Daily Archives: March 10, 2012

Abortion and individual rights

We dare defend out rights in Alabama, and we’re sick of federal meddling.
President Barack Obama and the liberal elite have no right to tell us how many guns we can have, to impose a “pro-choice” agenda or to dictate our health care. Just leave us alone, we cry, fueled by campaign rhetoric.
Unfortunately, the intensity of our resentment sometimes muddles the issues. We are so fervent in our complaints about federal government that we fail to notice that some of the greatest threats to individual liberty come not from Washington but from Montgomery.
It is worthwhile to separate our frustrations into categories. Our Founding Fathers conveniently provided a framework in the U.S. Constitution.
Enumerated powers
One category, defined in the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, has little to do with individual liberties. Those powers not specifically delegated by the Constitution to the federal government, the amendment proclaims, are reserved to the states.
Living in a relatively homogeneous state, we resent the federal crawl that has for more than two centuries increased federal authority at the expense of state authority. Congress and our various presidents have played a role in the expansion of enumerated powers. The greatest factor, though, is a Commerce Clause that did not contemplate the dramatic increase in interstate commerce. Once the exception, interstate commercial transactions have become the norm. Courts trying to limit federal authority — such as those looking for a way to block the Affordable Care Act — are faced with an expansive but constitutionally enumerated power.
In 2012, unlike in 1787, all commerce is interstate commerce. Combined with the Supremacy Clause, this means that Congress can trump state authority in almost every aspect of governance.
While this expansion of federal powers is disturbing, we should remember its limited significance. The ballooning of the Commerce Clause does not inherently increase government control over individuals; it merely changes which government controls us. It is a turf battle between kings.
Bill of Rights and abortion
The limits on governmental control over the individual are found primarily, of course, in the Bill of Rights. Most of these pronouncements of individual liberty, which originally just limited Congress, were expanded through the 14th Amendment to limit state government.
The abortion debate is impossibly complex. Intelligent and moral people disagree violently over when, if ever, an abortion is appropriate. State legislators are fanning the flames with “pro-life” bills. More than a dozen such bills would create barriers for women seeking abortions, even in the case of birth defects or rape. Most would make abortions unaffordable for the poor.
Because Obama and some U.S. senators are “pro-choice,” state lawmakers describe their bills as a protest of Washington overreach.
My views on abortion are colored by my gender. The idea that a woman could, without my input, abort a baby that I helped create, horrifies me. I am sure that I would object to the morality of many abortions, even if I understood the woman’s rationale. Unlike laws limiting speech or gun ownership, laws limiting abortion pose no threat to me — or to most lawmakers — because they will never apply to me. The state wants to substitute its judgment for that of women, not men.
We need not have an opinion on the morality of abortion to understand what our elected officials are doing. They are seeking to expand the power of the state over the individual.
Cries of a Washington power grab — sensible when the issue is which government gets to control the citizenry — are specious when used as a justification for “pro-life” legislation.
Washington’s involvement in the abortion issue is the result of geographical happenstance. It so happens that the primary guardian of the individual liberties set forth in the U.S. Constitution is the U.S. Supreme Court. Congressional views on abortion vary from year to year, as do those of our various presidents.
Roe v. Wade
In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court made no effort to decide whether abortions were moral or immoral. Its sole function was to determine how much control a government may exercise over an individual. Through the law at issue, the Texas state government prohibited a woman from obtaining an abortion unless the procedure was necessary to save her life. The Supreme Court ruled that the individual liberties protected by the Bill of Rights do not permit a government to go that far.
We may oppose Roe v. Wade, but that opposition should be in context. The issue is not whether abortions are appropriate, but who should decide if they are appropriate. In numerous bills, our state lawmakers have said that this is an issue in which individual liberty should succumb to governmental control.
Contact Eric Fleischauer at http://www.mile304.com or eric@decaturdaily.com.




Filed under Abortion, Alabama politics, Civil liberties, Conservatism, States' rights