The Quiet End To Roe v. Wade?

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 21 2011 @ 2:32pm


Dahlia Lithwick asserts that "for all practical purposes women can't get an abortion in Ohio, North Dakota, or Florida":

The conservatives on the [Supreme] court are much happier with the status quo, allowing abortion as a matter of federal law while the states effectively outlaw it as a matter of fact. If the states continue to hollow out Roe from the core, there will be no reason for the court to hear an abortion case ever again.

Ramesh Ponnuru is dumbfounded by this argument:

Ohio’s government reported 29,000 abortions in 2009, the last year for which data is available.

Ramesh is misreading, I think, a poorly constructed sentence. The full sentence, after detailing why the pro-choice movement has become leery of judicial challenges to state laws violating Roe, is:

The end result is that Roe remains on the books, while for all practical purposes women can't get an abortion in Ohio, North Dakota, or Florida.

My italics. The logic of the whole piece is that this is a likely future, not a present reality. But it's easy to misread. What's dismaying is that this sloppy sentence leads Ponnuru to dismiss Lithwick's entire body of work as fallacious. It's anything but.

(Photo: Anti-abortion and pro-choice demonstrators argue in front of the Supreme Court during the March for Life January 24, 2011 in Washington, DC. The annual march marks the anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision by the court that made abortion legal in the United States. By Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)