After the Supreme Court upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act back in April, I wrote an editorial saying the decision would "put ne energy back into the abortion debate in this country, which is good, and shift the focus of the debate at least partly back to the states, which is even better." I said it was at least a partial defeat for the pro-choice crowd: "As the debate now proceeds, at least the idea of a continuum will be back and the 'right' of abortion can no longer be considered an absolute that does not have to acknowledge competing interests."
But it turns out that the decision has been mostly a victory for the pro-choice side:
"The Supreme Court decision totally galvanized our supporters" by raising the prospect that the court could soon overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 opinion that established a woman's right to choose an abortion, said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "Both our direct-mail and online giving got a serious bump," she said.
And the decision has underscored a rift in the pro-life side, with at least some abortion opponents considering the ruling a defeat rather than a win:
Among antiabortion activists, meanwhile, the decision in Gonzales v. Carhart has reopened an old split between incrementalists who support piecemeal restrictions and purists who seek a wholesale prohibition on abortions.
In an open letter to Dobson that was published as a full-page ad May 23 in the Colorado Springs Gazette, Focus on the Family's hometown newspaper, and May 30 in the Washington Times, the heads of five small but vocal groups called the Carhart decision "wicked," and accused Dobson of misleading Christians by applauding it.
Carhart is even "more wicked than Roe" because it is "not a ban, but a partial-birth abortion manual" that affirms the legality of late-term abortions "as long as you follow its guidelines," the ads said. "Yet, for many years you have misled the Body of Christ about the ban, and now about the ruling itself."
Let that be a lesson to all you budding opinionaters and contrarians. Controversial social issues are moving targets, and what you think one day, based on the best available evidence, may not hold up the next day.