“I oppose abortion. But an amazing number of people thought that I would outlaw abortion. They didn’t understand that not only did I have no desire to do that, but I had no power to do it. If you overrule Roe v. Wade, abortion does not become illegal. State legislatures take on the subject. The abortion issue has produced divisions and bitterness in our politics that countries don’t have where abortion is decided by legislatures. And both sides go home, after a compromise, and attempt to try again next year. And as a result, it’s not nearly the explosive issue as it is here where the court has grabbed it and taken it away from the voters.”
Judge Robert Bork in Newsweek, Jun 20, 2009 (from the magazine issue dated Jun 29, 2009).
Despite its being a rather politically incorrect thing to say in conservative Christian environs (ok, maybe because of it?), I was with Lee Irons during this last election when he spoke of the “overwrought rhetoric” and “irrelevance of abortion.” And now the man whose first act was to eat everybody’s first-born is contemplating his first Supreme Court pick. The inevitable question about certain legislation came up, and this was Bork’s angle.
Despite its regular incantation, it is doubtful that the typical American pro-lifer really understands what “the reversal of Roe” means. Maybe he does. But one gets the sense that most think a “reversal of Roe” means that it would push back as hard as Roe shoved (or harder). In other words, abortion would be outlawed in every nook and cranny. But as Bork helpfully points out, it doesn’t. It means the states would be handed their rights back to decide for themselves.
I have heard better informed pro-lifers admit that the literal reversal of Roe (as opposed to the figurative, shove back kind) would be a good start. This is puzzling, as, to listen to them tell it, the current state of things is a “holocaust, a veritable and immoral slaughter of the innocent, something akin to Auschwitz and the plight of Kunta Kinte.” If that’s true, and if many states would simply continue the current policy, wouldn’t a literal reversal just farm out the holocaust and make liberation more complicated? Would letting certain German towns keep their concentration camps be a good start?
The regular rhetoric, of course, isn’t designed so much to make careful parallels to historical phenomenon as it is to incite emotion, guilt and shame in order to spurn those not as politically persuaded and gird the loins of those who are. This is at least part of what Bork is alluding to when he speaks of the “divisions and bitterness in our politics.” The moralized politics of sex in America dovetails nicely with the general obsession with it. One wonders if any of them have learned with the most current killing of an abortion provider that the daily employment of incendiary language might be in any measure reckless. But it may be that, instead of taking any bit of responsibility and reining it in a little, they are simply pleased with issuing yet more condemnations and easily dismissing such things as “not what we’re about.” I don’t doubt that actually. But a more responsible way of speaking on a regular basis would go much further to lend credibility to that claim.