This is not a question of constitutional law, and it never has been. Not from the first. The issue is that some Americans, a non-trivial number of them, would rather put their unborn children to death than be burdened with the responsibilities of parenthood, even if they are only short-lived responsibilities.
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There is a great deal of dishonesty in the abortion debate, which is necessary: Otherwise, we’d be obliged to think about the horror of what we perpetrate and what we endure, and that would be very difficult. Instead, we hear a great deal about extraordinarily rare catastrophes of pregnancy, which are heart-hurting but which also are, in the vast majority of cases, entirely beside the point: These cases are as a statistical matter nearly nonexistent. Even the usual hedge offered by office-seeking pro-life Republicans — the exemption for children conceived through rape or incest — approaches statistical insignificance. (Never mind the moral insignificance, as though we could murder a four-year-old, or a 38-year-old, because he was conceived via rape.) We hear dark warnings about a new Torquemada and a rising theocracy, as though an atheist such as my good friend Charles C. W. Cooke doesn’t know a baby when he sees one, as though the world were not full of agnostics and outright heathens who still have enough civilization in them to know better than to accept butchering unborn children as normal.
You cannot foist a philosophy of man-as-meat on civilized people without a great quantity of lies, some of which will be published in the form of Supreme Court opinions. That is why those who oppose the philosophy of man-as-meat are denied political recourse, and why the authorities in backward places such as Ohio have tried to quash their First Amendment rights, too. Man isn’t meat, and the political model built on insisting that man is meat cannot withstand much scrutiny or debate. It must rely on brute force, which sometimes comes disguised as a Supreme Court ruling. How many people throughout the ages have been convinced of the most indefensible nonsense by similar figures in black ceremonial robes? Think on that the next time you feel inclined to snigger at Iran’s Guardian Council.
But when the hysteria subsides and the blood dries up, reality is still there, and we’re still putting millions of unborn children to death because Caitlyn doesn’t want her prom ruined and because Rachel is living out some third-rate HBO fantasy in Brooklyn, or some place she wishes were Brooklyn. Harry Blackmun didn’t imagine that, but it is his legacy — and our indictment.