Saturday night’s Republican debate on ABC revealed a startling deficiency in the Presidential field regarding the understanding of legal underpinnings of the abortion debate.
Yes, George Stephanopolous’ question about outlawing contraception might seem bizarre in a modern context. But the question goes to the heart of the landmark Griswold v. Connecticut Supreme Court decision that established the right to privacy that provided the basis for Roe v. Wade.
Romney in particular seemed very ignorant of this intellectual lineage of Roe. This is especially uninspiring in a candidate who has changed his position on the issue.
There’s an argument that a reversal of Roe would necessarily reverse Griswold, and would eliminate a generalized individualized right to privacy. That’s why Democratic Senators always ask prominent judicial nominees if they believe in a right to privacy. (There’s also an incorrect assumption among many that reversing Roe would make abortion illegal at the national level. A simple reversal of Roe would actually return regulation of abortion to the states, where, at the time of the Roe decision, there was an early trend toward liberalization.)
When George Stephanopolous asks whether a state would have the right to ban contraception -- AS CONNECTICUT ACTUALLY DID from 1879 to 1965-- he is asking a legally and philosophically relevant question, if not an electorally pertinent one.
It speaks very poorly of the pro-life movement that the importance of this question was lost on the GOP front-runner and much of the audience.
It really shouldn’t be that hard to distinguish Griswold from Roe. A candidate could simply state that individual privacy exists, but doesn’t extend to the killing of the unborn. Pro-lifers need to give better answers on the privacy question, and it is shameful that they seem unable to do so.