sheltered from by the Roe decision. When was the last time anyone heard an argument for openly available abortion that wasn't essentially, "My body, my choice?"

I support a woman's right to abortion, but, like most Americans, I do not think that right is absolute, right up to the moment before full term delivery would otherwise occur. The anti-abortion forces have been able to craft powerful arguments that have essentially led the Court to limit abortions in the third trimester and may lead to further limitations.

Powerful arguments in favor of available, regulated abortion exist. Society and individual women and children do not benefit from forced childbirth in the face of health issues, rape, incest, and, more subtly, when the child is simply, but deeply, unwanted. These arguments need to be heard in the public arena if the passion of this issue is ever to come to some form of status quo so that we can focus on provision birth control and education that will prevent the necessity for most abortions.