Friday, April 20, 2007I can't remember where I read it (probably the Politico), but Anthony Weiner from New York is planning to introduce an amendment to the federal law banning "partial birth abortions" that would carve out an exception for the health of the mother. This is exactly the right thing to do, both morally and politically.
From the point of view of sound policy, it would dramatically improve the law and undo a great deal of the damage the Supreme Court decision has done. In fact I would go so far to say it would vitiate the law and send a signal to the Court that there is no longer an anti-choice Congress in power. The law could even be expanded to say that no state law can restrict abortion rights to the detriment of the mother's health. Since the Court has already federalized abortion policy, this would slow state attempts to limit abortion rights.
This amendment would also have important political benefits. It would concentrate public opinion on the issue and alter the terms of the debate. I don't think the anti-choicers are really interested in arguing that women's health is of no concern - they'd be in a Schiavo-type minority position. And putting this amendment on the agenda would force the Republicans running for President to address the issue - which can only help the Democrats. Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney would either have to favor the amendment (hurting them among the conservative base) or support it and open themselves up to the charge of flip-flopping. The same calculus holds true for "moderate" Republicans in Congress.
Frankly I think this strategy makes a lot more rhetorical and substantive sense that the whole "reducing the number of abortions" stuff that seems to give away far too much to the other side.