Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Checking One's Facts

Now that a Supreme Court nominee has been placed, it seemed appropriate to make some comments on matters that are continuing to divide our nation. Judge Roberts seems to be a staunch conservative, but hopefully will not generate the rancorous opposition that was feared when Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement a couple of weeks ago.

It's worth remembering that O'Connor is, herself, a conservative, and Roberts is only likely to vote differently than she would have on a few issues. The most obvious of these is, of course, abortion. Liberal lobbying groups are already gearing up for a big fight on this issue, although I expect that the majority of Democratic Senators will not join them, given the respected status Roberts already has among some of their number.

I, myself, oppose abortion, although I generally adopt the point of view that reversing Roe v. Wade, or otherwise making abortion illegal, is not the best way to handle the problem. Rather, I advocate changes to our social structure such as helping people in poverty, providing adoption services, and crisis counseling for young women, just to name a few. These methods, I believe, will be far more successful at reducing the number of abortions that actually happen than a legal decision would be. In fact, I'm concerned that making abortion illegal could have other negative consequences, although the arguments for this are far from certain.

I was all set to quote a statistic I'd heard during the bitter presidential campaign last year. The statistic cited figures that said that the number of actual abortions, which having gone down during President Clinton's tenure, had gone up during President Bush's first few years in office. But when I checked FactCheck.org, a resource that I find highly reliable regardless of whether the topic concerns conservatives or liberals, I found that this statistic had been discredited. In fact, the rate of abortions performed during the first few years of Bush's tenure has continued to go down, albeit less sharply than had previously been the case.

I still advocate aid to women who are poor or in crisis situations, and in fact think that the Bible commands us to do so. But I'm not foolish enough to continue citing bad information. In any event, the ways in which I would seek to reduce the rate of abortions in America are outside of the Supreme Court's purview. They can only either keep abortion legal or not (and it's worth noting that even if Roe v. Wade was struck down, some states would still keep abortion legal). I certainly don't expect such a decision to come immediately. President Bush has been emphatic that the new Justice should not be someone who would "legislate from the bench." Any Justice who immediately set out to overturn Supreme Court precedent would be doing exactly that.

As to the nomination of Judge Roberts, I can only hope that Democrats who may not be happy with the nomination of a conservative judge to the Supreme Court can keep their heads about them, and not turn the approval process into a partisan media circus with half-baked accusations. Naturally, I expect the Republicans to do the same.

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