Today, on the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to “the decision’s guiding principle: that every woman should be able to make her own choices about her body and her health.” Also today, thousands of pro-life advocates gathered in snowy Washington D.C. to participate in the annual March for Life.
Whatever the fate of the court decision, I see no end to the general policy we currently have in the United States: abortion legal, but restricted. Not a long-term finality, in any case. I cannot see any resolution that would satisfy either side, and both sides are in this political battle for its duration, led by true believers who are vocal, organized, and active, and who will not stop until their objectives are realized. Both sides are guided by a principle highly prized in U.S. political culture–life and freedom respectively–and both sides speak of their principle in the modern moral-legal language of rights. The debate has deep roots and plenty of nourishment for the future.
I’m not suggesting the sides call a truce. The stakes are too high, whichever side you think is right. We’re talking about the legal killing of millions of human beings or about legal obstructions to women being free and autonomous members of society. You simply can’t reach a satisfying compromise between these two issues. They matter too much. Instead, we get an unsatisfying compromise that’s always being challenged and fought. Abortion remains legal and restricted, if in varying degrees. I expect that’s the future.
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