The abor­tion­ist’s song

With a new cho­rus writ­ten by a fed­eral judge

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

IT COULD be a Ro­man spectacle, only in­stead of the madding crowd cheer­ing as Chris­tians are fed to the lions, Arkansas’ abor­tion­ists are hail­ing a fed­eral judge’s opin­ion halt­ing cer­tain abor­tion re­stric­tions on the least and most in­no­cent of these, the un­born. Their lives will con­tinue to be snuffed out even be­fore they first see the light of day. Not only is this dark­ness so thick it can be felt now to de­scend on this state’s jurispru­dence, but—irony of ironies—it is hailed as a bright shin­ing light.

The be­gin­ning of wis­dom may be to call things by their right names, but this rul­ing by a fed­eral judge mis­takes abor­tion for a new free­dom: the free­dom to kill. The rul­ing by Her Honor Kris­tine Baker kept three new an­tiabor­tion laws from tak­ing ef­fect in this in­creas­ingly (un) Nat­u­ral State.

Talk about un­fair pack­ag­ing and la­bel­ing, the Arkansas chap­ter of the ACLU, the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, demon­strated any­thing but con­cern for the civil lib­er­ties of ba­bies not yet fully formed be­fore they are con­demned to death. And by dis­mem­ber­ment at that in this bar­barous pro­ce­dure.

Lit­tle Rock Plan­ning Ser­vices (one of its doc­tors was listed as the plain­tiff in this sad case) per­formed most of the abor­tions car­ried out in Arkansas over the past year. That’s ac­cord­ing to the state’s Depart­ment of Health, which is re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing tabs on this grisly toll. Of the 3,207 abor­tions com­mit­ted in the state over the past year, al­most one out of five are done af­ter five weeks of ges­ta­tion.

Jerry Cox of this state’s Fam­ily Coun­cil called this lat­est abor­tion of a rul­ing from the courts “just sad,” but it’s worse than sad. It’s one more out­rage that leaves its bloody prints for the rest of us to track. Who knows what one of these lit­tle ones might have be­come—per­haps a great sci­en­tist, scholar or states­man. In­stead their lives are dis­missed as less than worth­less, and they are rel­e­gated to the ranks of un­per­sons. But if they’re not per­sons, then what must they be? Just a mean­ing­less blob, a mass of pre-can­cer­ous cells, a noth­ing­ness to be elim­i­nated by the kind of doc­tor who ig­nores Hip­pocrates’ com­mand: First do no harm.

It’s enough to bring back dour old John Adams’ en­comium to his po­lit­i­cal ri­val, Alexan­der Hamil­ton, who hap­pened to be born out of wed­lock, a cir­cum­stance Mr. Adams made the most of by de­scrib­ing Colonel Hamil­ton as a “bas­tard brat of a Scot­tish ped­dler.” But at least he knew the gen­tle­man’s name; these sacri­fi­cial lambs did not live long enough to be given a name. They have be­come un­per­sons quite lit­er­ally, for they are de­nied per­son­hood by those who would let the state de­stroy them like the use­less leav­ings in­side a petri dish who have served their pur­pose, if any, and may now be thrown out with the trash.

Bettina Brown­stein, a lawyer who worked with the ACLU in chal­leng­ing state laws that lim­ited abor­tion’s reach, ac­cused the state of copy­ing laws of our sis­ter states, which would lead Arkansas into ex­pen­sive law­suits—as if a price could be put on price­less hu­man life. Arkansans don’t dream up these pro-life laws all by them­selves, she ar­gued, but fol­low the lead of life-lov­ing cit­i­zens else­where. But what bet­ter mod­els to fol­low when mak­ing this state’s laws other than the best and bright­est of law­givers else­where?

Maybe that’s why a great jus­tice of the Supreme Court of the United States—Louis D. Bran­deis—called the states “lab­o­ra­to­ries of democ­racy,” free to ac­cept the best poli­cies pi­o­neered else­where. He spoke of how a “state may, if its cit­i­zens choose, serve as a lab­o­ra­tory; and try novel so­cial and eco­nomic ex­per­i­ments with­out risk to the rest of the coun­try.” Who else should Arkansans fol­low but the best and bright­est of cit­i­zens else­where—the worst and dimmest?

What next? Will this state be ac­cused of mod­el­ing its own con­sti­tu­tion on the fed­eral one, which an English states­man named Wil­liam Ewart Glad­stone once de­scribed as “the great­est work of man ever struck off at a given mo­ment in time.”

SPEAK­ING of the Con­sti­tu­tion, take heart, fel­low Amer­i­cans. This de­ci­sion will be ap­pealed. And like other de­ci­sions, it could be over­turned. Just as one was Fri­day be­fore this lat­est rul­ing. Re­mem­ber, just be­cause a judge says it doesn’t make it le­gal for­ever. Other judges might be heard from. Cer­tainly We the Peo­ple will be as well. For there was a time not so long ago that even this coun­try’s top fed­eral court— the Supreme one in Wash­ing­ton—pro­tected slav­ery, and a chief jus­tice of the United States Supreme Court de­clared one kind of hu­man be­ings to be un­per­sons:

“In the opin­ion of the court, the leg­is­la­tion and his­to­ries of the times, and the lan­guage used in the Dec­la­ra­tion of In­de­pen­dence, show that nei­ther the class of per­sons who had been im­ported as slaves, nor their de­scen­dants, whether they had be­come free or not, were then ac­knowl­edged as a part of the peo­ple . . . .”—Dred Scott v. Sand­ford, 1857.

Things change. Even if to­day some class of per­sons aren’t ac­knowl­edged as a part of the peo­ple—that is, the un­born—they very well could be to­mor­row.

To­day, call this the Amer­i­can way of death. To­mor­row is another day. And per­haps another rul­ing.

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