The Right Coast

February 29, 2004
Abortion Politics
By Gail Heriot

As usual, I'm a bit baffled by the hard-core abortion lobby. It's not enough to have the courts declare that a pregnant woman has a constitutional right to choose abortion. They also apparently want the courts to declare that thugs have a constitutional right to choose abortion for her. (See Weekly Standard.)

This issue has been around for a while. I remember a case before the Illinois Supreme Court back in 1980 on the subject (People v. Greer, 79 Ill. 2d 103 (1980)). The issue has reared its head in connection with the lurid Scott Peterson murder trial. Peterson stands accused of double murder: his wife Laci and their unborn child Conner. Unlike Illinois law back in 1980, California law explicitly defines murder to include both. The abortion lobby evidently regards this as a travesty. In view of the pro-abortionists (and yes, in this context I think it would be inappropriate to call them pro-choice), any act of the state that suggests that a fetus might have some value is inconsistent with the right to abortion.

But there is no inconsistency. Both pro- and anti-abortionists ought to be able to agree to treat the intentional killing of an unborn child by someone other than the mother and without the mother’s consent as the serious crime it is. Would anyone seriously dispute that a thug who punches Laci Peterson in the abdomen with the avowed intent of causing her to miscarry is guilty of a wrong that is considerably more diabolical than a simple battery against the mother? Why shouldn’t the California Legislature protect the child and his mother (who was exercised her constitutional right to choose by choosing life for her child) with the strongest of penalties? Shouldn't the California Legislature have the authority to punish any number of serious crimes with penalties as serious as those for murder? There was a time, of course, when all felonies were punished with equal ferocity–the death penalty.

I wonder what the abortion lobby would have to say if the courts were to declare that we all have a constitutional right to suicide? Would that mean that the murder laws would have to go? If that’s a non-sequitur, isn’t the argument as applied to fetuses a non-sequitur too?