From the archives: It is difficult to know when a contrarian idea has been repeated so much as to become the new conventional wisdom. However, it's not just "contrarian" for center-left pundits to claim Roe v. Wade doesn't matter. It's stupid.
This article originally appeared in our July 2006 issue.
The confirmation of two conservative Supreme Court justices and the passage of a draconian abortion ban in South Dakota have again thrown the precarious state of reproductive rights in the United States into sharp relief. It's a serious moment -- which makes the continued preference for clever counter-intuition and abstract debates shared by many of the nation's prominent, avowedly pro-choice pundits all the more troubling.
Well, how about that. It may seem counterintuitive to think that increased access to and education about contraception will prevent unwanted pregnancies and hence lead to fewer abortions--what a crazy idea, tried only by those crazy liberal democracies that don't see the American health care system as the world's best!--but apparently the GOP-led move to irrational sex ed and de-funding the provision of contraception to poor women has had this result:
On November 30, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, the most important abortion case it has heard since it struck down a law banning so-called partial-birth abortion in its 2000 decision Stenberg v. Carhart. While nominally about the constitutionality of a parental notification law, the current case has potentially far-reaching consequences because it presents the opportunity for the court to adopt the reasoning about notifying husbands about abortion that Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito used in his dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
Even if abortion hadn't been a key issue in nearly every Supreme Court nomination since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, Samuel Alito would have to expect it to be the centerpiece of his nomination fight. Since Robert Bork's defeat, the trend among Republican nominees has been toward people with no recorded involvement with abortion issues. Alito, on the other hand, wrote a solo dissent in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 case that reaffirmed Roe and remains the controlling case when the courts asses the constitutionality of abortion regulations.