Roe versus Ferguson 19 May 2019.

Almost a third (32 percent) of Americans want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, while almost two-thirds don’t want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.  Seems clear enough as a democratic policy preference.[1]

However, there are intricacies.

First, does life begin at the moment of conception?  If it does, then do those lives deserve legal protection from harm?  If it, doesn’t, then why do women want abortions?  Is there some definable moment when not-life turns to life?  When it gets its own insurance and phone plan?

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) was “stare decisis” (settled law—just to show I’ve been reading the newspapers, if not law books).  All the same, the Supreme Court overturned this settled law in Brown v. Board of Education (1954).  In the common understanding (which is different from a lawyer’s explanation), the Supreme Court overturned Plessy on the grounds that it did a moral wrong.

If life does begin at the moment of conception, then abortion is a moral wrong disguised as an elective medical procedure.  The Supreme Court could overturn Roe on the same moral grounds that it overturned Plessy.  (Yes, a bunch of judges appointed by Republican presidents would be accused of having wormed and slimed their ways through Senate confirmation votes in order to achieve this end.  Many reasonable people will find that accusation credible.)

Second, what exactly would the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade mean for the law?  Would it return abortion to the pre-Roe status where it was regulated by the states?  Or would it replace the nation-wide right to “choice” with a nation-wide ban on abortions?  If a Supreme Court decision led to a nation-wide ban on abortion, then would the best analogy be to “Scott v. Sandford” (1857)?  That decision held two things.  First, that African-Americans could not be citizens.  Second, that the division of the country into “slave” and “free” areas was unconstitutional.[2]  Slave-holders could go anywhere they wanted, establish their “peculiar institution” anywhere they wanted.  Majority opinion in a democracy (by the standards of that time, not ours) be damned.

Third, ignorance of facts plays a role in current discussions.  Half (50 percent) of Americans are open to curtailing abortion rights to some degree, while 44 percent support at least an integral defense of Roe as it now stands.  “Right to life” advocates appear to have played upon this willingness to curtail, rather than ban, abortions.  The state of Alabama has recently passed a law banning abortions once a heartbeat is detected in a fetus.  Nationally, 50 percent support such a ban.  However, that support dropped to 38 percent when the people being polled are told that physicians’ modern technology can detect a heartbeat at six weeks.  That 12 percent change undoubtedly comes from men who aren’t too familiar with the menstrual cycle and its vagaries or with the psychology of women facing the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy.[3]  When they figure out they’ve been played, they shift position.

A Supreme Court decision endorsed by only one-third of the people and opposed by two-thirds of the people is going to be a problem.

[1] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 24 May 2019, p. 17.

[2] This referred to the “Missouri Compromise” (1821).

[3] Me neither, but I recognize that I’m not.

Memoirs of the Addams Administration 32.

Americans are deeply divided on the subject of abortion.  A clear majority (57 percent) support a right to abortion in all or almost all circumstances.  A large minority (40 percent) oppose a right to abortion in all or almost all cases.[1]  Among women, 38 percent believe that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, while 59 percent believe that it should be legal in all or most cases.  That’s a gap of 21 percent.  Among men, 55 percent think that it should be legal in all or most cases, while 42 percent think that it should be illegal in all or most situations.  That’s a gap of 13 percent.  On the other hand, 38 percent of women oppose abortion in all or most situations, while 42 percent of men oppose abortion.  Some 59 percent of women support a right to abortion, while 55 percent of men support a right to abortion.  So, pro-choice women are right to view men as the weaker vessel on this issue.

White Protestant evangelical Christians make up the most convinced group of abortion opponents.  Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of this group opposes abortion under all or almost all circumstances, while one-third favors a right to abortion in all or most circumstances.[2]  Then 76 percent of evangelicals are white, with another 11 percent being Hispanics.  Evangelicals are not rich: 86 percent have a family income under $100,000 a year and 57  percent have a family income under $57,000 a year.  They are less educated: 43 percent have a high school education or less; 35 percent have some college, but not a degree.  They are older, with about three-quarters born before 1985, with the biggest single group (35 percent) being Boomers.   The vast majority of them (79 percent) say that religion is very important in their lives.  However, evangelicals are evenly divided over the basis for judging right and wrong: 50 percent believe that there are clear standards and 48 percent believe that it depends on the situation.

In terms of political parties, 56 percent of evangelicals are Republican or lean in that direction, but 24 percent of them are Democrats on lean that way, and 16 percent identify as independents.[3]  Here’s the kicker: 55 percent of Evangelical Protestants are women, while 45 percent are men.[4]

However, possibly significant differences exist within both camps.  One quarter of Americans (25 percent) believe that abortion should be legal in all cases, while one-sixth (16 percent believe that it should be illegal in all cases.  OK, that settles that.  However, that leaves 32 percent who believe that abortion should be legal in most (but not all) cases and 24 percent who believe that it should be illegal in most (but not all) cases.

So, where is the middle ground?  Probably restricting abortion to the 20 week mark would be broadly acceptable.  If a woman is pregnant, but can’t decide, so be it.

Who will seize that middle ground?  Well, there are a big chunk of opponents of un-restricted abortion who are Democrats or potential Democratic voters.[5]  Is it worth a majority?

What’s wrong with a compromise?  First, it’s a rejection of a long-standing principle.  Second, it’s a rejection of a long-standing reality.  The War on Abortion will not work any better than/differently from the War on Drugs.  Or alcohol.  Or guns.  We already tried.


[2] In comparison, 53 percent of Catholics say it should be legal in all or most situations, and 44 percent say it should be illegal; while among black Protestants, 55 percent say that it should be legal and 41 percent say it should be illegal.

[3] The non-Republican evangelicals split 13 percent “liberal” and 24 percent “moderate.”

[4]  So this is not only a war by men on women.

[5] Natalie Andrews, “Abortion Splits Democrats,” WSJ, 14 August 2017.

Miss Celany 2015.

The US Navy has spent a lot of money developing a spy-fish. It’s five feet long, weighs a hundred pounds, looks like a blue-fin tuna, and swims. It’s loaded with all sorts of intelligence gear.[1] Now all we have to wait for one of them to end up in some fishing boat’s trawl net. There’s a funny movie in this.

Back in 1977, 56 percent of people aged 18 to 29 said that they had tried marijuana. In 2013, 36 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 said that they had tried marijuana. So, in a sense, it’s a generational thing. You wouldn’t understand. A 2014 academic study concluded that 76 percent of the marijuana consumers in the U.S. were people who never went to college or never finished, while about 17 percent of consumers were college graduates.[2] Whoa, dude.

In Summer 2007, almost 40 percent of births were to un-wed mothers. This was the highest level ever recorded.   The rate had risen among all racial groups. The biggest increases were among women in their twenties.[3] Then, between 2010 and early 2015, abortion rates in the US fell by 12 percent in both “red” and in ‘blue” states.[4] Fewer unwanted pregnancies or more children? Well, from 2010 to 2012 alone, the teen birth-rate dropped by 6 percent.[5] So, it looks like fewer unwanted pregnancies. Condoms are a dollar each at the CVS.   If it hasn’t been burned down or you have a thing about “taking a shower in a raincoat.”

Americans have gotten a lot bigger over recent decades. In the early 1960s the average man weighed 166.3 pounds; today the average man weighs 195.5 pounds. American women have kept pace, with the average woman now clocking in at 166.2 pounds. As a result of the increased size of real dummies, crash-test dummies have had to be scaled-up as well. Current dummies are based on the average weight of Americans back in the Sixties. One recently-developed prototype is based on a person who weighs 273 pounds.[6] How is this public opinion, you ask? Well, public opinion polling is about discovering beliefs. Apparently, a lot of Americans “believe I’ll have another helping.”

People have begun to complain that “radiation from cellphones, Wifi systems or smart meters causes them to suffer dizziness, fatigue, headaches, sleeplessness or heart palpitations.”[7] We are seeing the rise of “Electrosensitive people” and of “Electro-Americans.” (Kind of like John Boehner being the spokesman for “Orange Americans.” Can learning accommodations be far behind?

Back in 2013, Former President-in-Exile Al Gore was reported to be worth $300 million. That put him ahead of Never-Was-President Mitt Romney, who was reported to be worth between $190 and $260 million.[8] One of the chief criticisms made of Romney by Democrats was that his work at Bain Capital often led to job losses. I haven’t found any overall total for these job losses. One story on just four companies put the total at about 6,000 jobs lost.[9] As an environmental activist, Al Gore opposes burning coal. There are about 174,000 working-class jobs in the coal-mining industry.[10]

[1] “Noted,” The Week, 26 December 2014, p. 20.

[2] “Noted,” The Week, 27 March 2015, p. 16.

[3] “Noted,” The Week, 20 July 2007, p. 18.

[4] “Noted,” The Week, 19 June 2015, p. 14.

[5] “Noted,” The Week, 27 September 2013, p. 16.

[6] “Noted,” The Week, 26 June 2015, p. 14; “Noted,” The Week, 14 November 2014, p. 18.

[7] NYT, 31 January 2011, p. A12.

[8] “Noted,” The Week, 8 February 2013, p. 18.