Campaigns/Elections

Roe OK, Not Roe OK

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In last night's debate, Rudy Giuliani clarified his abortion position by announcing that he is agnostic on the question of whether Roe v. Wade should be overturned:

It would be OK to repeal it. It would be OK also if a strict constructionist judge viewed it as precedent, and I think a judge has to make that decision….The court has to make that decision and then the country can deal with it. We're a federalist system of government and states can make their own decisions.

While I agree that abortion is an issue that should be left to the states, an approach Giuliani deems "OK" if not actually preferable, I'm having trouble understanding this latest equivocation, let alone buying it. Giuliani is a lawyer and a former federal prosecutor who says he would appoint "strict constructionists" to the Supreme Court, but he has no opinion on the legal merits of Roe? He can go either way on the question of whether it's consistent with the Constitution? And why would a "strict constructionist judge" be especially committed to the Court's own precedents when they fly in the face of what the Constitution requires? Combine that implication with Giuliani's statement that strict construction stops states from violating individual rights, apparently including the right to abortion, and you've got quite a muddle.

Then there's the issue of taxpayer funding for abortions. Last night Giuliani said he opposes federal funding but believes states should be left to make their own decisions in this area. That's a perfectly defensible legal position, but it's inconsistent with his bizarre suggestion that the Constitution requires public funding of abortions, since a woman can't exercise her right to choose if she can't afford one. This alleged constitutional requirement presumably would evaporate if the Supreme Court repealed Roe, a prospect regarding which Giuliani claims to be indifferent.

It's hard to tell what Giuliani actually believes, but maybe it's something like this: Abortion is an evil that should be avoided when possible, but it's not the sort of evil the government should prohibit. A pregnant woman has a right to decide whether to give birth or have an abortion, but it's not a constitutional right. This is a coherent position, although many people obviously would disagree. Is it so dangerous for him to candidly state his actual views that it's better to be perceived as a mealy-mouthed flip-flopper?