- Ponnuru calls my argument that bans on “partial birth” objection do not protect fetal life — and hence (unlike a general ban on the procedure, at least in the abstract) cannot be defended in libertarian terms — “absurd,” but doesn’t explain why. On the question of whether such bans may result to injury to women, don’t take my word for it; believe Focus on the Family’s VP, who correctly points out that in some cases beinf forced to perform the D&E “means there is greater…danger of internal bleeding from a perforated uterus.” (Being a pro-choice radical, I do dissent from his belief that more uteral perforation is a good thing.) Unless you believe implausibly that women will just stop getting D&Es, though, the bans also do essentially nothing to protect fetal life. Again, don’t take my word for it; Solicitor General Clement conceded at oral argument that “no woman would be prevented from terminating her pregnancy,” which is just self-evidently true; a woman prohibited from getting a D&X can always get a D&E. I have no idea what the libertarian justification for such an irrational federal statute could be, and Ponnuru doesn’t provide any assistance on the point.
- On the question of whether Paul’s record is consistent with the assertion that abortion is a state issue, this seems pretty straightforward. When you say that abortion is a state issue and then vote for a federal abortion regulation…I think the contradiction is fairly ironclad. Admittedly, Paul’s inconsistency is lesser than most other “overturning Roe will send the issue back to the states” types; he has, for example, consistently voted against legislation making it a crime to transport a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion. This is in contrast to Ponnuru’s favorite candidate John McCain, who while arguing that abortion should be sent back to the states has not only voted for pretty much every federal abortion regulation to come down the pike but also supports a constitutional amendment that would ban abortion in all 50 states. I don’t think elaborate argument is required to demonstrate the inconsistency of such policy positions with the proposition that abortion should be a state issue, but this is pretty much the standard Republican position. While in some cases the federalism dodge may involve a simple error in judgment, when you simultaneously claim that abortion should be a state issue and favor federal abortion regulation I don’t think claims of dishonesty are particularly unfair. Ponnuru also claims that “there are good reasons to expect stalemate at the federal level.” This is probably true insofar as a flat-out ban on abortion is concerned, but 1)there are plenty of abortion regulations short of a ban which may have a chance of being passed (and some of which already have), and 2)such claims often involve the assumption that the abortion debate will displaced to the state level, which given that most opponents of Roe also favor (and logically should favor) federal abortion legislation is quite clearly false.
At any rate, I stand by both of my points: supporting federal “partial birth” abortion legislation is consistent with neither libertarianism nor leaving abortion as a state issue.
UPDATE: I was probably too generous to Paul above. As Tom points out, Paul has also sponsored legislation that would define the fetus as a “person” from the moment of conception. In other words, as long as the 14th Amendment remains in force Paul would make abortion first degree murder in all 50 states, and federal agents would also presumably have to routinely investigate miscarriages, etc. It remains unclear to me how this is consistent with the position that abortion should be left to the states.