The Corner

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Bush’s Court Picks


Stuart Taylor Jr. recycles the conventional wisdom that overturning Roe v. Wade would be a disaster for Republicans–which doesn’t mean he’s wrong! He cites polls selectively to show that Roe, and abortion-on-demand, are popular–but those polls reflect real tendencies in American opinion. Here, however, is where Taylor (along with the CW) becomes questionable: “But it seems pretty clear that headlines such as ‘Bush Court Overrules Roe v. Wade’ would be a disaster for the Republican Party. And its candidates would then have to choose between alienating most voters by mounting a futile push to outlaw abortion (which the Court would not do) and alienating the most loyal Republican voting bloc by not doing so” (emphasis added).

A lot would depend on how President Bush (or the leading Republican of the day) reacted. (An object lesson in what not to do can be had by reviewing the reaction of Bush’s father to the Court’s Webster decision in 1989.) Anyway, the assumption seems to be that the idealism of the pro-life movement will overwhelm their pragmatism. What if the first move of pro-lifers after Roe were to try to ban third-trimester abortions? The courts would no longer be in the business of rescuing pro-choice Democrats’ most extreme positions. Wouldn’t the shoe be on the other foot then? The Democrats would then have to choose between satisfying hard-core pro-aborts and appealing to the center.

I can’t say what the political circumstances would be in a post-Roe world (though I’d be delighted to find out). Maybe pro-lifers would go too far too fast; maybe pro-choicers would quickly abandon weak positions. I can think of two reasons for thinking pro-lifers would come out ahead here. The first is that, while pro-lifers have often been depicted as absolutists and fools, they have played the hands they have been dealt pretty well (and increasingly well). The second is that I assume pro-choicers have a reason for fighting so hard to protect Roe.


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