The Corner

More Silliness on Ryan and Personhood

Mark Kleiman argues that when the bill Rep. Ryan co-sponsored declared “that ‘the Congress, each State, the District of Columbia, and all United States territories have the authority to protect the lives of all human beings residing in its respective jurisdictions,’ ‘authority’ really means ‘obligation.’” Does Kleiman believe that the bill not only creates this obligation but delivers on it? That someone (who?) can go to court, in the absence of a law exercising that authority, to get that absent law enforced? I have a hard time believing he believes this. A further law (or laws) would be needed drawing out the possible implications of this bill were it to become law. My original point therefore stands.

P.S. To see the problem with Kleiman’s argument, note that if it’s right he doesn’t need the bill Ryan co-sponsored to make it. Ryan has surely said at some time or other that he believes that unborn children are rights-bearing persons. That belief, coupled with the Fourteenth Amendment’s command that states provide equal protection to all persons and its authorization of Congress to enforce that command, is enough to generate the obligation to pass anti-abortion or IVF-regulating legislation. Are we really going to say that by professing this belief and pledging fealty to the Constitution, Ryan has acted to criminalize abortion and regulate IVF?

Update: Ed Kilgore weighs in on this argument. He unwittingly illustrates my point, however, because his own post has nothing to do with the legislation we’re talking about. He just points out that pro-lifers want to ban abortion, and that for most pro-lifers whether the feds or the states do it is a secondary issue. I’ve never disputed either point. (It’s a little odd for Kilgore to raise federalism as an issue at all, since the legislation, as I noted, allows Congress as well as state legislatures to act to protect unborn life.)

To return to the original question: Did Ryan push legislation that would ban abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, or ban in vitro fertilization? No.

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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