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The Siren Song

Sunday, July 03, 2005
Most liberals are horrified at the prospect of Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement, myself included. Her replacement by a Theocon would tip the Court from a narrow 5-4 moderate majority to a 5-4 conservative one. As I and many others have said, abortion rights, the environment, labor laws, etc. would all be on the chopping block.

But wait, says Matt Yglesias. The last big abortion case was Casey, and we won that one 6-3. The pro-choice movement is better off than in was with the Webster decision (in 1989) because Byron White (who was anti-choice) was replaced by a Clinton appointee. So stop worrying.

This is a very dangerous line of reasoning. First, as DavidNYC at Dailykos and others have argued, abortion rights is a clear political position that can mobilize activist support. The other cases which will be overturned if any more wingnuts get on the court lack the clear definition that Roe does. In other words, Yglesias is right in all that ways that don't matter. Even if Roe survives, but a lot of other important issues will go down the tubes. We can't start a war while throwing out all of our ammunition.

Secondly, I'm not sure that Roe would survive. The key vote Yglesias is counting on is Anthony Kennedy, who voted with the angels (i.e. with the pro-choice side) in the Casey decision. However, Kennedy is famous for being a weathercock: he swings depending on the amount of political pressure. It is very possible that he would suddenly change his position to emasculate or kill Roe. I'm not willing to gamble abortion rights on Kennedy's intestinal fortitude.

So go enjoy your holiday weekend, but get ready to fight to the death come Tuesday.

P.S. I just watched The Phantom Menace for the first time since it came out, and it's even worse than I remember. Pee-yew!
Posted by Arbitrista @ 6:51 AM
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