The pervasiveness of abortion in America is getting a second look. As left-leaning Democrats push for up-to-birth (and in Virginia after birth) killing of a child, Republicans are re-staking a moral claim for the opposite – preserving life of the unborn child. The issue is becoming – along with all-out government control of the medical, transportation, energy and other sectors of government – a wedge issue in 2020.
As if entering a time tunnel, old and long-settled issues – like the immorality of killing children, moral bankruptcy of the Soviet Union, Cuba and socialism – are returning. The specter is at once scary and awakening. History is never, it seems, over. It is easily forgotten, along with the most basic elements of moral compass. What one generation taught, the next forgot – and forgets to teach.
So, on the numbers, here is what is happening on the abortion issue. Facts are worth knowing, as they affect 2020 and beyond. First, on the plus side, trend data indicate that, even as 25 percent of babies conceived in New York are aborted each year – a shocking number – national trends are downward.
The Wall Street Journal, for example, reports 2014 saw “14.6 abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44, the lowest rate observed in the US since 1973, when abortion became legal in all states.” Sadly, 2014 still saw 926,200 abortions.
Similarly, a 2016 New England Journal of Medicine report indicated that 2011 was the lowest year for “unplanned births since 1981,” with an 18 percent drop from 2008. Anecdotal and political assessments suggest other trends – including public disapproval of late-term abortion – are also turning south.
But what is actually happening, and why is this likely to become a major issue in 2020? On demographic data, one could assess that disapproval of abortion (especially later term abortion), approval of non-traditional and unmarried child-bearing, public reinforcement for adoptions, rising contraceptive implants and intrauterine devices, and other indicia are producing fewer abortions.
One could also assess that, as in other areas of social, societal and public policy, there is a growing polarization on this issue. Just as there are growing numbers of militant socialists, advocates for increased government intrusion into private lives and personal liberties, there are a growing number of vocal pro-abortion (at any time) local, state and national leaders.
While still a minority, they continue to lurch leftward – with New York Democrats openly cheering a late-term, legalized kill law, signed by Democrat Governor Cuomo, and then Virginia Democrats cheering (or not vocally opposing) Virginia Governor Northam’s defense of killing a newborn, as long as doctor and parent agree and infant is “made comfortable” prior to the “procedure.” The horror of this ghastly turn to the totalitarian left is not often reported, but the facts are a matter of record. They are arresting, and will stay that way through 2020.
There is more returning abortion to center stage. The Trump Administration’s Health and Human Services Department – with congressional Republicans – has methodically reviewed prevailing regulations. Most recently, they resolved – again according to a Wall Street Journal report – that “health clinics that provide on-site abortions, or refer women to the procedure, are set to lose millions of dollars in federal family-planning funds,” pursuant to a new rule that requires a “separation” – both physical and financial – of grants for health care and facilities performing abortions.
This change is significant. While likely aimed at Planned Parenthood (which many in Congress view as an oxymoron), the rule tailors Title X funding toward clinics that discourage abortions. In effect, the rule allows clinics that do not perform or support abortions, as a matter of medical practice or conscience, to be protected – while still supporting other types of important health care services. Advocates of the rule – particularly in context of recent pro-abortion laws – observe that abortion is neither health care nor family planning, so does not fit within the strictures of the law.
Not surprisingly, while this rule harkens back to Ronald Reagan and more traditional definitions of health care, families, and planning for families, it is being abruptly challenged by those in the Democrat party who believe all taxpayers should be docked – or that is it is fair to dock all taxpayers – to support abortion services nationwide. Expect this issue to surface in 2020, as a left-tilting Democrat field emerges.
Third, most informed voters know that the US Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, which curiously found and then sought to articulate a non-textual constitutional right to abortion, under the rubric “penumbra of privacy.” Not surprisingly, as more legislatures seek to stop abortions – through “heart beat” and related bills, the polarized state level debate is producing radical new pro-abortion bills.
In a world where you can count on little, here is something to count on: This contest for ultimate constitutional understanding, whether our US Constitution contains a right to kill a child in womb or not, will reach the Supreme Court. The penultimate question is: What court will it reach? And that question is as likely as not to be determined by the 2020 election.
In other words, for reasons near and far, factual and legal, constitutional and regulatory – a genuine storm is brewing. It surrounds the idea, practice, physical and moral impact, legal definition and true nature of an eight-letter word – abortion. That word will, sooner or later, fall before a nine-member court, the highest court in the land – for final adjudication. And the composition of that court will be decided, in all likelihood, by the 2020 Presidential and Senate races.
So, there you have it. The abortion issue – already pervasive in public conscience, profound and persistent in our private ones – will make its way to the US Supreme Court. Count on that. The Trump Administration – and splintering, radical, left-leaning States, too – are assuring the issue rises to that level.
And so, just looking ahead, recent weeks have been significant. They animate debates now, but they also cast a long shadow forward – to 2020 and beyond. Abortion is again a wedge issue, and the wedge is acute, the differences sharp, getting sharper. The US Supreme Court – who will sit on it – becomes ever more important, to both sides. This issue is on a fast-track to defining moral compass of left and right, Democrats and Republicans, in 2020. It rivals the socialist turn by Democrats, and will bring many to the polls. Stay tuned.