If liberals really believed in democracy, they wouldn’t support Roe v. Wade

Timothy Carney
Conservative Opinion

Timothy Carney

Timothy Carney, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute
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Democrats and their allies in the media have spent the last few years claiming that they are fighting a desperate fight to save democracy.

But now they have turned around and declared that the most important fight is the fight to save Roe v. Wade.

My friends, you cannot be pro-democracy and pro-Roe at the same time.

The essence of Roe v. Wade is that abortion needs to be protected from democracy.

Joe Biden’s solicitor general admitted as much in the Supreme Court oral arguments over Dobbs v. Jackson. In defending Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar granted the Roe and Casey courts had been “taking the issue away from the people.”

This is correct. Consider the current case. The people of Mississippi late last decade elected an overwhelmingly pro-life legislature. Then, months before the lawmakers were up for reelection, they voted overwhelmingly to outlaw most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The bill passed both chambers with a two-thirds supermajority.

What the people of Mississippi wanted, and what their duly elected legislators approved, was a law protecting unborn babies from abortion.

The liberals of the Supreme Court along with the Biden administration and the news media don’t want the people of Mississippi to have a say here. The liberals want, in the words of the Biden administration, to “take the issue away from the people.”

That’s exactly what Roe did: It took the issue of abortion away from the people. Before Roe, abortion laws were set by state legislatures. Since then, states have had very limited ability to protect the unborn.

Overturning Roe, of course, would not ban abortion nationwide. It would return abortion to the world of democratic institutions.

It’s not illegitimate to say that some issues should be “taken away from the people.” We wouldn’t want a majority to be able to outlaw the exercise of Islam, or to outlaw all gun ownership. Preserving freedom sometimes means curbing democracy.

Our  Founders understood this very well. That’s why they created the Amendment process and kicked it off by passing the Bill of Rights.

Certain freedoms are God-given and cannot justly be taken away by a majority, or by a state or federal legislature. So through a democratic process—the Amendment process—our country has bit by bit moved certain things beyond the reach of a majority. 

Free speech, the exercise of religion, the freedom of the press, the right to bear arms, the rejection of slavery—all of these things were set outside of the ordinary democratic process through constitutional amendments.

But abortion supporters instead relied on the most undemocratic of processes—the whim of a majority of the Supreme Court in 1973—to take abortion out of the realm of democracy.

Democrats and the major media could make the case today, if they had the courage of their convictions, that democracy needs to be restrained, and that abortion was more important than democracy. But that would be an awkward argument for today’s Left to make.

The Washington Post has put the preservation of democracy itself on its masthead: DEMOCRACY DIES IN DARKNESS!

Everything Republicans do gets branded as an assault on democracy. Trump wasn’t just bad, he was a threat to democracy. An election bill in Georgia is an attack on democracy. Even Glenn Youngkin’s win as Virginia’s governor was lamented as a loss for democracy because, well, he’s not a Democrat.

If the news media and the Democratic Party wants to make democracy its core cause, fine. But then they need to agree that Roe v. Wade must go.


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