I have always believed that, like slavery, for reasons grounded firmly in science as well as the natural law tradition, the abortion issue rises above resolution through the concept of “popular sovereignty” so famously debated by Lincoln and Douglas. But since the Supreme Court completely removed the issue from the democratic process with the deeply flawed decision in Roe v. Wade forty years ago, I look for any signs of hope that the issue can find a way back into the political debate that might lead to a better outcome, even if it must be on a state by state basis.
It appears that this is beginning to happen through the wonder of our system of federalism. While New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to further liberalize abortions in his state with a bill permitting late term abortions, the North Dakota and Arkansas legislatures have voted to outlaw abortions after six and twelve weeks, respectively, and the Kansas legislature is considering an abortion-related bill including a phrase declaring that life begins “at fertilization”. Of course, all of this activity will ultimately be subjected to judicial review, and it’s possible that another reaffirmation of Roe will result, but it’s refreshing to know that there are plenty of people who are not going to let this 40-year old mistake go unchallenged. So, good for popular sovereignty!