The Corner

If William Stuntz

wanted to make his idea for a coalition of academics and evangelicals sound less “nuts,” he has not succeeded. The two groups can come together on free trade with poor countries? Well, that’s a terrific idea. But many liberal elites already support free trade–liberal academic economists, for example. The Washington Post’s editorial page has also been quite good on the subject. That hasn’t made Stuntz’s coalition a winning coalition. There’s a reason that John Edwards trumpeted his opposition to such free-trade pacts more loudly than Bush discussed his support.

On abortion, Stuntz’s theory is that his two groups can join forces–or at least that the issue won’t block their joining on other issues–so long as the evangelicals give up their opposition to Roe v. Wade. That’s not going to happen. And his argument for why they should be willing to give up their opposition to Roe is simplistic, depending on the notion that law and culture occupy two distinct, hermetically sealed boxes. Stuntz argues that without the force of the law behind them, pro-lifers have been better able to affect the culture. “Back-alley abortions are no longer a story; partial-birth abortions are.” How does Stuntz suppose that partial-birth abortion became a story? It was because a political movement made a priority of changing the law to ban them–and was not willing to stand down because legal academics (and later the Supreme Court) said that a ban would violate Roe. Stuntz writes that “the [pro-life] movement is likely to keep doing what works — finding ways to encourage young women to ‘choose life.’” That isn’t a complete description of what the movement does–certainly in its political guise–nor of its proper goals. And as long as evangelical conservatives continue to believe that it is necessary to change unjust laws that permit the killing of innocents, Stuntz’s coalition will not materialize.

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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