Musing on Abortion Strategy

Will conservatives use, or abuse, victory against abortion?

If you are a conservative of any stripe, we have a question for you: did you truly believe, as a practical matter, that the day would ever come that the Supreme Court would actually strike down Roe v. Wade?

Now, let's clarify this a bit: if you are a person of faith, you could plausibly say, "Yes, I have always truly believed that, in God's good time, He would end and punish the wicked sin of abortion one way or another."  That's not what we mean here, though - did you believe that, as a function of ordinary political processes, without the explicit visible intervention of either God or events outside our regular Constitutional order, that anti-abortion forces in the form of ordinary conservative voters and their generally-feckless Republican "leaders" would finally manage to compose a Supreme Court that would, in a legal way, overrule their previously decided "super-precedent"?

Of course, we do not know at this writing whether that will actually happen - there's never been a group so skilled at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as Republicans and their much-abused stalwarts in the voting public.  It does look pretty likely though; for sure, the Left is acting as if the end of their world is nigh.

The trouble is, anyone who believes this is flat wrong.  As countless pedants have pointed out, revoking Roe v. Wade in no way makes abortion illegal, on its own; it simply removes it from the list of "rights" that state and local governments are allowed to infringe.

At last count, in the absence of Roe v. Wade roughly half the states will have abortion restrictions that previously weren't allowed; of those, the overwhelming majority will have restrictions no tighter than what prevails in Europe, that great shining star of left-liberal example.  Indeed, for the half-century of Roe v. Wade, abortion has been far more readily available in the US than in Europe:

In fact, fully 75% of all nations do not permit abortion after 12 weeks' gestation, except (in most instances) to save the life and to preserve the physical health of the mother.

So, if Roe v. Wade is ended - which remains to be seen - our situation will be as follows:

  • Most of America will live under abortion laws more or less the same as Europe.
  • Most of blue-state America will live under abortion laws far more liberal than those found in Europe, especially the larger states like California and New York, which are poised to not only legalize all-but-infanticide, but pay for it with tax dollars.
  • Residents of those few states with restrictions more stringent than those of Europe will still have their full Constitutional right to cross a border into a neighboring blue state and do whatever is permitted there.

This isn't difficult Constitutional law - it's always been perfectly legal to go to Las Vegas to gamble, Reno to patronize a prostitute, or to participate in any number of other vices that are permitted in one jurisdiction but not in others.  That's how a republic is supposed to work.

As Justice Alito reportedly put it, "Roe was egregiously wrong from the start."  Many people also feel that gambling is wrong, or drinking alcohol, or whoremongering, or the use of various mind-altering substances.  American history clearly shows, though, that when we try to enforce a blanket moral code across the entire country, nothing good results.  America is just too diverse and large for "one size fits all" solutions to work no matter how hard progressives may try - and, yes, Prohibition was very much a political crusade of the Progressive Movement.

A House Ready to Fall?

What, then, of Abraham Lincoln's famous "House Divided" argument to the contrary?

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

He was right: for some decades as a nation, and several centuries as related colonies, the North and South had coexisted in an uneasy but evenly-balanced truce.  In 1857, though, the pro-slavery Supreme Court dominated by Southerners attempted to enforce the rules of slavery nationwide.  Today, the Dred Scott decision is held up as the ultimate of legalistic evil, which of course it was, but it's more than that: by attempting to force their slavery down the throats of the North, the Supreme Court made the Civil War inevitable.

It speaks to the restraint - or, possibly, the pusillanimity - of conservatives, that the Roe v. Wade decision didn't do the same.  The left has no such compunctions; before the ruling has even been issued, they're calling for a "summer of rage."  Considering that 2020's BLM "summer of love" burned down entire city blocks, we're not looking forward to what leftists do when they get really mad.

And remember: nothing will change anywhere they live!  Abortion will still be just as freely available in California, New York, Portland, Chicago, Boston - really, everywhere leftists hang out save Austin, Texas, and if they saw fit to burn that down, much of Texas wouldn't particularly mind.

If, as they say, the Left views murdering one's own unborn child as the highest sacrament, then they have a simple solution: establish a fund for bus tickets for residents of (say) Alabama who want to travel to St. Louis for an abortion.  Problem solved!

The trouble is that, as we all know, that's not good enough for them.  The Left is never content to be allowed to do whatever it is that they want to do.  Something in their dark souls demands that everyone else participate and honor their depravity.

It would appear that they no longer can; even with every trick at their disposal, the Democrats are unable to pass a bill forcing legalized abortion nationwide.  The natural response? Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) states that, after Republicans take control of Congress, a nationwide abortion ban is "possible".

Doing What's Right, What's Difficult, or What's Wise?

The temptation to shove the Left's half-century of murderous tyranny down their evil throats must be overwhelming.  The holy motivation to save the lives of innocent unborns, too, is monumental.  Before we exult in an unaccustomed victory and prepare to flex sheer political power, we need to soberly consider the cost - while remembering that the lives of people after they are born are just as sacred to Almighty God.

Abraham Lincoln, as much as anyone who ever lived, understood the price of slavery:

Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

The Left has proven that it is willing and eager to resort to violence if it doesn't get its way - but, so far, this has been generally disorganized violence, unable to accomplish anything if met with even minimal opposition.

If Roe v. Wade is overruled, they will rage, they will rant, they will burn... their own cities.  How much do, or should, we care?  And how long will it last, as the truth sinks in that, as far as their eyes can see, absolutely nothing whatsoever has actually changed?

But if, like the South's Supreme Court justices, we attempt to force them to live as we would have them live, we may very well end up in a situation where they will not submit no matter what.  Now, you can certainly argue that Right is on the pro-life side just as surely as it was not on the pro-slavery side, and we'd agree - but that didn't save the lives of the hundreds of thousands dead in our Civil War.

Abolitionist John Brown was fully prepared for a bloodbath to free the slaves, up to and including his own blood.  How much blood - and whose - are you prepared to shed to end the slaughter of the innocent?

Or - would it be more prudent to continue on the path we've now trod for several decades, changing hearts and minds peaceably one at a time, and letting that be reflected in recurring elections and resulting legislation?

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Culture.
Reader Comments

The turtle is like most politicians. Full of it. It is unlikely that the RNC will achieve a veto proof majority. Especially with the likes of Romney, Cheney, Kinzinger, Graham, etc.

May 19, 2022 1:10 AM

Part of me wants to embrace the idea of "changing hearts and minds peaceably." but the word appeasement comes to mind and how that strategy never ends well. At best, it might delay/postpone whatever might happen. It only emboldens the aggressors.
I completely agree that the left will absolutely not accept any ruling coming from the Supreme Court that does not support the lefts radical anti-Constitution agenda be it Roe vs Wade, 2nd amendment, or free speech. That said, at this point, we know the left will react and burn and loot in the cities that they feel safe reacting that way. And yes, it will sadly affect innocent people who the left keeps telling us they are fighting for.
The left never gives up ground and the republicans/rinos in DC never retake lost ground.
I am not advocating or encouraging any specific response to any political issue.
The fact is that the original ruling is flawed and if thrown out, each state has the right to create there own law re: abortion..which everyone knows.

And we also all know that staying the course by the Supreme Court will be viewed as submission and any kid over the age of 8 knows that submitting only guarantees the bullies bully us more.

And finally- not related to article
Re: life and what is is and when it starts.. I heard a guy on Megyn Kelly's show say (paraphrasing) "NASA sends a Probe to Mars and the probe detects cells on the planet. NASA holds a press conference and announces "there's life n Mars and the msm eats it up.
An ultrasound of a pregnant woman detects a beating human heart, fingers, legs, eyes, etc.. and the left says "just a lump of cells, definitely not life"

1 more. the irony.. I live in New Jersey and we have a severe squirrel problem. They get into car engines and eat the wiring. They eat holes in siding to gain access to attics, etc. there's too many of them and not enough natural predators. Here in NJ, it's illegal to kill or trap squirrels. It's illegal to destroy their nests. It's illegal to poison them. BB guns, which lots of kids had as kids are considered weapons here. Even if you had a BB gun and attempted to reduce the squirrel population, most likely, a "Karen" neighbor would report you as a squirrel assassin and the State Police would drag you out of your house.
Contrast that with Gov Murphys stance of abortion limits which I believe is that an abortion can be performed up to when the kid turns know, try before you buy. If you decide when the kid is say.9."ya know, on second thought, I don't want the kid", then NJ will allow (yes, I'm exaggerating and being facetious).
Squirrels are deemed worthy of protecting..human beings..not so much.

May 19, 2022 1:10 AM

You aren't the only ones worrying about this issue leading to the equivalent of civil war. Politico, of all media, weighs in! They note that Roe v. Wade has greatly increased national polarization!

The New Civil War

After reminding us of the Dredd Scott decision, the article says:

Never since then has one set of states been empowered to enforce its jurisdiction on another. But we may be arriving at another such moment with the demise of the abortion rights guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. Legislators in Missouri and Oklahoma have discussed - but not yet passed - legislation that would allow individuals to sue someone in another state who facilitated an abortion for a citizen of the home state. Last year, Texas passed legislation that would allow a state prosecutor to seek the extradition of a telemedicine provider of abortion pills in another state.

Abortion is not like that. Each side of the debate is motivated by a metaphysical proposition that is all but incomprehensible to the other. Those of us who believe in a woman's right to choose would like to believe that the other side will not survive exposure to the facts, yet 50 years of constitutionally protected abortion has barely moved the needle of public opinion (save perhaps in the other direction). We will not settle the issue with another civil war, thank God, but we may be entering a metaphorical civil war which will continue to rage for a long time. And given the violence with which our politics is now infused, we cannot be altogether confident that the war will remain metaphorical.


The abortion issue, I wrote, "has turned every Supreme Court nomination into a life-and-death battle, has vastly exacerbated national polarization, and quite possibly got Donald Trump elected president." Perhaps that was a price worth paying to ground abortion rights in the Constitution; but it was a terribly high price. The judiciary, in any case, is no longer the liberal's friend; a right that lived by the court is about to die by the court. The issue is, in fact, almost certain to return to the Supreme Court, which could issue opinions that might split the country even further.

The political system of the less divided America of 1973 might have come to some sort of broadly acceptable solution to the question of abortion. Today, however, our politics are already so inflamed that the end of Roe will instead act as an accelerant. Senate Republicans have already blocked the Democrats' effort to enshrine abortion rights in federal legislation; Democrats will move heaven and earth to prevent Republicans from outlawing abortion. A far likelier outcome is a state-by-state checkerboard of access and prohibition, more or less total in each case, that reflects our ever-growing polarization - "Pro-Choice America" and "Pro-Life America." Many Americans already choose to live in an ideologically friendly atmosphere; the cleavage over abortion might lead both liberals and conservatives to migrate further.

Extra-territoriality still lies over the horizon; Connor Semelsberger, an official with the anti-abortion Family Research Council, told me his organization was far more focused on reviving pre-Roe state laws restricting abortion and on preventing the sale of abortion pills than on pursuing action across the border. Yet efforts to limit the sale of abortifacients will almost inevitably involve enforcement beyond state lines, as is the case with the Texas extradition statute. Katie Glenn, government affairs counsel of Americans United for Life, testified in Texas in favor of the new law and says she expects to see "interstate scuffles" as pro-abortion rights states resist the cross-border reach of anti-abortion legislation.


The Supreme Court, which seems to think it will have finally washed its hands of the issue, will have no choice but to adjudicate the dispute.

May 19, 2022 8:58 PM
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