Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Which kind of right is abortion?

Jon Shields has an interesting piece at Real Clear Politics which notes the discrepancy between Obama's call for people to open their hearts and minds to individuals on the other side of the abortion debate and his intrepretation on how the Constitution sees abortion.
In (Obama's) account, the right to abortion is similar to the right of assembly-it is an uncontestable right that should never be subject to democratic debate and disagreement. This raises the question of how abortion can be an uncontestable right and an issue we should collectively "work through" with open hearts and minds.

If access to abortion is really like the right to assemble, then we must believe that there are no admissible arguments for the pro-life position. Yet if the case against a fundamental right to abortion is so unreasonable, then why engage it? After all, we do not usually think citizens should "open [their] heart and [their] minds" to those who oppose basic First Amendment rights, such as the right to assemble. We do not think Americans should feel obligated to "work through" their differences with racists or terrorists.....

President Obama simply can't have it both ways. Either abortion access is an uncontestable right that "shouldn't be subject to state referendum" or it is a contestable right we should collectively "work though" in popular and representative institutions.

It is, of course, understandable that Obama wants to please his pro-choice base and appeal to pro-life citizens. But given the gravity of the issue, Obama nonetheless owes all of us a philosophically coherent argument.

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