Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Here's a Compromise: You Give Up!

Radley Balko suggests federalism as a compromise on the abortion issue:
The best solution is robust federalism. Forgo Roe, and let each state set its own policies on abortion. Those for whom abortion is an important fundamental right can live in areas where abortions are widely available. Those adamantly opposed to any and all abortions can live in jurisdictions that ban the procedure. People like me could live in communities where our tax dollars won't be funding abortions.
The problem here is that this is what abortion opponents have been calling for all along. Notwithstanding the occasional call for a constitutional amendment to ban abortion at the federal level, most pro-lifers have been asking for states to be allowed to set their own abortion policies. Pro-choicers object because they know that would result in a total ban in some states.

For that reason, I don’t think the word “compromise” applies to Radley’s proposal, whatever its substantive merits might be. It might constitute an intellectual compromise between those who think abortion should be legal everywhere and those who think it should be legal nowhere. But who needs an intellectual compromise? The whole point of a compromise is to achieve practical agreement in a divisive situation. That means each side has to give up something in the context of the real-world political situation. Taking the current pro-life stance and proposing it as a “compromise” doesn’t fit the bill, because it gives the pro-choicers nothing in return for their concession.

Note to commenters: I am not (here) taking a position on abortion per se. I’m just taking issue with Radley’s notion of what constitutes a compromise.


Thomas said...

Yes, Balko's proposal does "give" something to pro-choicers. It gives them the option of lobbying for State laws that allow abortion without restriction through, say, the first trimester. How would that be a concession to pro-choicers? A not unreasonable interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment would be that no State may allow the taking of a life (i.e., that of a fetus) without due process of law (i.e., the fetus's continued existence would have to be found, judicially, to threaten the mother's life.)

Glen Whitman said...

The pro-choicers can lobby state legislatures now. And they do, in order to block restrictive abortion laws that are currently allowed. But they don't have to lobby against full-on bans because Roe rules them out. So Radley's compromise would clearly put the pro-choicers in a position worse than their present one. In other words, it's not a compromise.

JB said...

I guess it depends on what it means to compromise. I think most pro-lifers would seek and prefer a total abortion ban. However, they have "compromised" on this issue by generally seeking the repeal of Roe. Maybe you take issue with the characterization of pro-lifers of having already compromised, but it seems to me that's a better description.

All Radley really seems to be coming to, is the realization that the compromise proposed by the pro-lifers is a fairly reasonable one.

Otherwise, if the pro-choicers "compromise" maintains Roe, what do pro-lifers "get" out of the deal. There must be some place for compromise, and that's in overturning Roe.

Glen Whitman said...

JB -- that's what I meant when I said Radley's proposal might constitute an intellectual compromise. A practical compromise, however, has to take into account current bargaining positions.

Murky Thoughts said...

Heck, why not go back to having "free states" and "slave states" too, while we're being so tolerant and open-minded?