Using Ron Paul’s abortion position as a jumping off point, Joe Carter makes the case against applying federalism to life issues, arguing that doing so attaches greater significance to the rights of governments than the rights of individuals. In no particular order, a few quick rejoinders.
First, Ron Paul has voted for national pro-life legislation. Of particular relevance to this discussion, Paul voted for the partial-birth abortion ban, the first federal law against an abortion procedure since Roe v. Wade. Despite having concerns about the bill conceding too much ground to supporters of abortion and evan some constitutional objections, Paul explained that he decided to err on the side of life. So it is simply mistaken to say that pro-life federalists generally or Paul in particular won’t ever take any federal pro-life action.
Second, Carter seems to assume we have a pro-life federal government in place that would stop the pro-choice states from running amuck. That assumption seems to me to be in error, and Terri Schiavo is not a very good example for the federal-state dynamic on life issues more generally. In many cases, federal pro-life proposals like the human life amendment are politically untenable symbolism that allow politicians to assume a pro-life posture without saving a single life. By contrast, the increase in state pro-life legislation after 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision contributed to the drop in the number of abortions during the 1990s, even when pro-choice Democrats ran the federal government.