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July 28, 2011

Perry: Abortion Laws, Too, Should Be Decided On The State Level; the Tenth Amendment Insists Upon It

This is being flagged as a major policy statement, but is it really a departure from conservative orthodoxy?

Perry only days ago declared the issue of gay marriage to be, by the 10th Amendment, a matter for states to decide...

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a potential Republican presidential candidate, said Friday he supports state rights so much that he's fine with New York's approval of gay marriage but still called himself an "unapologetic social conservative."

Perry, who has been weighing a presidential run, said he opposes gay marriage — but that he's also a firm believer of the 10th Amendment.

"Our friends in New York six weeks ago passed a statute that said marriage can be between two people of the same sex. And you know what? That's New York, and that's their business, and that's fine with me," he said to applause from several hundred GOP donors in Aspen, Colo. "That is their call. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business."

Having made that case, he now extends his 10th Amendment agenda to abortion.

The pro-life movement has a different positions within it, but the settled position -- at least for now -- is that Roe v. Wade was improperly decided, as it injected the federal Constitution into what had historically been an area reserved for state law-making. The current orthodox opinion is that this situation must be reversed, and states permitted to make their own laws regarding abortion -- whether abortion is permitted under all circumstances, permitted under some, or not permitted at all.

Now, there's also a position in the pro-life camp that at some point, when there is political power to do so, that abortion should be outlawed throughout the country. But we are speaking here of some hypothetical future situation, perhaps 15 years away at earliest, when the country is more seriously pro-life.

In the now-until-15-years-hence timeframe, Perry's statement really doesn't change anything at all. Beyond that, it would be something of a minor precedent -- "But President Perry said this should be left to the states" -- but all of this would take a Constitutional amendment anyway. If such a Constitutional amendment passed, it would be an explicit exception to the 10th Amendment.

In which case Perry's advisement would be inapplicable.

The statement is useful to Perry, though.

1. His record as a governor is solidly pro-life. So, to the extent he has a problem here, it is with persuadable conservative-leaning voters who are not pro-life. Declaring this to be reserved to the states reassures them that he will not be a crusading federal-level pro-life official.

2. And yet given his pro-life record, and the good conservative pedigree of 10th Amendment arguments, who knows, this might be a best of both worlds situation for him: Pro-lifers might support him because he is pro-life, and yet pro-choicers might not oppose him because his solution seems comparatively modest in scope.

3. It's good to see a politician picking a principle, such as the 10th Amendment's guarantee that all powers not expressly granted to the federal government shall be retained by the people in the states, and actually sticking to it, rather than picking and choosing when this principle applies and when it, suddenly, does not. Sometimes such "simplistic" thinking -- just relying on a principle and not riddling it with "nuanced" exceptions -- is actually pretty reassuring as far as intellectual heft.

I'm interested to hear from pro-life commenters, though. Will this be viewed as socially "moderate" retreat on the issue? Or as a good intellectual position for arguing in favor what is every pro-lifers' first step -- returning abortion policy to the states?

Interesting: Perry asking around Fox to see if he can join the debate on August 11.

Now, if he were a declared candidate on that date, he wouldn't have to ask. Duh. He'd be in the debate.

So my supposition is that he's asking if he can join the debate if he makes some lesser statement like he is considering a run, but hasn't yet announced a run.

This seems like he's sticking to his schedule of later-in-August for an announcement (and why that's important to him, I don't know), but wants to take the stage as an almost-announced candidate.

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posted by Ace at 12:52 PM

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