Monday, January 23, 2006

There's a reason we call them rights

I couldn't let the anniversary of Roe v. Wade pass without saying something about it. It's become popular lately to talk about the problem with Roe was that it was imposed by the Supreme Court, so the people who didn't like the result felt that the power structure had run over them. Supposedly this led to much stronger resistance than we would have had if the political process had been allowed to work and abortion had been addressed gradually. By this theory, supposedly we were well on the way to a country in which abortion was generally legal and accepted and we wouldn't have had the massive division that has encouraged domestic terrorists bombing family health clinics and killing or threatening doctors.

I've got a problem with this theory. Sometimes if something is right it's just right. I don't recall white liberals telling Rosa Parks to sit in the back of the bus until they were ready to let her ride where she wanted, do you? I don't remember hearing anyone saying that women should have waited for the right to vote until each state decided to let them, do you?

Actually, I do remember that there have always been people who have been "moderates" when it comes to other people's rights. It's just that in retrospect we know that they were wrong, and I think the same is true about abortion. I was going to school in New York when it was legal there and illegal in most of the rest of the country, and they were already organizing anti-abortion groups. I don't think trying to convince conservative Christians to go along with it would have gotten legal abortions any faster; if anything, I'm sure there would still be many states where abortion is still illegal--pretty much the states where it's on its way to become de facto illegal again today.

The right to abortion is important, both because it means women controlling their own bodies and more importantly because it means women controlling their own lives. Even with Scalito on the Court, we need to protect it. We need to remember: you don't play politics with rights.


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