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all the views deemed fit to print

By Diogenes (articles ) | Dec 01, 2005

Imagine that you became the editor of an influential newspaper. Let's call it-- just for the sake of this discussion, you understand-- the New York Times/.

Now imagine that there's a very controversial issue in the news. Let's say, oh, abortion. Let's say that issue came up before the Supreme Court.

Would you assign a reporter who had actively participated in pro-abortion demonstrations?

I hope not. Because you see, if you did that, you might end up with something like this. (Registration is required, I'm afraid; you've got to be a Times regular to partake of this wisdom.)

It looks like a news story, but reporter Linda Greenhouse is waving her pom-poms from the first line, as she reports that the Court is disinclined to support a New Hampshire law requiring parental notification before teenagers obtain abortions.

In oral arguments, she tells us, the Court "appeared to be in broad agreement" in questioning the law. "Justices across the ideological spectrum" betrayed doubts about the wisdom of the legislation, because the New Hampshire law might not make adequate provisions for those cases in which a pregnant teenager's health is endangered if she can't obtain an abortion right now.

The first vague hint of conflict appears in the unlucky 13th paragraph of the story, where Chief Justice John Roberts questions whether the law must be scrapped, although he "was less clear" about the solution. In answer to his question, New Hampshire's Attorney General "asserted" that the law could withstand scrutiny, but her answers "left Justice Ginsburg unsatisfied."

The crux of the argument about the New Hampshire law involved the possibility that a teenage girl, seeking an abortion, might encounter some medical emergency that would make it dangerous to wait until her parents could be notified. If you diligently read the New York Times article right through until paragraph #23, you would learn that the Solicitor General of the United States observed that this was "literally a 1-in-1,000 possibility."

Is it literally one in a thousand? I'd suspect that the odds are even higher.

But those odds are better than the odds that an accurate discussion about the legal implications of unrestricted abortion will appear on the front page of the New York Times.

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Dec. 02, 2005 12:14 PM ET USA

    The "medical emergency" argument is disingenuous - similar to the argument that Roe v. Wade would 'prevent the thousands' of back-alley abortions. I'm not a lawyer but isn't it bad law to rule - or fail to rule - based on possible 'exceptions'...? I mean, we do speak of the 'rule' of law, not the 'exception' of law, don't we?

  • Posted by: - Dec. 02, 2005 9:35 AM ET USA

    Good point, Deacon B. I'd attribute the comment to the reporter's bias/ignorance, but in this instance I'm sure she's right. For many of the court's members, "wisdom" is exactly what they seek to impart. It's called, in the reductions of the day, "judicial activism."

  • Posted by: Deacon Bart - Dec. 02, 2005 9:19 AM ET USA

    "betrayed doubts about the wisdom of the legislation" - since when does SCOTUS rule on the WISDOM of a law? I foolishly thougth their job was to rule on the CONSTITUTIONALITY of a law. Silly me. When the US made a deal with Satan on abortion we opened ourselves to such strange things.

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