Sunday, May 17, 2009

Just What Does "Prolife" Mean Anyway?

The other day a feature at Wizbang noted that now 51% of Americans call themselves "prolife" while 42% call themselves "prochoice" for the first time ever in a Gallup annual values and beliefs survey. This raised the issue have Americans suddenly turned antiabortion in just one year's time-span, or do many Americans just like the sound of the term "prolife" to describe their views on the abortion issue, because another finding of the survey was that 53% of respondents still believed that abortion should be legal under at least some circumstances.

What this all suggests is that many Americans just like one term to describe their views better than the other for the first time. This hasn't exactly resulted in any change in a majority supporting legal abortion under at least some circumstances. So it can be argued that little real values change has resulted here.

A further issue is what exactly does "prolife" mean in regards to Roe v. Wade either. The 1973 Supreme Court decision might have made abortion legal by federal recognition here, however in many conservative communities because of public pressure or protests, abortion remains pretty rare. Generally, only in larger and more liberal communities is abortion more available. Yet those most recognized in the "prolife" community such as the National Right To Life and other organizations continue to claim for decades that the overturn of Roe v. Wade would somehow be a cure-all to ending abortion, when the truth is that it would probably do nothing of the sort.

An overturn of Roe v. Wade would merely return the issue back to the states to individually decide. This would almost certainly result in abortion being legal where it is now legal, and rare where it is now rare. It would be highly unlikely that any real change in the availability of abortion would take place if Roe v. Wade was overturned, despite a long running political argument and those on both sides of this issue using it as a wedge issue to scare voters in one direction or another. The fact of the matter is that the horror stories of illegal coat hanger abortions should be no more common than any woman who cannot afford a bus ticket to a larger city where abortion still legally exists, whether Roe v. Wade is the law of the land or not.

Another problem is that by returning the abortion issue to the states will only result in a huge amount of time being devoted to endless state legislature battles over this issue rather than normal serious issues like school funding, state funding, state police funding, etc. This would slow state legislative work considerably. Further, major political battles over swing legislative seats would be become huge issues. Yet the end result would be that abortion would probably remain legal where it's generally legal now, and rare where it's generally rare now. For all of this new paralysis for state governments, little would likely change in either direction on the abortion issue. The arguments of those who claim that overturning Roe v. Wade would be a "prolife" move aren't very clear at all here. Likely little would actually change here, despite all of the fear politics on both sides of the issue to motivate both Republican as well as Democratic voters.

Another important fact is that the U.S. Supreme Court has addressed this abortion several times over the last few decades as well. Allowing some state laws on the issue and limiting other state laws on the issue. How is that supposed to completely ban abortion anyway? Even the overturn of Roe v. Wade wouldn't likely result in every previous court case being revisited either.

States have never been very good at addressing moral issues either without the Supreme Court putting some limits on some local or state laws that go too far. In 1973, the same U.S. Supreme Court allowed the states as well as local communities to address the issue of pornography and obscenity rather than allowing for some sort of a objective national standard as to what exactly constitutes illegal obscenity. This has only resulted in many years of endless court cases to decide exactly where some legal line exists for commercial free speech, and certainly has not prevented the existence of legal pornography in much of the nation's communities. Generally, only some extreme material can be found legally obscene and therefore illegal in some communities. The only real result of the local communities addressing what should be an objective national standard issue has been a great deal of money wasted on endless court cases over the years and a few lawyers making a lot of money. But that certainly hasn't banned most material that could be considered as pornographic, but not legally obscene. There's no shortage of that sort of material nowadays. In fact, the recession has removed far more objectionable material from the marketplace than millions of dollars in court cases ever have. For all of the money spent on endless local and state court cases, only a few books or movies were ever removed for a short time, and then very similar material legally emerging as common in the marketplace later. So what's the point anyway here? States haven't been very good at deciding this issue, and they likely won't be any better at deciding the abortion issue either. Abortion would likely still very available in states like California and New York, and less available in Utah or Mississippi, which it already is now. For spending a great deal of money on local court cases, the local courts probably won't significantly change the availability of abortion in most cases if the issue would be returned to the states to decide.

So what exactly does "prolife" mean anyway? Some people like that term better than the term "prochoice" this year compared to last year according to the Gallup poling results it seems, yet their views narrowly supporting legal abortion haven't really changed very much it seems, just how many describe their own views. And during the next four years with the current 5 to 4 majority in favor of retaining Roe v. Wade instead of returning the issue to the states, Roe v. Wade is unlikely to be overturned and the issue returned to the states either. The only real factor here will be more in both the Republican and Democratic parties using the issue as a wedge issue to scare up a few votes to their side for some issue unlikely to really change. Back in 1980 if a more than a few voters thought that voting Republican or for Ronald Reagan would change abortion or overturn Roe v. Wade, well they only wasted those votes 29 years ago. Nothing much has really happened on the abortion issue since the original 1973 Supreme Court decision but a few politicians scaring up votes or how some describe their views but not actual opinions on the abortion issue. And that's not much real movement one way or the other on the abortion issue.

The antiabortion radicals who choose to protest the Obama appearance at Notre Dame aren't really living in the real world here. The battle to overturn Roe v. Wade that they choose to champion will only result in endless local and state battles to essentially have the same outcome as they have now on the abortion issue, so what's really the point here anyway? Is this what "prolife" really means?