The U.S. Supreme Court has now taken up a legal challenge
to one of the most extreme examples of this unfortunate trend. So, once again, we are manning the barricades to defend a constitutionally protected right from unwarranted -- and dangerous -- government intrusion.
It is hard to believe that we are still having this discussion today -- more than 40 years after Roe v. Wade first established the right to safe, legal abortion, and more than 20 after the Supreme Court affirmed this right in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.
The majority decision in that case, authored by Republican nominees to the Court -- Justices Souter, Kennedy and O'Connor -- clearly grounds the right to end a pregnancy in the right to liberty granted by the 14th amendment. The justices rightly saw that decisions about marriage, family relationships, contraception, procreation, parenting and education are deeply personal and, as such, must be protected from government control.
What American right is more cherished than liberty? It was the rallying cry of patriots in the earliest days of the Republic -- enshrined in the Declaration of Independence as one of our "inalienable rights." Throughout our nation's history, Americans have fought and died for liberty, and freedom from unwarranted government interference in our lives is central to the American identity.
Liberty is also central to the Republican philosophy. Our party's own statement of principles is clear on this point, noting that the Republican Party wants "[a]n America with a smaller less burdensome government that trusts its people to decide what is best for them ... [a]n America where freedom of expression, individual conscience, and personal privacy are cherished and respected."
The bar should be very high for government to interfere with someone's personal decisions. Instead, government continues to insert itself into areas it simply does not belong. Legislatures in a number of states have passed laws that impose overly restrictive regulations on abortion providers. Some require that physicians who perform abortions have admitting privileges at local hospitals. Others require clinics where abortions are performed meet standards intended for ambulatory surgical centers. Some states -- like Texas -- are trying to impose both requirements.
Lawmakers claim that these restrictions protect the health and safety of women, but that is mere pretext. There is no health benefit. The American Medical Association, American Public Health Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all are on record opposing these restrictions as medically unnecessary and, in fact, harmful to women's health.
Without a true medical purpose, these restrictions are really just a way to sneak around the Constitution and four decades of precedent by shuttering clinics and effectively blocking women from exercising their constitutional rights.
This kind of burdensome, unnecessary government regulation and disregard for constitutionally protected liberty is antithetical to Republican philosophy. Freedom of conscience and the autonomy to make life choices are deeply rooted in our understanding of what it means to be a free people. Except, apparently in the minds of some, when it comes to women and decisions they make about their bodies and their families.
The benefits of smaller, less intrusive government that Republicans regularly espouse should not be subjected to such a double standard. To be consistent in our political values, we must apply them consistently. The government and its elected representatives should respect a woman's right to make her own decisions -- even if they don't like the decision, and particularly when those decisions are protected by our constitutional right to liberty.