Debate: SCOTUS & GOP in Relation to Abortion Rates

Debate: SCOTUS & GOP in Relation to Abortion Rates November 15, 2018

Scott Eric Alt, my friend and a pro-lifer who proudly voted Democrat in November 2018, wrote on his Facebook page on 13-14 November (his words in blue henceforth):

The majority opinion in Roe v Wade was written by Harry Blackmun. Blackmun was appointed by Nixon.

The dissent in Roe v Wade was written by Byron White. White was appointed by JFK.

The majority opinion in Planned Parenthood v Casey was written by Sandra Day O’Connor (Reagan appointee), Anthony Kennedy (Reagan appointee), and David Souter (Bush 41 appointee).

Tell me again how voting Republican “because SCOTUS” is going to stop abortion.

I wrote in my article: “Do Democratic Presidents Cause Fewer Abortions to Occur?” (National Catholic Register, 2-28-18):

The Supreme Court, in 1989 (Webster v. Reproductive Health Services) allowed significant abortion restrictions for the first time since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

It was basically a 5-4 decision: the majority being all Republican appointees (Scalia, O’Connor, Kennedy and Rehnquist), except for Byron White, who was appointed by JFK in 1962, and is the last Democrat-appointed Justice to ever vote pro-life in Supreme Court decisions in any respect whatsoever.

The more complex Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision (1992), continued this trend (at least in some respects), and so since that time, massive (now legally permissible) restrictions on the state level (overwhelmingly voted for by Republicans) have caused the numbers of abortions to significantly lower, so that in 2014 they were 46 percent of what they were in 1990 (652,639). If anyone has a better explanation, I’m all ears. . . .

In April 2017, President trump signed into law a bill allowing states to defund Planned Parenthood. I looked up the votes. The bill passed without a single Democrat Senator voting in favor of it. In the House, of Democrats who voted (12 didn’t), two voted for it, 186 against it (99 percent to 1 percent against). For Republicans, two voted against, 228 in favor (99.1 percent to 0.9 percent in favor).

This means that there were two Democrat members of the U.S. Congress, including both houses, who voted to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood.

Webster v PP involved one state–Missouri. The “restrictions” had nothing to do with access to abortions or limitations upon abortion itself, only upon the use of state resources.

Whatever the legal details, the fact remains that states have passed a massive number of restrictions since 1989, and these are always overwhelmingly dominated by Republicans.

This lowers the numbers of abortions. Yet pro-lifers like you keep voting for the folks who vote against saving lives: the ones who see nothing whatever wrong with abortion: even though you do. It makes no sense.

Such votes certainly don’t lower abortion, because they are precisely the same votes that pro-aborts make. They know who furthers their agenda.

If a state were to say, “Okay, heart surgery is legal, but we’re not going to fund it. You guys gotta get your own private insurance or pay for it yourself” … you think that would lower the number of heart surgeries?

It’s not hypothetical. The numbers are dramatically lower, and it has happened since 1990, because of Webster. You play games with words and analogies. I look at the actual statistics and plausible reasons for them.

Yet you pro-lifers who continue to vote for Democrats somehow think that this will lower abortions. Right: put in the men and women who fight every abortion restriction at every turn. It’s some of most bizarre “reasoning” I have ever observed: almost like Orwellian doublethink.

That’s the real world. Roe’s not going anywhere anytime soon (perhaps not for the remainder of my lifetime). Restrictions are the biggest (not the only) way pro-lifers can save lives now. And to do that, we obviously have to vote Republican, because pro-life Democrat politicians are as rare as dodo birds anymore.

I also dealt more specifically with the SCOTUS issue in a Facebook reply to Sam Rocha a little over two years ago:

The problem with your analysis of the Supreme Court is that it doesn’t continue into recent history.

The last Democrat-appointed pro-life Justice is Byron White (JFK, 1962). For Republicans it’s a mixed record, but at least it is that. Here are the appointments under Republican Presidents since Reagan and how they turned out on the life issue:

O’Connor (Reagan) = mixed record
Scalia (Reagan) = pro-life
Kennedy (Reagan; replacement for Robert Bork, who was Borked) = mixed record

Souter (H. W. Bush) = pro-abort
Thomas (H. W. Bush) = pro-life

Roberts (W. Bush) = pro-life
Alito (W. Bush) = pro-life

So the tally is:

Pro-life: 4
Mixed record: 2
Pro-aborts: 1

That’s pretty damned good, if you ask me. This is the only way we have limited Roe at all. Kennedy joined in the partial-birth abortion ban ruling, for a 5-4 decision.

By contrast, the last pro-life Justice appointed by a Democrat was Byron White (1962), who retired in 1993.

And you want to argue that there is no difference between the parties in this respect?

I think we see why you didn’t go into detail about recent appointments by the GOP. Most analyses of this sort don’t . . . You’re stuck back in 1973. Those appointees were from Nixon and Eisenhower, who were not conservatives, but moderates. Ford also put in another pro-abort because he was a moderate, too. You talk about Sandra Day O’Connor, but neglect to mention Reagan’s other two appointees: Scalia and Bork.

You say it is a “terrible bet to make” (to believe that Trump will appoint pro-life Justices, or that among other things). He has provided a list of judges, and rock-solid conservative groups have widely hailed his choices. That’s about as good as it gets. There’s no absolute guarantee that a person won’t become more liberal over time (just like — ahem — you did). It happens. People are free agents.

You say, “there is no historical precedent for the party nominating a justice getting what they want from that justice.”

Really? I don’t know what alternative universe this comes from. The Democrats have gotten 100% pro-abortion rulings from their appointees since Byron White retired in 1993.

And our record isn’t that bad, either. Reagan would have been 2 for 3 had Bork not been viciously savaged and eliminated by the liberals, led by a sanctimonious and idiotic Joe Biden in the Senate committee.

Older Bush had a 50% record (sadly, he followed the advice of John Sununu, who recommended Souter).

Younger Bush had a 100% pro-life record in appointments.

It’s not rocket science at this juncture to know the better choice, in terms of the Court and the election. With Hillary we get a radical pro-abort, with hardly any doubt. It’s more likely that the Second Coming will occur in the next four years than that Hillary’s appointment will be pro-life.

With Trump, the record since Reagan shows that the chances of obtaining a pro-life Justice is 57% (4 out of 7); but really it is 71% (5 out of 7) because Reagan’s actual third choice was Robert Bork, who would have certainly been pro-life (he also converted to Catholicism after that time). And it’s actually higher, because O’Connor and Kennedy did make some pro-life decisions before they became more more liberal.

71+% chance vs. virtually 0%. This is NOT a difficult choice. If one regards pro-life as THE most important issue, as I do, it’s clear and obvious.

Alex Markels, in an NPR article, “Supreme Court’s Evolving Rulings on Abortion” (11-30-05), stated:

[About Webster (1989)]: In Webster, the court upheld a Missouri state ban on the use of public employees and facilities for performing abortions — effectively reversing course and demonstrating that Roe wasn’t necessarily “settled law” that confined future revisions. . . . Speaking for the minority, Justice Blackmun wrote that the ruling made clear that “a chill wind blows” for those who support Roe.

[About PP v. Casey (1992) ]: By establishing what was effectively a lower standard for state involvement in abortion decisions, Casey significantly weakened Roe.

A pro-abortion article, “How Difficult Is It To Get An Abortion? Here Are The Laws For Every State.” (10-18-18) opined:

Last year, we wrote about how the pro-life movement is slowly winning the war to overturn Roe v. Wade, and although reproductive rights face constant assault at the federal level, it is the war being waged against abortion at the state level that should give pro-choice advocates pause. Since our report last year on abortion laws in each state, so much has already changed. In the first three months of 2018, 347 measures to restrict abortion or birth control had been introduced in 37 states, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Ten new restrictions on abortion were adopted in five states. Several states have put extreme restrictions in place since Trump’s election: Iowa tried to ban abortion at six weeks, well before many women even know they are pregnant; Mississippi also tried to ban the procedure at 15 weeks; Arizona now requires women to explain why they are seeking an abortion.

Do these folks believe that President Trump is pro-life? Yep:

Although critics will argue Trump’s pivot to being pro-life was purely opportunistic, he has in fact been keeping his word: He expanded the global gag rule, which blocks federal aid to foreign organizations that provide abortions; nominated two anti-choice justices to the U.S. Supreme Court; and has continued Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood.

Enemies of a position will always make clear who actually holds and fights for the position they oppose.

I actually agree with restrictions in the short run. Those are best done on the local level, which is why my OP said voting Republican because SCOTUS. I’m limiting this to the federal government.

Webster, which you cite, is no different than ruling that states can prohibit state dollars from funding insurance for such things. This is not a moral evaluation upon abortion itself. Abortion is incidental to what this ruling was about. “You may have a right to x, but the state doesn’t have to fund x.” You could fill in x with anything under the sun. 

Meanwhile, when the state is not funding abortion, the well-off, who don’t need the funding, keep getting abortions in the same numbers, even though they are also the ones best able to afford children.

Meanwhile, the poor, who can least afford children, and who also lack state assistance for everything in addition to abortion that you can put in for that “x” (things that might help them afford the children) are the ones who the Webster decision actually impacts.

The solution to abortion is a moral one–a pro-life morality about the child’s right to life as well as the state’s responsibility for social justice. Behind Webster is a philosophy that permits the state to avoid social justice. It’s not at all a right-to-life ethic. Otherwise the same Court that ruled as it did in Webster would have overturned Roe in Casey.

Wikipedia notes in its article on Planned Parenthood v. Casey:

Planned Parenthood v. Casey differs from Roe, however, because under Roe the state could not regulate abortions in the first trimester whereas under Planned Parenthood v. Casey the state can regulate abortions at any point prior to fetal viability (when a fetus is able to live outside of the mother’s womb) and beyond as long as that regulation does not pose an undue burden on the woman.

It was precisely because of SCOTUS rulings Webster and PP v. Casey that these restrictions were allowed. States couldn’t pass them before that (1989).

Thus, SCOTUS appointments remain central in the voting considerations of any pro-lifer. If Hillary had won, there is no doubt whatsoever that the court would be 6-3 pro-abort. And many if not all of these restrictions would be made illegal again. All they would need is one court case and the whole apparatus pro-lifers have achieved since 1989 would be struck down and we would be back to Roe, and probably partial-birth infanticide again, too (which Hillary enthusiastically defended in a presidential debate).

We would agree that only a spiritual revival will ultimately end legal abortion. I’ve said that for at least 30 years now: when most of the prominent new pro-lifers now were in diapers (or barely potty-trained). It’s not a sentiment that only left-wing pro-lifers understand.

Meanwhile, we have saved hundreds of thousands of babies, with no thanks or help from Democrats and pro-lifers who continue to inexplicably vote for them.

The number of abortions nationwide has been decreasing steadily since 1990, independent of whether Democrats or Republicans have been in control.

Indeed. I stated that in my NCR article. Glad to hear you state that, since some pro-lifers claim that they go up under Republicans and down under Democrats. Nope. I provided the actual data.

Attributing it solely to laws passed since 1989 is post hoc ergo propter hoc, and correlation is causation, unless other variables are considered.

The opinion that it is largely or primarily because of numerous abortion restrictions makes perfect sense to me, and is utterly plausible. It’s not mere coincidence or happenstance that abortions started dramatically reducing at that time.

The Guttmacher Institute, which is responsible for these numbers, noted that abortion has been declining in every state, even those with very liberal abortion laws.

I’m delighted to hear that. I wouldn’t contend that law is the only factor, anyway (which is why I have held forever that spiritual revival is necessary to end the whole scourge). I’m glad to hear this data, that proves or verifies that there are non-legal pro-life (or at least opposition to personal procuring of abortion) causes at play, too: precisely as I would have thought.

“A more important driver of the declining abortion rate, Jones said, appears to be improved access to contraception, particularly long-acting birth control options like IUDs.” [source: NPR]

The NPR claim seems somewhat plausible, but I don’t think it’s the main driver behind the reductions because contraceptive use has traditionally correlated with higher rates of abortion. In fact, contraception was a key component of the abortion mentality both legally (Griswold case in 1965, that established the “right to privacy”) and socially.

Being more sexually active usually correlates with both higher contraceptive use and higher rates of abortion (for obvious reasons). So to say that more contraception is the main cause of a drop in abortions is too simplistic. I contend that it may be a minor contributing cause, but no more than that.

By the same token, many women are now RU-486: and those abortions may not be recorded for the statistics (I’m not sure about the latter point).

Data in support of my argument:

“Contraception Leads to More Abortions” (Fr. Shenan J. Boquet, Human Life International, 10-30-17)

“Contraception and Abortion: The Deadly Connection” (Judie Brown, American Life League, 2000)

“The Connection between contraception and Abortion” (Dr. Janet E. Smith, Homiletic & Pastoral Review, April 1993)

The GI cites the IUD as a particular factor, so you have to weigh that against correlation with contraception in the aggregate, including more and less reliable forms.

Your last few posts, condensed: You’re right, just what I would have expected, always said it, but I’m especially right.

The one area of dispute is whether voting Republican is (1) why there are declining abortion rates; (2) worth the added baggage to get the declining rates.

(2) doesn’t get addressed; (1) is assumed, while conceding that factors apart from it are also in play, while conceding that abortion rates have gone down even in solid blue states with the most liberal abortion laws. 

That’s a very weak argument, as I see it.

I’ve provided lots of back-up argumentation. I would say that yours is the weak argument: long on dubious assumptions and leftish talking-points and short on facts and documentation. Let readers decide! That’s the beauty of dialogue.
Thanks for engaging in a dialogue minus the acrimony. At least I can talk to you one-on-one like a human being, since you don’t claim to be a Prophet for Our Times.
If abortions have gone down because of restrictions passed by Republicans, how is it that abortions have also gone down in New York and New Jersey–states with no restrictions (except for New York’s restriction on abortions after 24 weeks, which dates to before 1970)?

I already answered above:

1) “I wouldn’t contend that law is the only factor, anyway . . . I’m glad to hear this data, that proves or verifies that there are non-legal pro-life (or at least opposition to personal procuring of abortion) causes at play, too: precisely as I would have thought.”

2) “By the same token, many women are now RU-486: and those abortions may not be recorded for the statistics (I’m not sure about the latter point).”

I don’t know all the ins and outs, but that’s my best guess. The really implausible view, in my opinion, is to flat-out deny that all these hundreds of restrictive laws have had no effect: that reductions are caused not at all — or hardly at all — by those, but totally by other factors.

We know that the pro-aborts are concerned about state restrictions because — again — how advocates for any position regard opposition tells much about the nature and effectiveness of the opposition. And so I cited a pro-abort article above: “the pro-life movement is slowly winning the war to overturn Roe v. Wade . . . it is the war being waged against abortion at the state level that should give pro-choice advocates pause.”

It goes on to cite all the restrictive laws being passed. Thus, we know from the reaction that they are very concerned about it, and they are because they know that such laws lower the numbers of abortions and also can potentially chip away Roe: death by a thousand cuts.

I found a pro-abortion Guttmacher article which explained that between 2008-2011 abortion rates declined, but to different degrees in different areas: midwest: 17%, west: 15%, south: 12%, and northeast: 9%. It noted that New York and New Jersey had some of the highest abortion rates, but the decrease was less. That seems to me perfectly in accord with my view: the rate went down, but less so than in more restrictive and more pro-life states.

As for RU-486, another pro-abortion article stated:

Medical abortion — meaning any abortion induced by drugs as opposed to achieved through surgery — constitutes the majority of abortions in many parts of Europe: 70 percent in Switzerland, 83 percent in Sweden, and 94 percent in Finland. . . .But the abortion pill amounts to only 36 percent of domestic abortions within the first nine weeks of pregnancy, at least in 2011, the most recent statistic available. That same year brought a slew of restrictive regulation which impacted medical abortion availability — and, consequently, its use.

If 36% of early abortions (which are the vast majority of abortions) are medical ones, this is a figure that roughly corresponds to the decreased total number and might go a long way to explaining them. This second article cited the first one above, by Guttmacher.

But it would depend whether RU-486 abortions were included in the total number.


When the Democrats are in charge, the abortion rates go down for other reasons.

When Republicans are in charge, they go down specifically because of Republican laws.

This is very convenient. 

What’s the argument for voting Republican if they go down regardless?

You’d really have to do a thorough study to show that they go down in greater percentages in the states with greater restrictions as opposed to states with lesser restrictions–and **then** show that the abortion drop is not adequately explained by variables apart from restrictions.

Guttmacher found that though abortion rates are down, births are not up. This suggests the drop in abortions is explained by contraception. At best, the states with greater restrictions might have the effect of driving more women to contraception.

Restrictive laws can hardly be a cause for a decline in liberal, pro-abort states, if they don’t exist there! Thus (as I have long since conceded) there must be other reasons for the decline in those so-called “enlightened” and “progressive” states. But I have shown that the decline is less, which supports my case. The state-by-state restrictions that Republicans put into place are having a significant effect in the states where they have passed.

My opinion — reiterated several times now — is that the primary — not the only — reason implemented almost solely by Republican legislators and governors). Secondary reasons might be greater effective use of contraception (I already granted that), RU-486, and other unknown factors.

I provided three in-depth articles, however, explaining how contraceptive use, generally speaking, makes abortion rates go up, not down. One was by Janet Smith, a very respected Catholic moral theologian (who teaches here in Detroit). I’m the one that has been providing almost all of the documented evidences through articles, and you have summarily ignored most of that, including the three on the relationship of contraception to abortion.

As always, I trust that fair-minded readers can read this dialogue and make up their own mind as to which case is more plausible and believable and explanatory (and concerning who presented more actual evidence, rather than bald opinion minus same).


Photo credit: depiction of a partial-birth abortion [infanticide], from “Grim technology for Abortion’s Older Victims” (Jenny Westberg, Life Advocate).


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