The Corner

Law & the Courts

Buttigieg on Late-Term Abortion

A recent exchange between the Democratic presidential candidate and Kristen Day of Democrats for Life has gotten some attention. Day asked whether Buttigieg wanted the support of pro-life Democrats and whether he would alter the party platform to gesture toward tolerance of them. Buttigieg said that he did want her vote but declined to budge on abortion.

One Buttigieg comment deserves a little more attention, though. Buttigieg said, “I support the Roe v. Wade framework that holds that early in pregnancy there are very few restrictions and late in pregnancy there are very few exceptions.”

That’s a widely held view of Roe, but an incorrect one. Roe theoretically allowed legislatures to prohibit abortion late in pregnancy with a health exception, but the companion case of Doe v. Bolton indicated that the health exception had to be defined very expansively. Justice Blackmun wrote that “medical judgment may be exercised in the light of all factors — physical, emotional, psychological, familial, and the woman’s age — relevant to the well-being of the patient,” giving the attending physician additional room to make a decision “for the benefit, not the disadvantage, of the pregnant woman.” As the Washington Post has noted, the U.S. is one of only seven countries that allow elective late-term abortion.

Buttigieg’s comment is also at odds with other comments he has made about abortion late in pregnancy. He has frequently said that while it may be difficult to determine where to draw the line on abortion, it is easy to determine who should draw the line: the pregnant woman. He used that line again during his exchange with Day. That view a) effectively draws a line at birth and b) is incompatible with the view that abortion late in pregnancy should be restricted with very few exceptions.

Buttigieg’s short sentence thus combined two falsehoods: The “Roe framework” isn’t what he says it is, and it’s not a framework he supports anyway.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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