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Opening Arguments

An inch and a mile

Partial-birth abortion seems pretty much indefensible to me. But those seeking a "reasonable solution" to our abortion agonies have to contend with those who do defend it, quite passionately. Here is one of the justices who dissented from the 5-4 Supreme Court decision upholding a federal ban on the procedure:

In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called the decision "alarming."

It "cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this court," she said.

This is from the "give them an inch and they'll take a mile" school of discourse. In informal logic, it is called the slippery slope fallacy, the idea that one step will lead to another and another and, because we didn't resist that first step, the world as we know it will be destroyed.

Everybody does it over one issue or another. Let them ban machine guns and they'll take our hunting rifles and the next thing you know the government will be checking its lists and rounding everybody up. Let them get away with protecting children from Internet predators and pretty soon they'll be arresting everyone who criticizes the mayor and goodbye First Amendment. Let them use marijuana to ease the pain and nausea of cancer treatment and the next thing you know crack cocaine will be on sale at Walgreen's. Look at my last post on private property: Let them give a few buildings on Broadway historic-preservation designation and pretty soon they'll show up at your front door with an eviction notice.

This can be a rational approach. There are people, on these issues and many more, who have an agenda and want to get to their ultimate goal by easing the rest of us along one small step at a time. There are those who do want to ban all guns and legalize all drugs and stop all abortions. Depending on the issues that are important to us, it can make sense to draw a line we don't want crossed.

But such a posture, taken by so many people over so many things, makes it more and more difficult for reasoned debate aimed at realistic solutions. Today's culture makes each of us determined to be the last one to erase the lines we have drawn.

No answers here. Just questions.

Posted in: Current Affairs