Friday, April 11, 2008


I don't have anything intelligent to say about whatever's roiling the blogosphere right now, so let me go back to an op-ed in Wednesday's USA Today, in which David Frum offered advice to the GOP on how to win back the youth vote. Here's one of his recommendations:

On abortion ... it is important that Americans understand that the end of Roe v. Wade does not mean a national abortion ban. Ending Roe means that individual states recover the power to make their own decisions on abortion. We as Republicans need to make it very clear: If California and New York vote to retain abortion rights after Roe, national Republicans won't interfere.

Is it really imaginable that national Republicans would ever make a pledge of this kind? And if they did, why should those of us who are pro-choice believe that would be the last word on the subject?

I've never understood the argument that overturning Roe would bring us to peace at last, in a "states' rights" equilibrium that allows abortion in some states while banning it in others, with everybody perfectly comfortable with that outcome.

I've always assumed that this would be a tremendous shot in the arm for the anti-abortion movement -- so many swing states, so many victories to be won, so many local legislative and electoral fights to organize and fund-raise around. The right-to-lifers already think they're the modern-day Abolitionists or Civil Rights Era campaigners; now they'd be able to divide the map into the equivalent of free and slave states, or Jim Crow and non-Jim Crow states. The money would pour in. The fights would never end.

And do you really think the national GOP would sit idly by if, say, Ohio or Oregon had a local election in which a few legislative or judicial candidates, or a referendum, might tip the state's balance on reproductive rights -- especially if that was happening during a national election year? Even when I get myself to believe Frum's fantasy of the national Republican Party striking right-to-life language from its platform and agreeing that abortion is a state issue, I also imagine national Republicans, for all their pious words of non-interference, choosing state candidates and plotting state referendum campaigns to drive national turnout.

The battles wouldn't end -- there'd just be more of them. And remember, the right-to-life movement believes in a "long war" strategy. Even in seemingly safe pro-choice states, anti-abortion groups will wait patiently for changes that might tip the balance -- increases in the Hispanic population? changes in youth attitudes brought about by abstinence education in schools, extracurricular virginity programs, and so on? Sorry, David, this wouldn't be a formula for peace even if it could actually happen.

(Frum link via If I Ran the Zoo and Alicublog.)

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