Friday, January 20, 2006

Federalism: not for the faint of heart

The Supreme Court has spoken - and it's with a heavy heart that I admit I agree with their ruling, and can't imagine why Scalia and Thomas dissented. I can imagine why they might have disagreed with the Oregon law, as I do, but not why they dissented from the majority opinion that the Federal government does not have jurisdiction over this area of American life. (Roberts, I don't know well enough yet.)

I hate that law. My father, I understand, loves it, for reasons he and I don't discuss. I consider it one of the depths of depravity to involve healers in suicide. I don't doubt that doctors faced with their patients' pain and desire for release may feel an impulse to help them achieve that release - good doctors, at any rate, ought to empathize with their patients this way, just as family members sometimes pray for the speedy (or "happy," in the old Catholic formula) death of a loved one in agony. But to take the next step by bringing about that death - that's a line I believe we ought not to invite doctors to cross. (I also fear that today's allowing doctors to prescribe lethal doses of drugs for terminal patients could too easily evolve into tomorrow's mandating that they do so, a la the Plan B pharmacist debates. And can anyone doubt that there will be pharmacists who, still committed to their own principles, will refuse to fill these prescriptions? But these concerns of mine are for later days.)

However. This ruling is closely analogous to Roe v. Wade, this time decided in a strict-constructionist fashion. The repeal of Roe no longer looks like such an impossibility. I reluctantly see this ruling as a victory for Life, because if Roe is overturned and the legality of abortion returns to State legislatures, there is a chance that some, perhaps many States will outlaw late-term abortions, that some will enact limits on second-trimester abortions, that one or two may ban abortion altogether (probably with the usual medical exception), and a certainty that each of the fifty States will have the freedom to explore a range of policy options. Jane Galt addresses this point this week.

Now, it becomes incumbent on me to try to prevent Pennsylvania from passing a law similar to Oregon's. That, friends and neighbors, is federalism, and it's not for the faint of heart.

1 comment:

Gahrie said...

Jamie..I actually discuss why they dissented on my blog. Basically, it is a case of Stare Decisis. The Court had just basically ruled exactly the opposite way in the California medical marijuana case, and Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia and Thomas were making the point that either you have to follow that precedent, or explicitly reverse the California decision.