We have been having a stimulating debate under my last post about Ron Paul’s views on the constitution and abortion. I want to follow-up that discussion here in light of last night’s GOP debate.
Before doing that, however, let me clarify that I view this dispute as a disagreement among pro-lifers regarding strategy and constitutional interpretation. Pro-lifers can disagree over these issues and still be pro-life. It is counterproductive, therefore, to make arguments that begin with, “If you were really pro-life, then you would [adopt my point of view].” As pro-lifers, we can stipulate that we all believe that human life begins at conception and that legal abortion-on-demand is a grave evil that needs to end. Our disagreement is not about the morality of abortion but about constitutional interpretation and the best strategy to end legal abortion.
For those who are Christians, it’s also important to remember that these issues are prudential matters and not a test of orthodoxy. Christian pro-lifers can disagree over issues of strategy and constitutional interpretation without any necessary rift in fellowship. With those stipulations in mind, I hope we can have a frank and fruitful discussion about strategy and the Constitution.
Back to our recent discussion and last night’s debate. In last night’s GOP debate, Ron Paul again made the case against federal laws banning abortion (see video above). He argued that the matter should be turned over to the states. He argued that states would immediately be able to make laws against abortion by removing jurisdiction from federal courts to deal with the abortion issue. This argument is flawed on a number of levels:
(1) There is nothing “immediate” about this solution. The President cannot pass “The Sanctity of Life Act” by himself. Removing jurisdiction from the courts would still require an act of Congress. Congressman Paul has tried numerous times to introduce the “Sanctity of Life Act” to the Congress. Every attempt has ended with the bill dying in committee. I would love for such a bill to pass. But they’ve been trying to do it since 1995, and it has turned out to be a 17-year losing strategy. For Paul to offer this failed effort as his primary strategy to end abortion is not very compelling to most pro-lifers. Add to that the fact that he would not support Congressional restrictions of abortions based on the 14th amendment, and you’ll see why so many pro-lifers do not support his candidacy. There’s a reason that right to life groups only give Paul a 50% rating on his Congressional voting record. He repeatedly votes against federal restrictions on abortion.
(2) Even if the measure were to pass immediately, it could be repealed at any time by a majority united against it. Even if it were immediate, it would not be permanent.
(3) Even if the matter were turned over to the states, there would be no guarantee that any of the states would pass laws against abortion. In many states, it would not be an immediate solution but a permanent non-solution. States like California, New York, Massachusetts, and a host of others would likely allow abortion-on-demand to continue unabated. Ron Paul’s proposal would produce a situation in which women seeking abortions would simply travel to a nearby state where abortion is legal. A federal solution would produce a more comprehensive ban and avoid a Balkanization of America regarding its abortion laws.
(4) Ron Paul’s approach would exclude a whole class of persons from a Constitutionally guaranteed right to life. The fourteenth amendment guarantees that no person shall be deprived of life except by due process of law. Why would we exclude unborn persons from this protection? Ron Paul says that the fourteenth amendment doesn’t apply to the unborn, and I reiterate that I think he is wrong on this point.
Again, I am mainly concerned about policy not about politics, and I am not shilling for any particular candidate. I want the pro-life cause to have the strongest representative possible in the White House, and I don’t think Ron Paul is that person.