Health Care

Manifest Injustice

Pro-abortion demonstrators in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., in 2016. (Gary Cameron/Reuters)

Explicit support for abortion “all the way up to 40 weeks” is increasingly becoming a mainstream Democratic position. The quote is from Kathy Tran, a Virginia state legislator; but her bill has the support of the state’s supposedly moderate governor, Ralph Northam, who in defending it suggested that in some circumstances a full-term child should be delivered and then (at least) allowed to die.

Most Democrats still would not go as far as Northam. But Tran’s position is shared by New York Democrats, who have passed a law stipulating that abortion at any stage of pregnancy is legal so long as an abortionist says it is necessary to protect a pregnant woman’s health. The law does not claim that the pregnancy itself has to threaten her health and does not limit health to physical health. It is a restriction designed to be unenforceable, and thus also to be deceptive.

Many of the leading Democratic presidential candidates have endorsed similar federal legislation: It would wipe away any state laws that protected unborn children even late in pregnancy. Bans could remain on the books only if they included health exceptions rendering them, too, unenforceable.

These Democrats are aware that the public does not share their enthusiasm for abortion late in pregnancy, and so they are explaining that it is only ever done for the most compelling medical reasons. Northam says that they are only done in cases of severe fetal abnormality or unviability. The available evidence does not bear out this contention, but the laws these Democrats support do not require such reasons anyway. Northam wants to deny any legal protections even for children who are viable and suffer no abnormalities. So do those presidential candidates.

Killing a two-month-old infant is rightly prohibited and punished. Unborn children late in pregnancy differ from two-month-olds in no way that could plausibly justify this radical difference in treatment. To allow them to be killed, to expose them to lethal violence, to treat them as non-persons, is manifestly unjust. It is unjust to do these things even if one does not directly participate in the killing. And that injustice lays moral obligations on all of us.

Those Democrats who have taken this extreme position should reconsider it. Those who have not should repudiate it. Republicans should expose the Democrats’ indefensible position to the light. So should journalists, by reporting on the Democrats’ stance rather than simply repeating their spin. Catholic bishops should stir themselves to do real pastoral work on those Catholic politicians who have fallen into this grievous moral error, which includes reminding them that those who obstinately persist in it have broken communion with the Church.

And the Supreme Court — which believes, or pretends to believe, that the Constitution requires this policy of abortion-on-demand at any stage of pregnancy, a contention as absurd as it is outrageous — should find the earliest occasion possible to reverse its mistake.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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