Saletan on Roe
By Diogenes ( articles ) | Mar 07, 2006
Vexed, like many pro-aborts, by the way its flaws have made the Roe v Wade decision unworkable, Willam Saletan does some nail-biting for the benefit of the Washington Post.
Politically, legally and technologically the 33-year-old court decision is increasingly obsolete as a framework for managing decisions about reproduction. But only the abortion rights movement can lead the way beyond it. The anti-abortion groups can't launch the post-Roe era, because they are determined to abolish its guarantee of individual autonomy, and the public won't stand for that. It must be up to reproductive rights supporters to give the public what it wants: abortion reduction within a framework of autonomy.
Let's decode that. In what sense are anti-abortion folks determined to abolish individual autonomy? In the sense that we want a law against abortion, as indeed there are laws against other forms of homicide. It is the logic of all law, as Prof Hadley Arkes says, to replace private choice with public obligation. Those who, e.g., support laws against child molesting want to abolish individual autonomy -- specificially, the autonomy of the child molester -- in a way no different than the pro-lifer does vis-à-vis the abortionist.
Saletan has more going for him than the standard newsroom harlot, and must be able to see the sophistry of his own point here. He's doing battle on two fronts (trying to shush the trolls at NARAL so as to give abortion-on-demand a more voter-friendly face), and he may find it necessary to engage in what Joseph Sobran calls "ho-hum hysteria" to reassure the Katha Pollitts that his heart's in the right place. On the other hand, it may be that Saletan actually shares the paranoia we see constantly in the gay rights crowd: a No to abortion would be a No to the sexual revolution, and revolutionaries don't suffer setbacks gladly. In that case Saletan's chicanery would have been effected with malice aforethought, in the belief that excess in the service of autonomy is no vice.
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