The Corner

re: Justice Distracted

Just a few stray thoughts:

The law professor ridiculously suing my alma mater over its move to same-sex dorms must be grateful for the added coverage Mr. Black gives to his case today. But I don’t think Mr. Black is right to refer to Justice Scalia’s “preoccupation” with the issue. It’s not at all strange that a Catholic and a judge commented on something in both legal and cultural news in the metropolitan area where he lives, at the Catholic University. What’s truly strange is that a professor at another college, a human-rights commission (?!) in Washington, D.C., and so many others would be so preoccupied with a private university’s sensible decision. The last bastions of a failing ideology desperately soldier on.

(Oh, by the way, Notre Dame, for all its faults, never gave in to coed dorms.)

I wish Mr. Black did not let China off so easy. Their population-control program has been coercive and has given birth to a culture in demographic crisis. (Former Tiananmen Square student democracy protester Chai Ling’s new book is a bold wake-up call on this and these issues.)

The world needs more people like Steve Jobs’s mom — both of them. While I certainly would be overjoyed if Congress fixed the human-rights travesty of our lives, which the Court endorsed almost 40 years ago — Roe needs to be no more — there is also something to one of the abortion advocates’ talking points: Just making it illegal won’t stop all abortions. Widespread knowledge of the life of Steve Jobs — the decisions made by the woman who gave birth to him and the couple who subsequently took him in — certainly helps with that complete picture. Envisioning a world without abortion. Where desperate moms won’t feel they have no other choice. Where that choice — legal or not — is unthinkable. And support for life is ample and easy to find.

Congress has gradually helped with some of that. Partial-birth abortion changed things. Sonograms have, clearly. I think pain awareness will. Public-policy debates — some of them — have contributed to gradual progress. So much more needs to be done. Some of it is being done in the states.


My friend Ed Mechmann, a lawyer who works as assistant director at the Family Life/Respect Life Office at the Archdiocese of New York (who has a must-read blog site for those interested in such things, by the way) adds in conversation this morning that:

the idea that American legislatures did nothing about abortion prior to Roe, and that they continue to do nothing.

In fact, all 50 states and the federal government had enacted laws (and had court decisions interpreting them) about abortion, and the decade before Roe was a time of great legislative and judicial activity on the subject (at least thirteen states had revised their abortion laws in the 196’’s and early 1970’s, other states had court battles, some had both, like New York). Even Justice Ginsburg has publicly noted that Roe interrupted a lively democratic debate on the subject, and Justice Scalia (in his great dissent in Casey) mocked the idea that the Court had brought the public debate to a close.

If anything is clear about American politics right now, it’s that the legislatures in both red and blue states are eager to take up abortion legislation, and have been for years. The issue is front and center in virtually every political race, federal, state and local. Legislation affecting abortion is debated constantly at every level of government — even in lowly city councils and school boards. Nobody is “distracted” — we all know that it’s a central issue.

But this is all far from only a political endeavor. And those dorms have something to do with the complete picture.