Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Can the nation protect Roe v. Wade from the states?

A common theme of debate between me and my wife is laws that we agree with in spirit and based on outcomes, but may be a step farther than the government is justified in taking. For example, public smoking; I enjoy smoke-free environments, and therefore support anti-smoking laws, but I'm not sure how the government can justify passing them; it starts a slippery slope where other public activities, some of which I may enjoy, get banned because others find it offensive or harmful.

Which is why I was very conflicted when I read this article on Jezebel.

In summary, many states (about 50, at last count) are considering legislature that erodes Roe v. Wade. The Supreme Court case mainly impacts federal behavior, so there is no protection against these new measures until one is taken to the Supreme Court and overturned (which seems unlikely on several levels).

Putting aside my personal opinion on abortion, though, isn't that how the system is supposed to work? The States may not make a more permissive law than the Federal (which is why California and Colorado are having so much trouble legalizing medical marijuana), but they may be more restrictive. It can suck if you're stuck in one of those more restrictive states, but that's one of the reasons people move. At fencing practice a couple of the guys were discussing friends that would never move to California because they would have to give up some of their guns; agree with their position or not, that's the way it works.

I know there's an exception for civil rights, but I don't understand how it works. A state cannot overrule the permissive Federal definition of who qualifies as a citizen by ruling that, for instance, Jews can't vote. Is there some way that abortion fits into this category, or do we just accept that, like public smoking and gun control, laws will vary from state to state, and move accordingly?

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