The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

“Don’t Ignore the Federal Levers on Abortion” – Hadley Arkes in National Review

by James Wilson Institute on August 29, 2022
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Hadley Arkes argues that conservatives must use federal power to protect the rights of the unborn. Even before Roe v. Wade, the federal government involved itself in regulating abortion. After Dobbs, Arkes says the levers of federal power over abortion will be of great importance. The Biden Administration is already moving to protect access to abortion in federal hospitals and emergency rooms nationwide. Conservatives must be willing to similarly wield political power to overcome the lingering cultural effect of Roe v. Wade.

We’ve included a few excerpts below.

“These powers of the political branches arise from the very logic of the separation of powers. Republicans have been strangely sheepish about using these levers, but the Democrats have long ago shed any reservations about using them.”

“What the conservatives have had trouble in seeing is this: The Court, in Dobbs, overturned Roe, but Roe left a lasting effect in changing the culture. The conservative lawyers have trained themselves now not to see what ordinary people readily see: that when the Court pronounces on the rights and wrongs of abortion or contraception, it gives us to understand that there is something truly rightful about those “rights,” and truly wrongful in denying them. With Roe, the Court removed abortion overnight from a thing to be abhorred and forbidden — and turned it into something that should be endorsed, celebrated, and promoted. Roe is gone, but that moral teaching remains strong, and it is now vibrant in the most populous states where abortions may now be performed massively, with almost no restrictions and inhibitions.”

“We now find ourselves in our new version of the “House Divided,” and it is an unsteady balance. The power to tilt it one way or another will be in the federal government, and if one side does not reach for those powers, the other side surely will. And if the culture of abortion flourishes in the blue states, the decisive leverage may well fall to them. The pro-life side has become soberly aware now that the overruling of Roe has not diminished the burdens of their work or delivered several hundred thousand unborn children from lethal dangers.”

To read the entire essay, click here.

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Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.
— James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1790