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Focusing on the possible

Observer Viewpoint | Thursday, October 13, 2005

Mr. Anthony J. Lauinger totally misunderstood what Dean Mark Roche was getting at in his New York Times op-ed. He was reminding his readers of certain realities of American political life, one of which is that abortion is not going away, whether we like it or not. Even if Roe v. Wade were overruled tomorrow, the incidence of abortion in America would not substantially subside. Indeed, various states were beginning to liberalize their anti-abortion laws well before the Roe decision. What is possible, however, is a substantial reduction in the frequency of abortion, assuming the political will to achieve this result. But no such will manifested itself in the recent presidential election campaign.

The Republican attack on Roe v. Wade during the campaign was more symbolic than real. The Republicans were the abstract moralists. Why? Because, as anti-tax free marketeers, they were – and remain – totally unwilling to adopt the social programs, employment policies, child-care facilities and financial support services that would encourage women to carry their pregnancies to term. The European experience shows that governmental programs of this nature help to facilitate pro-life decisions on the part of women contemplating abortion. And if they work in Europe, they should work here. In short, I read Dean Roche’s op-ed as a call for moral realism – not absolutism – rooted in the political art of the possible.

Donald Kommersprofessor of political science and lawOct. 12