Last week, Donald Trump announced that women who get (or try to get) abortions should be criminally charged. His campaign quickly walked back the claim. But Katha Pollitt made an excellent point about this in an article in The New York Times, Abortion and Punishment. Basically, she says, “Why not?” If conservatives really believe abortion of a zygote is murder — that a 2n diploid cell is a full human being with complete Constitutional rights — then shouldn’t any woman who attempts to get an abortion at least be guilty of attempted murder?
As Pollitt noted, the anti-choice movement gets around this problem by claiming that the women are victims. They don’t really want to get abortions, it is just all of us pro-choice advocates who push them into it. I would take this argument more seriously if these same anti-choice proponents were for a strong social welfare program. But in general, they want women to have no choice in when they have children and then to abandon them to a Dickensian life. But regardless of that, Pollitt said, “If you consider how determined a woman has to be to get an abortion in much of the country these days and how much energy states expend trying to dissuade her, it’s hard to see her as a frail flower.” Indeed.
But the truth of the matter is that the anti-choice people are just liars. What they want right now is to overturn Roe v Wade — either in the courts or through a Constitutional amendment. In other words, they want to allow the states to decide. But how does that make any sense? So abortion is murder in Alabama but not in California? The truth of the matter is that they don’t want to overturn Roe v Wade, they want the opposite of it; they want abortion to be considered murder everywhere.
It’s just like with the old (and still quite common) conservative complaint about liberal activist judges. Well, there pretty much are none of them. The activist judges are almost entirely conservative. But conservatives didn’t care about activist judges then and they don’t care about them now. They only care that the judges provide decisions that they agree with. And I’m not against that. I want the same thing! But I don’t go around claiming that I alone know what the Constitution means and therefore any decision I don’t like is the result of a conservative activist judge.
So the anti-choice movement will use their “states’ rights” argument right up to the point that they get them. Once Alabama can outlaw abortion, the conservatives will turn on a dime and claim that states should have no right to allow women to have abortions. This is the kind of thing that drives me crazy about conservatives: there is no consistency. The ends always justify the means. When it came to same sex marriage, they thought it shouldn’t be up to the states and we got the Defense of Marriage Act. But when it is about abortion, it is just the opposite — for right now.
As for me: I’m a federalist. One of the biggest problems with Scalia’s death is that it can end up with different federal law in different areas of the country. It has the potential to turn us into a confederacy. And we’ve tried that and it failed. When people talk about states’ rights and when libertarians claim that local control is always better, what they are really saying is that they want their own little preferred laws — usually really vile ones. My friends, the conservatives represent the most unpatriotic movement we have in this country.