Friday, January 27, 2006
Abortion Polls and Senator Feinstein's Theory of Relativity
I really couldn’t believe what I heard Sen. Feinstein say one recent Sunday morning on Fox News. In fact, her comments were so startling, I didn’t trust my ears. I had to go to the instant-replay to confirm it. My ears were fine. Her comments were not.
Sen. Feinstein said, “The American people, according to the latest ABC poll are 60 percent supportive of Roe.” I couldn’t believe my ears because I recently analyzed a number of abortion polls, including the same ABC News/Washington Post poll (published Dec. 21, 2005) referenced by the senator. The poll asked respondents when abortion should be legal:
· 17%, legal in all cases
· 40%, legal in most cases
· 27%, illegal in most cases
· 13%, illegal in all cases
· 3%, unsure
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to find the 60 percent Sen. Feinstein was referring to:
“legal in all cases” + “legal in most cases” + “unsure” = 60 percent
The addition might be simple, but the logic is fatally flawed. The answer derived is flat out wrong. And it isn’t just the obvious stretch of including the “unsure” category in the equation. The real whopper is that Roe v. Wade did not make abortion “legal in most cases.” It legalized abortion in essentially all cases.
Feinstein’s math is based on the principle that even though “legal in most cases” isn’t exactly Roe, it is support for some form of abortion. In a figurative sense, it’s a relative of Roe. Though not technically the same, the two are related. Though obviously flawed, this creative form of math is so frequently used it deserves an official title. In honor of one of its most ardent practitioners, I propose we name it “Feinstein’s Theory of Relativity.”
I know some of you are gnashing your teeth at this point. You think “legal in most cases” should be counted as support for Roe because you actually believe that Roe, in theory, restricts some cases of second and third trimester abortion. I believe it can be proven that theory and practice are two different things when it comes to Roe. However, I’m willing to go along with the illusion of Roe actually restricting abortion because it doesn’t change the fact that Roe lacks majority support even when presented in this most favorable light.
Here’s the proof. The “legal in most cases” category is ambiguous enough that respondents could interpret it to mean anything from almost always legal to legal only under very tight restrictions. When a more discerning set of questions was asked in another recent poll conducted by the Los Angeles Times (Jan. 2005), the following results were recorded:
24%, legal in all cases
19%, legal in most cases
41%, illegal with a few exceptions (specifically, cases of rape, incest and to save a mother’s life)
12%, illegal in all cases
Isn’t the difference interesting and enlightening? If we take the most liberal interpretation of the data possible and assume that everyone in the “legal in most cases” category supports Roe, then 43 percent of Americans support Roe, 53 percent do not and 4 percent are undecided. Moreover, the 53 percent who don’t support Roe would change it radically if given the opportunity—abortion would only be legal in cases of rape, incest and to save the mother’s life.
These two polls are not anomalies. I’ve reviewed every abortion poll I could find and the results are always the same. Don’t take my word for it. You can check it out for yourself. You will find that on average approximately 40 percent support Roe, 40 percent support abortion only in cases of rape, incest and protection of the mother’s life, and 15 percent would not allow an abortion under any circumstances. Thus a majority of approximately 55 percent would change Roe significantly if given the chance at the ballot box.
I hope you are now wondering why you’ve never read or heard a report from mainstream media that begins with the headline “Poll Finds a Majority of Americans Oppose Roe v. Wade.” Do you think it’s possible that reporters and editors consistently ask misleading questions and then apply Feinstein’s Theory of Relativity to the data collected? I’ll leave that up to you. But the next time you hear someone say that a majority of Americans support Roe I hope it’s as shocking to your ears as it is to mine.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Senator Specter's Super-Duper Litmus Test
If you watch news reports this week of the Senate’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Samuel Alito you are likely to catch a performance of Sen. Arlen Specter’s “Super-Duper Precedent” show. The pilot aired during similar hearings held last September for John Roberts. If you are old enough to remember Johnny Carson playing the role of Art Fern with his pointer and tripod charts, Specter’s routine will be like a flashback. In the pilot, Specter’s tripod held an immense chart highlighting the handful of opportunities the Supreme Court had in the last 33 years to overturn Roe v. Wade but didn’t. Specter used his pointer and chart to tutor Roberts and the nation on the principle of “stare decisis,” or legal precedent. However, after impressing us with his grasp of complex Latin, Specter resorted to “valley girl” English, asking Roberts, “Would you think that Roe might be a super-duper precedent?” That’s right. In his effort to ensure that Chief Justice Roberts would not vote to overturn the legal practice of abortion, a well-trained lawyer and distinguished senator invented a new legal term: the “super-duper precedent.”
Sen. Specter graciously handled the humor his remarks generated. But the principle he espoused—that once the Supreme Court decides something it should never be debated again—is not a laughing matter. If Specter truly believes that once the Supreme Court decides something it becomes untouchable, imagine what he would have been arguing in the Senate of 1860. Imagine the chart he could have constructed to show the stare decisis foundation for the practice of slavery. After all, it had been the recognized law of the land for more than 70 years. Or imagine the senator’s chart to deny women the right to vote in 1920. With more than 130 years of precedent, his staff would have been burning the midnight oil to prepare a chart for his civics lesson to the nation. Would a time traveling Sen. Specter have done such a thing? Of course not.
Specter and his pro-abortion colleagues know that we should respect decisions of the Supreme Court, but we should not be under the illusion that every decision made by the Court is morally sound, or for that matter, even legally correct. The Supreme Court is an assemblage of nine legal experts who have the difficult task of determining the constitutionality of issues that are by definition complex and difficult to reconcile with the Constitution. It should not be surprising that more often than not the Court is divided in its opinions. Many of the most important decisions of the Court have been decided by a vote of 5 to 4. Does that mean the four dissenting justices were legally incorrect, less intellectually capable or morally inferior to their five colleagues? No. What it really indicates is that men and women of great legal skill, considerable intellect and a sincere desire to do what is right can reach different conclusions when considering complex legal issues. And therefore, decisions of the Supreme Court are far from infallible.
Sen. Specter and his colleagues who insist that Roe v. Wade should be upheld because of legal precedent are doing it out of political expediency, not legal principle. In fact, nearly all of them have openly condemned Court decisions not in harmony with their own political philosophies. Would Sen. Specter and his colleagues who are pro-abortion show the same unanimous support for legal precedent as applied to the Supreme Court’s decision in 2000 that stopped the recount in Florida and upheld the election of President Bush? Who do they think they are kidding? Stare decisis is nothing more than a political litmus test to ensure that any candidate to the Supreme Court will agree to uphold Roe v. Wade. And we’ve been told by the same group of senators that any litmus test used to identify and appoint judges who might be anti-abortion is unacceptable. I guess what Sen. Specter and his pro-abortion colleagues really mean to say is that when an abortion litmus test is performed a blue result is acceptable and a red result is not. I don’t know about you, but it sounds like super-duper hypocrisy to me.