Palin on Roe

I must confess I have been unable to force myself to watch the entirety of Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric. The parts I did see made me wince. So it was only today, via Rod Dreher, that I learned what she had to say about Roe vs Wade.

Keep in mind that, for social conservatives, the prime justification for having Palin on the ticket is that she is demonstrably and personally pro-life. For all McCain's faults, with Palin as VP we have a foot in the door at the White House, and maybe a chance to get one of our own in the big office someday. Right? Now read this:

Couric: Why, in your view, is Roe v. Wade a bad decision?

Sarah Palin: I think it should be a states' issue not a federal government-mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I'm, in that sense, a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. Now, foundationally, also, though, it's no secret that I'm pro-life that I believe in a culture of life is very important for this country. Personally that's what I would like to see further embraced by America.

Couric: Do you think there's an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

Palin: I do. Yeah, I do.

Couric: The cornerstone of Roe v. Wade.

Palin: I do. And I believe that individual states can best handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in an issue like that.

OK. Palin sounds like someone who has the right instincts. She does not sound like someone who has wrestled with the philosophical and legal basis of her beliefs. There are two huge problems with what she said.

First, she says abortion should be up to the states. This line of reasoning was wrong when applied to slavery in the 19th century, and it's wrong now. Government at all levels must defend certain fundamental human rights. These include - as the Declaration of Independence says - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Life is the foundation, and states have no right to take it away from innocent people. She is taking essentially the same position that Fred Thompson did in the GOP primary campaign. Plenty of us roundly criticized Thompson for it at the time. For the most part, Palin is now getting a pass.

Second, Palin thinks the Constitution contains a "right to privacy." Roe vs Wade notwithstanding, most legal scholars find no such thing and regard Roe's logic as laughable, even when they agree with its result. Yet we are told that Palin can be counted on to influence McCain's judicial appointments more in the conservative, originalist direction? I think not, if this interview reflects her judicial philosophy.

Abortion will almost certainly come up in tonight's debate, and I hope we hear something from Palin to clarify these remarks. Otherwise, I suspect a wave of buyer's remorse will sweep over the people who have so lionized her for the last month. The more we learn about Palin, the less she lives up to the reasons McCain supposedly picked her. This momentum needs to change, and it needs to happen fast, or else Obama will win in a rout.

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