The Corner

Law & the Courts

The Left Discovers Democracy

Writing in today’s New York Times, Katha Pollitt advises the pro-choice movement about how to preserve “abortion rights” in the wake of the Supreme Court’s changing complexion. “Tattoo this on your brain,” she writes. “Abortion rights is the majority position.”

That may be true, but if so, what is she so worried about? The majority view will presumably be enshrined in state laws. Oh, the states. The Left has forgotten about them. Pollitt writes: “For some reason, many abortion-rights advocates have had a hard time grasping that the state level is where most abortion restrictions happen.” Well, yes. After 45 years of depending upon the Supreme Court to enact their legislative preferences, the role of democratic government might have escaped their notice. “If Roe is overturned, each state will be free to make its own laws.” You don’t say.

Pollitt hopes to enlist doctors, state legislators and governors, the 24 percent of women who’ve had abortions, and religious people to the cause of abortion rights. Yet her case for the Roe regime is remarkably threadbare. She notes that women have abortions for “good reasons” but doesn’t specify them. According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, 73 percent of women say they can’t afford a baby right now, and 74 percent say a baby would dramatically change their life. Those may sound like good reasons to abort to Pollitt. Others may find them good reasons to place a baby for adoption.

Abortion has been linked to feminism in our time, but as I outline in my new book, Sex Matters, the early feminists saw it differently. Susan B. Anthony and other suffragettes regarded abortion as a form of male abuse of women. No discussion of abortion is complete without acknowledging that many women are coerced into it by boyfriends or husbands. The Guttmacher Institute reports that 19 percent of women say they were unsure about their relationships, and 20 percent report that they were pressured by their parents or husbands.

“We need to make more allies,” Pollitt pleads. Yes, that’s how it’s supposed to work in a democracy. The pro-choice side has escaped from democratic accountability for decades. Let’s hope we are in for a true debate in which the people decide.