Magazine | August 27, 2018, Issue


Sign at the March for Life rally in Washington, D.C., in 2011. (Jason Reed/Reuters)

Leges sine moribus vanae

In “Life after Roe” (July 30), Ramesh Ponnuru presents a well-written and reasoned discussion of a post-Roe world and its impact on legacy-party politics. But he fails to offer any positive alternative, and such omissions have created a serious weakness for anti-abortion partisans. It is clear to anyone who even superficially looks at the history of prohibition that it does not work. Not for alcohol, not for drugs, and not for abortion. Effective countermeasures to abortion must necessarily go beyond punishment to offer options that support both mother and child, such as full-range counseling that recognizes abortion as a legal but undesirable choice; readily available prophylaxis, including over-the-counter birth control but not “morning after” pills; and affordable, understandable, and secure adoption programs. Absent these, the anti-abortion faction is left fighting an uphill battle against the argument that their concern is for the legal and moral principle and not the human principals.

The chance of Roe’s being judicially or legislatively reversed is vanishingly small, but a positive and proactive approach to the topic could shortly render the question moot. 

Dave Conant
French Lick, Ind.

Ramesh Ponnuru responds: Legal prohibitions have worked quite well, although of course not perfectly, for postnatal homicide in the United States. They are not enough in the case of abortion. We must also do what we can to provide medical, financial, and emotional support for pregnant women in distress and try to build a culture and polity in which there will be fewer of them. But these should be seen as complementary efforts to advance human dignity. Attempting to protect unborn human lives while maintaining laws that deny their humanity — and giving up on rectifying those laws — would also be an uphill climb.


The Civilizing Landline

The photograph accompanying Graham Hillard’s charming essay about not having a cell phone (“Long Live the Landline,” July 30) displays another soothing aspect of old-fashioned landlines: the dial. Before the days of touch-tone, you had to dial all seven (or ten) digits of the number you were calling, and you had to do it each time you called; no speed dial or repeat functions. This developed patience and meticulousness, while the need to introduce yourself (and, often, ask for the family member you were calling) instilled politeness.

All this, along with the telephone’s sheer physical bulk and immobility, made each phone call seem an event. Even if you just needed some trivial bit of information, you felt compelled to talk for a few minutes first. As Mr. Hillard concedes, in today’s world, not having a cell phone creates difficulties and complicates plans; much as I agree with the general tenor of his essay, I wouldn’t be without mine. But the genteel rituals of the landline were part of a less hectic age, and, as conservatives, we should strive to preserve the best parts of that age without trying to re-create it.

Janet Fallon
Wichita, Kan.

NR Editors — NR Editors includes members of the editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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